The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Anthropology of Cultural Heritage: Communities and Materiality in Global Systems

Reserch period: April 2013 to March 2016 / Core project: Anthropological Studies of Materiality Coordinator IIDA Taku

Reserch Theme List

Research Objectives

The concept of cultural heritage emerged as modernity made progress, and tends to be linked to “tradition” or the past. In fact, people came to recognize the value of their heritage only after their life gained momentum and change became incessant. The scientific attitude also had to be popularized for people to objectify heritage and evaluate it in relation to general history. In addition, cultural policies based on nationalism and multiculturalism helped spread the notion of cultural heritage in the 20th century.
Cultural heritage is therefore a product of dialectical process between constancy and change. Based on this proposition, the project aims to show, empirically and theoretically, how people try to keep bonds with the past and transmit their heritage to the next generation in a world where modernity tends to sever people’s ties with the past, and communal memories are easily lost. We will also examine how people, who have the will to keep ties with the past, converge and form new communities to sustain cultural heritage.
The cultural heritage explored in this project does not necessarily match the notion defined by cultural administrations. Instead, it accords more to the definitions made by people who have the will to transmit heritage to later generations. Nevertheless, the diverse kinds of heritage do share common traits. For example, people typically try to utilize materials and records transmitted from previous generations, when they define their heritage and make it available to others. By focusing on the people who manage global systems of access to material resources, we can understand the contemporary process of communities emerging around material resources that are linked to the past.