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A transnational cultural heritage: the case of UNESCO

Gerard Delanty distinguishes transnational heritage from global heritage and argues that UNESCO promotes rather national than transnational heritage.
Yes, I think we can, but we need to define quite clearly what we mean by transnational because the term is often used quite vaguely and generally. For example, I think it is important to distinguish between globalisation or global heritage, global memory, et cetera. And on the other side, transnational heritage, or transnational memories, I don’t think they mean the same thing. So, for example, a transnational conception of heritage doesn’t refer to something that is necessarily universal in the sense of over and above other memories and heritages. For example, something that is in some sense global. I think the term transnational for which we mean it for must mean something different from global. So what, therefore, more precisely would that be?
Well, I think there are a few specific features of the transnational that we can point to, which might define transnational heritage, including transnational memories. One is the sense of the transnational as more intercultural than global. So what’s very important here is that it’s something that arises out of the cultures of different histories, different cultures. The dimension of their culture is quite important. And that leads then to a conception that’s in my current work I’m trying to highlight in particular that transnational heritage specifically refers to entangled memories, entangled histories. It concerns those points of intersection where one culture intersects and becomes entangled with another.
And I think that conception of the transnational indicates something different than what is often referred to as global culture or global heritage, a term that in my view isn’t very helpful. Transnational conception of heritage would stress less the idea of a common heritage, a sense of something that’s common to everyone, but rather it would be more of a– as opposed to a common heritage, a shared heritage in the sense that transnational heritage might have shared reference points. But the actual interpretations that people in different places at different times make of those reference points, that will, of course, be quite different.
Yes, of course UNESCO is a very good and great example of heritage, particularly the emphasis in the past now over 10 years on intangible heritage. But it is somewhat problematical in that the conception of heritage embraced by UNESCO– and I don’t mean to to be too critical of UNESCO, because I think it’s done tremendous work. But it doesn’t fully accord with at least my understanding of transnational heritage. The net result, basically, of UNESCO is that what gets promoted is essentially national forms of heritage in that the programmes are essentially the outcomes of almost competitions between different nations, putting forwards what they consider to be their landmark heritage.
There’s little evidence– there’s some evidence of embracing of transnational heritage, but it’s, as I’ve just said, primarily in the ends conception of heritage that affirms quite separate national heritages. It diffuses, as it were, the transnational, and with that diffuses the potential for cosmopolitan conceptions of heritage.

Gerard Delanty, from the University of Sussex, answers to the question of whether we can speak of transnational heritage.

He distinguishes the notion of transnational heritage from the notion of global or universal heritage and stresses its intercultural dimension. He defines transnational heritage as encounters of different histories and cultures, as entangled memories. He then argues that most UNESCO World Heritage sites do not correspond to this idea of transnational heritage, because this label mainly promotes national landmarks.

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Can you think of sites or objects that would correspond to what Gerard Delanty refers to as “transnational heritage?”

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