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16.30  Institutional Food Heritagization in Latin America

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13:30, Samedi 4 Juin 2016 (30 minutes)

As the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was adopted by different countries in Latin America, various aspects of food culture became the focus of heritage policies. Mexico submitted and obtained the inscription of its cuisine on the UNESCO list and has been promoting it through CONACULTA (National Council of Culture), a section of the Ministry of Culture. Brazil developed its own policy within its national heritage institute, the Institute of the National Historical and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN), a division of the Ministry of Culture, as well as regional institutions. Regional heritagization is sometimes a trampoline to reach national heritagization, and IPHAN inscription may lead to UNESCO. Colombia recently launched a policy for the safeguarding and the promotion of traditional cuisines. The actors of this policy claim not to look for a UNESCO inscription, which they criticize, and insist on the regional diversity of their country.  

In this paper we will analyze the food heritage governance in these countries, the criteria to turn elements of food culture into an institutional heritage and how they proceed. In Columbia and Brazil, the involvement of civil society and local communities plays a more important part in the process of heritagization than in Mexico, where economic aspects such as the development of gastronomic tourism have occupied a wider field than in the other countries. In Brazil, IPHAN has divided the intangible cultural heritage into four sections: knowledge, forms of expression, celebrations, and places. Food is actually at the intersection between material and intangible heritage, between natural/environmental and cultural heritage. In all cases, it is not the material aspects—the actual dishes for instance—that have been the focus of the heritage policies, but the knowledge, the social relationships involved around the preparation and consumption of food, the celebrations, the artistic forms of expression related to food, the myths, the ritual and symbolical aspects.  

What are the consequences of food heritagization in these countries? It seems that in the different countries, but more so in Mexico, more chefs have become conscious of the richness of the local cuisines and have been drawing inspiration from them; food fairs and festivals have been blooming; foods that used to be despised, or associated with ethnic minorities or poor people have become valued. But in such cases, do these foods become too exclusive to still be consumed by people with low income? Do the heritage policies really enhance diversity or do they tend toward homogenization? Do all the public policies follow the same paths or can they be antagonistic? How does the process of food heritagization favour some social groups and disadvantage others? Who takes economic advantages of it? Is it the government, entrepreneurs or local communities? Do minority groups take advantage of food heritage policies to get empowerment? In particular, how are minority groups such as Amerindians taken into account and how do they deal with these policies? What about social groups whose food culture is left behind? Do food heritage policies lead to the attainment or maintenance of food sovereignty, or do they lead to its loss? How does food heritagization reinforce identities or enhance ethnic tensions? Through different examples taken from the above cited countries, we will try to answer these questions.

Dr. Esther Katz


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