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Olivier Givre, Madina Regnault (dir.), Patrimonialisations croisées. Jeux d’échelles et enjeux de développement

Elina Djebbari
Patrimonialisations croisées
Olivier Givre, Madina Regnault (dir.), Patrimonialisations croisées. Jeux d'échelles et enjeux de développement, Lyon, Presses universitaires de Lyon, 2015, 268 p., ISBN : 978-2-7297-0892-4.
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1Composed of an introduction, nine essays and an afterword, this well-balanced book contributes in an effective way to the ever-growing scholarly field of heritage-making studies. Enhanced with a precise writing style, the sharp introduction of the book clearly identifies the goals that the main authors Olivier Givre and Madina Regnault wanted to achieve, as well as the intended contribution of the book to Francophone scholarship in the field of heritage studies. It offers the reader a careful and updated theorisation of the issues and challenges raised by the notions of heritage (patrimoine) and heritage-making process (patrimonialisation). The authors pinpoint the ambiguities and inherent complexities of the ‘contemporary cultural dynamics that are the heritage processes’ (p.6) as well as their use in public policies and by various stakeholders, from the local to the global level.

2While almost all the essays simultaneously address the different and deeply intertwined issues and challenges of the heritage-making process, the book is divided into three sections of three essays each. The first part looks at the discrepancies which arise with the insertion of heritage-making into tourism economy. The second part is more about the political level of action in the heritage-making process, while the third part interrogates the values and status of heritage in postcolonial countries. Though the case studies are taken from various contexts it should be noted that about the half of the contributions relate to Africa and, more particularly, to Francophone West Africa. Besides Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali (in two essays) and South Africa, the other articles present case studies from Ecuador, Bulgaria, Cambodia and India. Although the scope in terms of geographical representation may seem to focus on Francophone West Africa, this does not affect the richness of the heritage processes analysed by the authors. Indeed, different types of ‘heritage’ are studied, covering a broad range of cultural spaces, from performative practices (music, rituals) to architectural sites via artistic productions.

3Bertrand Royer’s essay about the practice of balafon in Burkina Faso addresses the linked local processes of tourism and heritage-making, as integrated into a ‘globalised system’ aimed at reaching a certain ‘profitability of heritage’. While discussing the implications of such globalised logics in the field at the local level, Royer demonstrates how the consecration of heritage and its consequent ‘touristification’ result also from the ‘effects of networks and affinities’. The importance of the individual level of action in the heritage and tourism processes is also at the core of Julie Carpentier’s analysis of the Shuar community of Chico-Mendés in Ecuador. While paying careful attention to the individual motivations of a key character involved in the conflated processes, she also determines how tourism is a ‘form of interaction’ between various stakeholders, from the very local, as represented by a specific figure, to the wider national and international institutions. Through the case study of arts and crafts in Niger, Audrey Bouksom’s essay looks at the role and meaning of art production in situ while interrogating the contradictions between expectations and the actual results of the tourism/heritage processes implemented within wider development policies.

4Looking closely at the cultural policies implemented in newly independent Mali, Anaïs Pourrouquet examines the political dimension of heritage-making and the implications underlying such a process. The diachronic angle adopted in the essay shows how a newly created heritage is, despite all sorts of discrepancies, gradually appropriated, negotiated and taken over by artists to the extent of being spread as such and reappearing in current world music productions. Addressing another type of heritage-making in Mali, Anaïs Leblon demonstrates the interweaving of different administrative entities in Mali, from the village to the state, and their insertion into the wider frame of Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) policy that is at stake in the management of the yaaral and deegal pastoral festivities which she studies. The essay engages with the debate about heritage as a resource for decentralisation and development policies, while also providing an analysis of the tensions and negotiations that occur at the local level. Olivier Givre’s study of the Bulgarian ritual nestinarstvo appears as a catalyst for numerous issues raised by the heritage-making process worldwide including, among others: the requalification of a marginalised practice as a cultural national emblem; the search for new collective values; the discrepancies inherent to the process and to the history of this particular practice; the territorialisation of a border practice and the production of the local; the recipients of the transformation of heritage into a potential economic resource; and how the production of heritage leads to the production of so-called ‘communities’.

5Looking at Anghkor, Sébastien Preuil examines the ways the site attracts mass tourism and thereby provides the country with important economic benefits which, however, are not shared by some parts of the neighbouring population. In contrast to the multi-secular history conveyed by Anghkor, the focus on the Indian new city of Chandigarh in Anna Dewaele’s essay brings out some compelling issues about the actual criteria of what makes heritage. Besides the criteria of ancientness, the author also addresses the issues linked to the socio-demographic and economic development of the city versus respect of Le Corbusier’s architectural plans that the project to include the city on the Unesco list (which has so far been refused) has to deal with. What is at stake in such a heritage project are not only the actual buildings and the urban environment of the city but also, more than that, the very idea in itself, for it raises the question of a new category of ‘ideological heritage’, potentially extending the ‘intangible’ label. Following on from the questioning of the criteria of ancientness and of what makes heritage on the scale of a postcolonial country, the status and values attributed to public art in Johannesburg (South Africa) is explored by Pauline Guinard. Observing the disjuncture between the project, the strategies employed and the actual results, the author identifies the tensions related to the contemporary creation of potential ‘future heritage’ for generations to come.

6In addition to the theoretical introduction and the different case studies, an afterword by Françoise Vergès closes the book. While paying attention to the issue of the translation of a western notion such as heritage to other parts of the world, especially postcolonial countries, this last essay expresses concerns about the ‘heritage-making of catastrophe’ (e.g. wars, slave trade, genocides, etc.). Given that Unesco continues ‘to grant the heritage prerogative to the nation-states’ (p. 246), it suggests that transnational, diasporic and border practices clearly do not fit easily within this framework. By highlighting the importance of memory in heritage-making, the author states that heritage should be made of all the accumulation and multiple layers of meaning in what become ‘lieux de mémoire’, this multi-layered memory being potentially specific to the post-colony. Vergès’ closing words reflect ultimately an idea which underlies almost all the contributions, pertaining to the extent to which heritage-making is entangled within a moral economy of memory.

7Well documented and clearly written, the different contributions add their individual values to the overall quality and coherence of the book. Backing each other up while at the same time offering slightly different perspectives, the essays provide the reader with a broad scope of case studies exploring various issues linked to heritage-making worldwide. In all of the contributions the political implications and individual agencies are addressed both from below and top down; the entanglement of heritage-making with its adjacent dynamics (tourism, development) is critically addressed; and the creation of spaces of tension and negotiation between different actors at various levels, revealing indeed a complex ‘scale game’ is addressed in different chapters. The emphasis on the individual agency level allows both for an embodiment and a particularisation of processes marked by global dynamics, as well as for a redefinition of practices often correlated to the notion of ‘community’ in the heritage discourse. Accordingly, following on Achille Mbembé’s ‘African mode of self-writing’, one may consider heritage-making as another mode of individual or collective self-writing. However, while the role of individuals is highlighted and the notion of ‘community’ questioned, the issues regarding copyright and intellectual properties have been too briefly touched upon in several of the essays and could have been particularly revealing about the tensions otherwise raised in the book. Although the feelings of predicament and apory are at stake and still perceptible when it comes to writing critically about heritage-making, overall, the book approaches the phenomenon in all its performative and creative dimensions, allowing for a questioning not only of what it was and what it is but also of what it could be in the future.

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Elina Djebbari, « Olivier Givre, Madina Regnault (dir.), Patrimonialisations croisées. Jeux d’échelles et enjeux de développement », Lectures [En ligne], Les comptes rendus, mis en ligne le 25 janvier 2016, consulté le 15 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Elina Djebbari

Doctor in ethnomusicology, currently postdoctoral research associate at King’s College London

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