This lecture will address issues surrounding the immaterial and the question of “intangible” heritage with regards to how conceptual, not physical, elements such as memory, orality, and historical practice play a role in strategies of architectural preservation. Many of these themes also (again) access the rather ambiguous concept of authenticity, particularly with regards to the role that the proceedings of the 1994 Nara Conference played in highlighting the necessity of broadening definitions of cultural heritage in order to privilege global diversity and the various modes of understanding and evaluating “cultural property” through an immaterial lens. Through a consideration of the conventional practices of the masonry guild in Djenné, and the transmission of knowledge systems at work in the regular renovation of the Ise Shrine, the intangible comes to the fore as an equally relevant cultural condition that pushes back against more West-centric academic modes of defining heritage as the physically monumental and “iconic,” classifications that incidentally underscore the various identity politics at work in dialogues between the West and a larger global heritage constituency.
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