Guest lecture: 'Intangible Cultural Heritage Safeguarding in Times of Crisis: A Case Study of the Chinese Ethnic Qiang Cultural Recovery after the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake'

Qiaoyun Zhang is currently a research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), the Netherlands. Her research focuses on cultural recovery and preservation after disasters, and engages with topics of state-ethnic relation in China, cultural heritage preservation, disaster tourism, and sustainable development. She received her PhD in Anthropology from Tulane University (USA) in 2016.

02/15/2018 | 5:00 PM

This presentation discusses if and how intangible cultural heritage (ICH) safeguarding is an effective means to recover and protect local cultures after major catastrophes. On May 12th, 2008, an earthquake measured at 8.0 magnitudes took place in Sichuan province, southwestern China. The Qiang are one of the officially-recognized ethnic minority of China. They took a hard hit in the earthquake because 98.2 percent of the Qiang lived inside Sichuan. After the great earthquake, the Chinese government funded a series of reconstruction projects which emphasized restoring the Qiang culture in the communities. Unprecedentedly, the nomination, rescue, and promotion of the Qiang ICH became a major part of this state planning. The presentation explores why and how ICH safeguarding was upheld by the Chinese state as a celebrated means of recovering the affected Qiang culture and people’s lives. It investigates how the UNESCO-led ICH safeguarding discourse was creatively yet complexly manipulated in the Chinese state-led post-disaster recovery project, which has brought about transformed perceptions and practice towards the related cultural practices in local communities and the general public alike. The complex dynamics between the ICH safeguarding campaign and the continuance of the culturally-informed ways of life after disasters is
also studied.