Cultures in Crisis: Impact of Forced Relocation on Sustainability of Culture

Dr. Georgianna Short
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All cultures experience catastrophic events at some point in their history. Some cultures are able to survive these challenges, ensuring traditional practice for future generations. Other cultures, overwhelmed by events, survive by adapting traditional routine to immediate circumstance. Over time adaptations, once considered temporary, can override traditions and customs associated with daily life.

Sustainability of customs/traditions of daily life depend upon generational ability to safeguard tangible and intangible heritage. Tangible heritage is “a descriptor [for] any and all human-constructed or human mediated objects…” - the material goods of culture (Bolin & Blandy, 2003, p. 249). Intangible cultural heritage consists of “practices, presentations, expressions,… knowledge and skills that communities [and]…groups recognize as part of their cultural heritage” (UNESCO, 2005).

Catastrophic events place both tangible and intangible heritage at risk. Post-crisis examination of tangible and intangible cultural indicators can provide insight into what is considered valuable by present members of a cultural group, whether/how valuable possessions reflect traditional values, and to what degree ancestral heritage will be sustained for future generations.

This paper explores traditions and customs of three geographically distinct cultures threatened by catastrophic water events and forced relocation during the last half-century; identifies how each event threatened cultural heritage of the effected group; and traces consequences of aftermath conditions on group’s ability to sustain/maintain its cultural roots. Cultures examined include the Nubian people evicted from their homeland during the Aswan Dam crises (1965-1971), Chinese peasant population uprooted by the Three Gorges Dam Project (1994-2009), and plight of displaced poor in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina (2005).

Keywords: Forced Relocation, Tangible and Intangible Heritage, Cultural Sustainability
Stream: Cultural Sustainability
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Georgianna Short

Associate Professor, College of the Arts, The Ohio State University

Dr. Short is interested in studying factors affecting sustainability of tangible and intangible heritage of disenfranchised minority groups. Dr. Short spent 20 years studying cultural sustainability of Guatemalan Highland peoples and subsequently became involved with UNESCO's World Heritage sites in Egypt, Africa and China. Dr. Short's uses catastrophic events of recent history as a lens through which to view ways disenfranchised groups sustain cultural capitol in contemporary times.

Ref: S06P0452