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Heritage Regimes and the State

 | 
Regina F. Bendix
, 
Aditya Eggert
, 
Arnika Peselmann

Layers of Preservation Regimes and State Politics

Unity Makes… Intangible Heritage: Italy and Network Nomination

Katia Ballacchino

Note de l’éditeur

Translated from the original Italian by Angelina Zontine and Chiara Masini.

Texte intégral

1 Introduction

1This article seeks to outline the process that began in Italy in 2011 to submit a network nomination that would include four cities in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on the basis of their shared tradition of feasts with large “festive machines.” Before analyzing this process of constructing a sort of “shared heritage” among multiple cities, I would like to introduce the analytical work I have carried out in relation to one of these feasts.

  • 2 For a deeper analysis of the Nolan Gigli feast, which I am not able to address in this context, ple (...)
  • 3 For a deeper review of the literature on the “community of practice” concept, see the following: La (...)

2Since 2006, I have been conducting ethnographic research on the feast of the Gigli in Nola, a town in Campania, and its processes of patrimonialization2. My work has concentrated on a detailed analysis of the festive practices surrounding the Gigli in the Nolan area and other locations, engaging with the “community of practice” concept3, as well as the dynamics triggered in Nola by UNESCO-style discourses. As a matter of fact, recent Gigli history has been marked by four different nomination attempts and their associated processes of valorizing and sponsoring the feast according toa “UNESCO logic.”

  • 4 See the undergraduate thesis D’Uva 2010 for an outline of the various attempts to nominate the Gigl (...)

3In the multiple attempts to nominate this ceremonial complex to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (2003 Convention, ratified by Italy 2007), its trans-local practice has been treated in different ways. Between 2000 and 2005, an association based in Nola put forward three nominations of the Gigli feast as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, all of which failed4. The dossiers underlined the originality and uniqueness of the Nolan feast without mentioning its having spread to other regional, national and international localities, such as the multiple copies of the Gigli found throughout the Campania region and the secular re-staging of the Giglio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NYC, that I myself investigated as part of my ethnography. The nominations made use of the feast’s history to underline its mythical origins, linkage to Christianity and religious values, somewhat obscuring any element of complexity linked to modernity or to social systems of connectedness to local territory and culture. In presenting this element of heritage at the international level, nominators sometimes concealed such references to the feast’s exclusive bond with the local territory or its geographic replications. Links to the local territory were thus mentioned but not in a way that was strategic for each nomination attempt.

  • 5 I address this specific question in an essay titled “I Gigli di Nola ‘in viaggio verso l’UNESCO’: a (...)

4Building on these earlier nomination attempts, the local administration became aware of the potential value the feast could assume at the supra-local level and gradually activated local and non-local mechanisms of exploitation and political strategy aimed at promoting an increasingly spectacular version of the ritual to outside audiences. The link with local territory was thus utilized to assert the authenticity of this piece of heritage by designating the origins of the Gigli in the early nominations in Nola or, vice versa, to use the heritage to claim ownership rights over a specific territory – with the associated problems of imitation or falsification of the good represented by the feast5.

5These complex procedures thus produced changes and activities that are intrinsically connected to UNESCO and the new opportunity this international agency offers to local sites in an era when local cultures may be experiencing a powerful pressure from the larger society to homogenize.

  • 6 However, Italy has been involved in the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) trans-national nominatio (...)
  • 7 In Italian, just as in English, the term “machine” is generally associated with industrial producti (...)

6This has led to the focus of this article, the latest nomination attempt in the shape of a “network” nomination. A first experience for Nola, this is also the only occurrence of its kind in Italy thus far6. This latest nomination focuses on the serial character of the larger Italian festive practice of carrying large festive “machines”7 on the shoulders.

7As a result, whereas in previous years I was engaged in investigating the dynamics surrounding UNESCO discourse and the local effects they produced in my field sites, during the last nomination I found myself playing a direct role in that the Nolan town hall commissioned me as a scholar of the Gigli feast to work on cataloguing the event as required by the Italian UNESCO commission. Although UNESCO does not specify what shape the inventory must take, Italy has implemented the UNESCO directives by implicitly requiring anthropologist involvement in the work of cataloguing intangible heritage. This is also due to the fact that anthropological functionaries conceived of and manage inventorying forms at the ministerial level and thus their specific professional expertise continues to be required for cataloguing activities.

  • 8 The ICCD, Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione (Central Institute for Cataloguing (...)
  • 9 For an additional analysis of cataloguing activity in the Italian tradition, please see the article (...)

8In the specific process established in Italy, any locality wishing to present a nomination is required first of all to begin an inventory of the good in question: Specifically, this involves documenting the various elements that are to be nominated as intangible heritage. In the Italian context, this consists of compiling an undefined number of cataloguing forms, usually produced following the BDI format (Beni Demoetnoantropologici Immateriali or Immaterial Demo-ethno-anthropological Goods)8. The BDI format has a long national tradition9 that cannot be neglected even though no clear rules exist regarding the protocols that must be followed in inventorying for the nominations. Following Article 12 of the 2003 convention, it became necessary to create inventories of the heritage being nominated. As a result, a process of documentation was implemented at the national level, requiring the municipalities involved in the network to commission and finance cataloguing activities. The coordinating committee of the “festive machine” network nomination, therefore, employed cataloguing anthropologists, including myself, to carry out research on the territories involved. In some cases, the anthropologists were selected through mediation by the participating cities; in other cases, selection occurred through recommendations made by the local cataloguing institutions or through external evaluation by the network coordinating committee.

9From this premise, I seek to highlight the way that, by crossing multiple analytical levels, my study was enriched by a close-grained ethnographic perspective on the internal and external patrimonialization processes of a specific city; this allowed me to consider the enlargement of the idea of a “heritage” form that we could say is “shared” among multiple, apparently similar, localities, outlining the opportunities and limits posed by the process of granting institutional visibility to the tradition on the crest of the opportunity offered by UNESCO.

10I will thus outline the efforts of an Italian committee that has coordinated a twin-city network among multiple municipalities in order to construct a network nomination bringing together feasts characterized by large, shoulder-carried “machines.” The category of “festive structures carried on shoulders” is interesting because it is internally diverse and yet provided the nucleus around which the homogenizing idea of an Italian network nomination was formed.

2 The Italian Experience of a Network Nomination

  • 10 See the text of the protocol, signed June 30, 2006, and published at http://www.conteanolana.it/pro (...)
  • 11 The coordinating entity in charge of the network nomination was composed of the University of Messi (...)
  • 12 The initial project was proposed alongside another one titled “I Percorsi della Fede. La Varia di P (...)
  • 13 It might also be hypothesized that personal reasons also motivated the network coordinator to take (...)

11In 2006, five cities in South-Central Italy (Palmi in Calabria, Gubbio in Umbria, Nola in Campania, Sassari in Sardinia, and Viterbo in Lazio) reached an agreement protocol at the local level for a project of cultural exchange titled “La Varia e le Macchine a Spalla Italiane”10 (The Varia and Italian Shoulder-carried Machines). During the preparation of the UNESCO nomination project that the original coordinating committee11 developed between 2009 and 2010, the network grew smaller when the city of Gubbio voluntarily chose to leave it. On the other hand, the protocol’s very title expresses the central place given to Palmi’s festive “machine,” the Varia12. Indeed, the effort of coordinating the network originated in the Calabrese city of Palmi thanks to a local historian at the University of Messina who was interested in this area and its traditions13. The objectives expressed in project documents and press releases of the time included the aim of using the circuit of twin-cities to promote research seminars “to establish actual touristic and commercial relationships, with the creation of special packages to promote tourism in the city.” The project, therefore, appeared to aim at channeling a shared objective of promoting touristic and economic development in the local areas involved through the idea of uniting these similar festive spheres. The UNESCO opportunity thus represented a catalyst for implementing local objectives that can certainly be seen as valid.

  • 14 See Bindi (2009) for more information about the patrimonialization processes linked to the Misteri (...)
  • 15 The document, published in a Palmi newspaper, was ironically titled “UNESCO o DIVIDESCO? Quali veri (...)

12Through my ethnographic monitoring of the processes involved in making the Nolan Gigli feast into heritage, I observed instances of hostility break out among the four cities and three other towns with their own feasts: the Ceri of Gubbio in Umbria, the Misteri of Campobasso in Molise14, and the Carro of Ponticelli in Campania. These cities were identified as subjects that deserved to be included in the protocol; however, due to a great deal of contention between the network coordinators and the individual municipalities, they were excluded or chose not to participate. In relation to this, there is a very interesting document that illustrates the highly problematic nature of the procedure through which this network nomination was constructed and the direction it took, including the contested forms it assumed in each of its local replications and in particular in Calabria15.

  • 16 These involve highlighting (after the fact) positive relations, harmony and authenticity, but also (...)

13This circuit of large shoulder-carried machines was subsequently defined as an “Italian folklore network” that also referenced the idea of the union of the Mediterranean in addition to the idea of the four cities in the network. The network nomination was guided by UNESCO-style discourses16; it was based on a positive relationship between the various “communities” and did not call into question the territorial and heritage-based authenticity of the individual material goods, but rather capitalized on the effectiveness of similar instances of immaterial excellence at the national level.

14The common elements defined as shared among the four cities with shoulder-carried machines were quite diverse and generic: identity, the use of shoulders, physical effort, the carriers’ corporate groups, emotions, the sense of belonging, historical markers, community memory, artisanal skills, et cetera. These elements are present in countless religious ceremonies in Italy. At the beginning, indeed, network administrators and promoters – that is to say, not only the festival practitioners themselves, but also and especially administrators or other local political actors – used their rhetoric and public discourse to express the idea that the recognition of this network nomination on the part of UNESCO would have represented a step forward, underlining the importance of local community and dialogue among different communities as a currency for the future. In this sense, the feast was used as a bridge for the transmission of culture, a common denominator and a wider framework for local identity. This is in contrast to the representation of the Gigli feast in its nominations as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, which stresses the unique and irreproducible element of a feast risking extinction.

  • 17 “Cultura Immateriale e prospettiva UNESCO: La Rete delle grandi Macchine a spalla italiane.”
    Please (...)

15Still under the management of the same nomination organizing committee, the project was successively denominated “UNESCO prospective17,” in line with the idea of a dangerous weakening of local identity. In fact, the nomination was presented as a grass-roots effort that originated in the communities involved, although in reality it was carried out mainly by institutions and external intellectuals.

  • 18 For further analysis of some of the delicate questions linked to heritage and UNESCO policies, see, (...)

16One can already note a short-circuit in the very hypothesis of a network built according to what UNESCO hoped would become a means of preventing conflict, namely dialogue between multiple diversities and the sharing of common heritage. This short-circuit in some ways invalidates the relationship between what Bortolotto defines as “the spirit of the convention,” that is, the objectives contained in the international UNESCO legal regulations, and the reality of local policies18. To reflect on the uses of territory and heritage forms that are “serial” or “shared,” it makes sense to focus on an analysis of the national processes of implementing international UNESCO policies, alongside the more local processes observed at moments of dialogue and of outright conflict surrounding these festive communities and their institutions. Following the 2003 UNESCO convention governing inclusion in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the concepts of “territories” and “local communities” or “heritage communities” are strategically and instrumentally used by ad hoc committees and local and national institutions in nominating certain heritage forms.

17Let us thus look more closely at the four connected feasts, underlining their common features in view of the network nomination defined under the general category of “large festival structures carried on shoulders.” The Macchina di Santa Rosa of Viterbo, the Varia of Palmi, the Candelieri of Sassari, and the Gigli of Nola were selected from among many similar “ceremonial machines” in Italy. The coordination group proposed this project to the individual municipalities or local committees involved, which agreed to finance it in the hopes of “bringing together Italian situations that are geographically distant but close in terms of the values they represent: collective participation, sharing and openness to dialogue.”

18This network, conceived as a “bottom-up” nomination project according to UNESCO logics, generated a series of institutional and community-level patrimonialization processes that are quite interesting from an anthropological standpoint. I therefore examine in more detail the development of the individual cataloguing activities in the four cities involved in the network. These details show how the cataloguing process was quite detached from the network coordination. It also reveals how conflictual elements within the institutions or between the heritage communities and local institutions emerged.

  • 19 In relation to the Santa Rosa feast of Viterbo, please see the following literature that Broccolini (...)

19The Santa Rosa feast in Viterbo, catalogued by anthropologists Alessandra Broccolini and Antonio Riccio, consists of transporting a tower illuminated by torches and electrical lights and made from light and modern materials such as fiberglass (which in recent years has replaced iron, wood and papier mâché). The tower is approximately 30 meters tall, and every year on the evening of September 3, it is carried on the shoulders of 100 men, called facchini (porters), for about a kilometer between the walls of the city’s historic center19. The origins of this “machine” date to the period after 1258, when Santa Rosa’s body was transferred from the Church of Santa Maria in Poggio to the sanctuary dedicated to her, which took place on September 4 by order of Pope Alexander IV; this event was subsequently commemorated by repeating the procession, carrying an illuminated image or statue of the Saint on a canopy which reached ever greater dimensions over the centuries. The work of cataloguing the Feast of Santa Rosa was, therefore, commissioned by the municipality of Viterbo. For the inventorying, Antonio Riccio dealt with the porters and the Santa Rosa machine itself, while Alessandra Broccolini oversaw the elements related to the mini-machines (for the training and transportation of children) and the mini-porters, as well as the Cult of Santa Rosa and the Historical Procession. Altogether, 21 BDI forms were produced.

20In terms of participating in the inventorying, the involvement of the various communities (the city in its official role, and the Sodalizio dei Facchini di Santa Rosa, the porters’ society) was quite limited; the involvement of the media, which often reported on the inventorying work on the pages of local newspapers, was more significant. This imbalance led to a lack of control and sharing, and produced very little in terms of feedback and repayment of the work on institutional and administrative levels (for example, the city did not initially provide employment contracts for the cataloguers). In addition to the municipality, the heritage subjects (heritage communities) in Viterbo included the Sodalizio dei Facchini di S. Rosa and the two mini-porter and mini-machine committees (one from the historic center and the other from the Pilastro neighborhood). These entities predate the UNESCO nomination and had little knowledge of the nomination project, the inventorying work or relations with other entities in the network. The committees and the porters’ society did not oversee the inventorying work, which reveals the specific arrangement of these local heritage communities in relation to local institutions.

  • 20 For a more extensive investigation of the issues connected to the Varia feast of Palmi, please see (...)
  • 21 In relation to this point, see the presentation La Varia di Palmi: dal lavoro sul campo al document (...)
  • 22 For example, they set up stands in the piazzas as information points and sold t-shirts and gadgets (...)

21The Varia feast in Palmi, catalogued by anthropologist Tommaso Rotundo, takes place over the course of 15 days but at irregular intervals – once, twenty years passed between celebrations of the feast. It culminates in the transportation of the Varia, a massive, 16 meter tall scenic float carried in procession through Palmi in the Province of Reggio Calabria on the last Sunday in August20. The feast is linked to the cult of the Madonna della Sacra Lettera of Messina. Varia means coffin or bier, a term that alludes to the reliquaries of the Madonna but which actually references the entire votive float representing the Virgin’s Assumption into the heavens. The structure is set into motion (the so-called scasata) by approximately 200 Mbuttaturi, the carriers who belong to five historic corporate groups: the Farmers, the Artisans, the Carters, the Drovers, and the Sailors. Through the gathering of oral testimony and archive material, and the production of photographic and video documentation, 16 BDI forms were completed to create the inventory. The cataloguer operated in a context where multiple actors – belonging to various institutional and associational groups – competed for the role of valorizing and protecting the feast.21 Unlike the other feasts, in Palmi it was not the municipality who commissioned the heritage cataloguing, but rather a citizens’ committee (the January 11, 1582 Varia Pro-UNESCO Citizens’ Committee) comprised of young people who launched numerous initiatives to cover the costs of cataloguing22. The municipality of Palmi vacillated in relation to the network nomination project, at times showing support for the proposals made by the coordinating committee and at other times hampering the nomination process. According to the cataloguer, the presence of the committee, which represents a form of active citizenship, seems to constitute for Palmi an opportunity for mediation aimed at evaluating cultural heritage as an economic resource in a realistic and sustainable way, though within the guidelines of the external network coordinating committee.

  • 23 For a bibliography on the Candalieri feast of Sassari that was also used in the cataloguing work of (...)
  • 24 See note 7.

22The Candelieri feast in Sassari, catalogued by the anthropologist and ethnomusicologist Chiara Solinas, is called the Faradda di li candareri, which in the Sassari dialect means “the descent of the candlesticks.” It takes place in Sassari on August 14th, the day before the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, and consists of a dancing procession of large wooden columns resembling candlesticks or candleholders (li candareri)23. It is also called the Festha Manna, meaning Big Feast. According to local literature, it derives from a votive candle lit in honor of the Madonna Assunta that reportedly saved the city from the plague in 1582. The Candelieri or festive machines belong to ten different professional associations, called gremi, each with a team of eight carriers who carry a richly decorated column in the procession. The task of cataloguing was commissioned by the City of Sassari, Department of Local Development and Cultural Policy. Facing a general lack of information on the part of the network coordinating committee, the cataloguer consulted with the ICCD24 and subsequently identified three main heritage forms: the Candelieri vestments, the descent of the Candelieri and the entrance into the St. Mary of Bethlehem Church. Overall, 33 BDI forms were produced for the feast as a whole, accompanied by audiovisual documentation. The cataloguing anthropologist maintained excellent and highly collaborative relations with the commissioning entity. Relations with the network coordinating committee, on the other hand, were irregular and never seemed to be completely clear.

  • 25 See Manganelli 1973, Avella 1993 and my own contributions listed in the bibliography.

23Finally, we have the Gigli feast in Nola, which I documented on behalf of the Cultural Heritage Commissioner’s Office for the City of Nola. I completed 25 BDI forms, generating an inventory shared with the ICCD and additionally collaborating with the Superintendency of Naples. The Nolan Gigli feast is celebrated annually the Sunday after June 22, a day dedicated to Saint Paulinus, who was the Bishop of Nola at the beginning of the 15th century. It is celebrated with a procession of eight, 25 meter tall obelisks called Gigli that local artisans build from wood and papier mâché, and a boat that commemorates the legend of the Saint’s return over the sea25. The contemporary form of these obelisks, which became fixed between the 18th and 19th centuries, resembles the spires of Naples in the ephemeral Baroque period. A musical team, playing and singing “traditional” and local festive marches, gathers at the base of each Giglio, which is made to dance for approximately 24 hours on the shoulders of the men – called “collatori” or “cullatori” (literally, cradlers) – who comprise the paranza, a group of about 128 for each machine.

24Relations between the cataloguer and the local institutions and community were extremely positive, thanks to my extensive understanding of the territory gained over the years. This allowed me to reach agreement with the “heritage community” itself – by which I mean the feast practitioners rather than local institutional representatives – about the content of the forms and the elements of the community to be valorized. The network coordinating committee did not affect the inventorying work except at the purely bureaucratic level; however, the procedure was funded entirely by the municipality. Due in part to the extensive media coverage that the previous nomination attempts had received in the area, the numerous associations connected to the feast in the Nola case were very collaborative and present in the initiatives connected to the nomination project. However, they did not participate significantly in the network’s attempts to organize events outside the city. This suggests that some participants did not display any strong “sense of belonging” in the network, which was the main aim of the project.

Figure 1: Giglio “festive machines”, Gigli feast in Nola [Photograph by Sabrina Iorio 2011, reproduced courtesy of the author].

  • 26 In relation to the “passion” that Nolan locals feel for the Gigli feast and its implications in dai (...)

25The actors responsible for coordinating this collective nomination are external intellectuals and experts who often act on behalf of local administrations, exploiting the opportunities UNESCO might offer localities in terms of touristic development and economic profit; in turn, they impact local actors who, motivated by a deep passion for their feast, tend to pursue any project that valorizes their local traditions. As a matter of fact, a distinctive feature of the Nolan context is that feast practitioners and enthusiasts fully participate in the activities promoting and valorizing the feats that various administrations have organized over time26.

  • 27 Initially, this interest was based on a desire to promote local areas in terms of culture and touri (...)

26Retracing the path that led from initial interest on the part of individuals and, later, local administrations27, to the construction of the network nomination, one thing is clear if implicit: The activity of network coordination might conceal an idea of intangible culture aimed at rendering it progressively more “material,” so that it can be more easily managed as “merchandise” to be valorized for touristic and economic ends. A clear example of this dates from the period directly following the submission of the network nomination. The local association called “La Contea Nolana” designated by the municipality of Nola to supervise the nomination process, “from the bottom up” in accordance with UNESCO recommendations, promoted the event in question. They presented a new food product, promoted on websites and through local newspapers: A Nolan Gigli feast-shaped pasta called precisely “Il Giglio Nolano: sapori e tradizioni della pasta campana” (The Nolan Giglio: Tastes and traditions of the pasta from Campania) and referenced a patent for the idea, already submitted (GIGLIOLA di D’Apuzzo Stefania 2012). Many local areas, especially in Campania, where cultural creativity is especially notable, have always used the symbols of their own traditions to create attractions, as well as souvenirs and gadgets based on these symbols, in order to stimulate the local economy. The interesting thing here, however, is the emergence of what we might call a “festive trademark” that can be exported to promote a local territory that is often complex or economically depressed. Even before the invention of the Giglishaped pasta, in the period when the network nomination was moving forward, there was also a public announcement that the municipality of Nola was going to pursue the patenting of the Gigli themselves with the help of a board of jurists. Here are some extracts from the press release about this event:

In fact, the municipality of Nola has submitted the logo and slogan “city of Nola – the Gigli feast” with the office of patents and trademarks of the Ministry of Productive Activities in order to hold an exclusive right to it and prohibit unauthorized third parties to use it or similar symbols. According to a note from the municipality, “the act of safeguarding the trademark was carried out, on one hand, as an investment, seeing as the costs required for registering the trademark will be widely reimbursed through a careful exploitation of the exclusive rights granted; on the other hand, it represents a preventive protection from any unfair competition by others.” The mayor, Felice Napolitano, who is also president of the Gigli Feast Agency, declared that “with this action, we have ensured the protection of our feast, which over time will become ever more a symbol and trademark of quality recognized and appreciated throughout the world.” (Fantastic Team 2006)

  • 28 See Lombardi Satriani (1973) for a discussion of the Italian debate in that period about popular tr (...)

27The example illustrates how the promotional activities originate in an exclusive and closed idea of one’s own heritage, in opposition to the principles of dialogue and solidarity among cultures; these promotional activities suggest a change in the way one’s own intangible culture is transmitted that is reminiscent of some aspects already outlined by scholars of popular tradition in the 1970s28, but which today are re-invented in an international perspective under the UNESCO banner. The level of tension I observed between various local actors and the cities involved during my fieldwork highlights how the “opportunity” offered by the UNESCO convention can produce alliances, agreements or disagreements. We must, therefore, ask whether or not it is really necessary to institutionalize heritage according to these logics or if, in some cases, it risks becoming nothing more than a manipulation of community-based passions by various actors within and without the local context in the pursuit of economic gains, local power or professional career advancement.

3 Local Powers and Strategies: Conflict and International Opportunity

  • 29 Pro Loco are associations connected to individual Italian municipalities that carry out activities (...)

28Parallel to the cataloguing work, which turned out to be non-cohesive and varied from case to case, the network coordinating committee also organized a series of public events in 2010 aimed at documenting and demonstrating the high level of ongoing participation that local institutions and, above all, the “heritage communities” involved had in the project. In some cases these events were organized in collaboration with the Italian Pro Loco associations29, in other cases they were part of the broader sphere of national cultural policy. Several conventions, for instance, were organized in the individual cities, and one in the central headquarters of the Rome city government; there was collaboration with the project Abbraccia l’Italia Antichi saperi e nuovi linguaggi (Embrace Italy – Old Knowledge and New Languages) that was aimed at spreading, at the national level, “a message promoting social inclusion through culture and activating a deep awareness among local communities” (Patrimonio Culturale Immateriale 2012) about the valorization of their intangible heritage. According to the same article: “This project currently represents, in Italy, the only functional response to what should be achieved under the UNESCO guidelines: safeguarding, archiving and spreading the intangible cultural heritage forms of nations around the world” (Patrimonio Culturale Immateriale 2012).

29In contrast to the original intentions of the network coordinators, however, these events received only sporadic and irregular participation by the entirety of the various “heritage communities:” Mainly the carriers of the heritage, but also to some extent, civil society, experts, the intangible heritage commission, et cetera. The following is an extract from one of the many articles published in local Nolan newspapers about the network nomination project; though the project was still in an initial phase, the atmosphere surrounding its realization is already clear:

UNESCO puts its seal on the Gigli
[…] Unity makes strength, it is known, and the locally rooted and recognized traditions of the individual events suddenly come together, erasing the geographic distance separating the cities. Not even the competition with the Palio of Siena and the Mediterranean Diet, potential adversaries in the race for recognition, is able to frighten the network – on the contrary, it only raises the stakes. (Napolitano 2010)

30Here we see the idea of a union among different cities that is also fueled by “competition with” the other cities running in the race for intangible heritage nomination in Italy, thus exacerbating some conflictual elements among the groups of local actors involved. However, this competition broke out even during the course of the individual feasts in 2010, parts of which I observed firsthand. An exemplary illustration is the case of the Nolan cullatori, the Gigli carriers, during their visit to Viterbo to see the facchini feast of Santa Rosa. The Nolan carriers displayed a great deal of antagonism toward the porters of that solitary votive machine that, in their opinion, was not in any way comparable to their eight Gigli. Various informal discussions conducted during this visit to Viterbo reminded me of similar issues I had read about in the newspapers the year before about the Ceraioli of Gubbio who, for various reasons, actually ended up withdrawing from the network and presenting their own separate nomination.

31An episode that occurred in Nola on April 1, 2011 is also emblematic. One of the most widely read of local Nolan newspapers literally “invented” a replica of a letter from the Cultural Heritage Ministry publicly announcing that the Gigli had won out over the other nominations. The letter, intended by the editors as an April Fool’s Joke, succeeded magnificently; it produced an uproar among institutional actors, who feared the project would collapse due to this false piece of news, as if it might have drawn the suspicion of the hypothetical local “overseers” governing the UNESCO nomination process. The administration responded to this joke through a back-and-forth with the newspaper, which took the opportunity to attack the political work of the office that was carrying the nomination forward. There was already an idea that UNESCO was “checking” on the localities presenting the nomination due to the constant presence in recent years of a Mexican UNESCO representative sent by the network coordinators. This representative was invited to watch the network feasts in their respective cities and, in view of his presence, the communities were urged to put on a “healthy” and “positive” edition of the ritual, almost as if to suggest that each heritage form was faultless, tidy, conducted in accordance with local rules, and perfectly managed. A local article published online in connection with the edition of the Gigli feast reads:

[…] the illustrious Mexican World Heritage representative present in Nola during the feast days warns us of the importance of an honest and essential collaboration and dialogue among the political institutions and all the other local entities, with no one excluded. The danger is the inevitable manipulation of a process that, if it were to risk the distortion of its authentic nature through the construction of an empty touristic display, would lose sight of its own aim: “The construction of a lasting peace through the sharing of unifying values,” according to the canons laid out by UNESCO. (Autiero 2010)

32Even before the emergence of the UNESCO project, the network counted on an idea of shared values and dialogue among the different localities; from 2010 onwards, in the wake of UNESCO discourses, the network claimed to enjoy an intense and lasting relationship among the various “communities.” However, my ethnographic observation revealed that this relationship was not as linear as it was represented to be in local newspapers and in the public speeches organized to illustrate the work of the coordinating network, work that pursued aims different from those established through the rhetoric surrounding the nomination.

33Intangible heritage thus becomes a construct with a broader scope than local identity. The network nomination project presented itself as a “bottom-up” process arising from the “communities” and, in some cases, even tried to improve the community’s level of “literacy” in the UNESCO values of dialogue and multiculturalism. It failed to take into account, however, the competitive and conflictual energy, both internally and externally oriented, that is a primary characteristic of the local contexts involved and which often represents the animating essence of intangible heritage forms that are as contradictory, dynamic and complex as the cultures they represent. In addition, it is possible that an attempt to demonstrate at all costs that internal conflict (which is not always as destructive as it is represented to be) has been ironed out, might actually serve to reduce the intensity of the very sense of belonging and pride in culture and values that renders intangible heritage so unique.

34According to the nomination agents’ calculated interpretation of UNESCO rhetoric, the element of conflict was opposed on the grounds that it would obstruct dialogue among diverse cultures; however, in the case I observed, it was clear that conflict could be exacerbated by the very processes of patrimonialization carried out according to UNESCO logics. The numerous human-powered machine feasts excluded from the network (the Sicilian ones, for instance), or the abovementioned case of the Ceri of Gubbio and other feasts that were not able or willing to enter the network (such as the Misteri of Campobasso or the Carro of Ponticelli) are all examples of how UNESCO theory and local practice often follow tracks that are seemingly parallel but not entirely the same.

35However, if we focus on the translation of the UNESCO regime at the state level in Italy, my analysis suggests that the adaptation of this logic involved a great deal of “simulated” grass-roots interest in the network nomination; indeed, the actors promoting it are institutionalizing a practice of patrimonialization that owes more to the logics of Italian administrative and academic spheres than it does to the logics of UNESCO heritage.

  • 30 See Sassen (2002) for an interesting take on this issue.

36An additional example emerged during one of the meetings I had with some of the “carriers” from the cities involved, which took place at the Gigli feast in Nola in 2010. On the website of the La Contea Nolana (the Nolan County) association, which internally oversaw the nomination for the city of Nola, interesting captions accompanied several of the photos. A caption reading “you can’t do it alone” accompanied an image of a small group of carriers attempting to lift a Giglio off the ground, followed by the caption “but together we can do it” referring to the same scene but involving a larger number of carriers, from multiple cities (La Contea Nolana n.d.). This example shows how the carrying of the Giglio (and metaphorically also the UNESCO recognition project) can only take place through a common effort by all parties involved, as if the heritage form might become such only by being “shared30.” In the network case, the union of cities creates intangible heritage according to a UNESCO logic. However, at the local level the content of heritage remains likely distinct, dynamic, conflictual, processual, variable, and often even, we might say, self-referential and completely localistic, as the case of the Nolan cullatori and their “Gigli-based” criticisms of the facchini from Viterbo illustrates so well.

4 Conclusions

37In view of the data I analyzed, I tried to present some concluding remarks on the distortion of the reading of Italian UNESCO Convention and its consequences.

38Conflict in the sphere of intangible heritage is inevitably endogenous and necessary, as long-term ethnographic fieldwork in local Italian contexts thoroughly demonstrates; nonetheless, there is often a tendency in public discourses and representations of the processes of constructing nomination dossiers to eliminate conflict in order to conform to what might be defined as the “spirit of the convention.” In doing so, however, we may risk thoroughly distorting the local meaning and vitality of the heritage forms to be valorized, according to a centralist and coercively harmonious approach dictated by the effort to achieve the aspired-to international recognition.

39An article recently published in Nolan newspapers shows even more clearly how the logic of international or national “heritage” recognition is considered to be an essential value for the local context, the clear outgrowth of a specifically Italian tendency to strategically use local territories and their traditions at the level of local and supra-local politics.

With Minister Brambilla, the Gigli Feast Becomes “Italian Heritage”
“For an expression of the ability to promote tourism and national image as well as valorize local history and culture through a perspective suited to contemporary times.”
In the words of Minister of Tourism Michela Vittoria Brambilla this morning, this was the motivation for recognizing the Nolan Gigli Feast as “Italian Heritage” as part of the public presentation of the project by the same name.
This is an important “mark” of recognition, granted to 34 municipalities that represent just as many prestigious celebrations (including cities twinned with Nola, such as Sassari and Viterbo, with their respective
Candelieri and Macchina di Santa Rosa); it is reserved for examples of national excellence that contribute to valorizing the image of Italy and consequently generating touristic flows.
As Minster Brambilla declared, “Italy has a unique and extraordinary heritage. Our country has always been a guiding light in the world thanks to its history, tradition, art, culture, creativity, and style. These forms of excellence constitute an enormous resource that only Italy holds. This is why I wished to create a new and prestigious mark: “Italian Heritage” symbolizes the recognition that I will grant every year to these wonderful specimens which have concretely stepped forward to take on the role of representing our country to the world and which will enjoy special visibility, especially abroad, as a result of their ability to generate positive effects on both national touristic flows and the appeal of Italy and our brand, Made in Italy […]. (Il meridiano on line 2011)

  • 31 In relation to this point, see the numerous discussions posted in the guest section of a Nolan para (...)

40Is institutionalized patrimonialization, therefore, really necessary or does it, in some cases, become nothing more than a manipulation of community-based passions on behalf of various subjects both inside and outside given territorial contexts? And as for the communities, are they aware of these complex and ever more frenetic activities that often impact on the actors themselves as they pursue the illusion that the recognition they so yearn for will resolve all the problems of a complex territory? During my web-based ethnography on the Nolan Gigli feast, which I carried out parallel to the field research, I came across multiple statements by and debates involving feast practitioners in recent years; they have spoken out to oppose the feast’s endogenous tendency to reproduce clientelistic or politically defective logics, as if it were a mirror image of the local system. In some cases, these criticisms represented the UNESCO stamp as a possible means of liberating the city and its feast from a provincial and defective logic31.

  • 32 See De Varine 2005.

41In this interesting and complex frame constituted by systems of power, anthropologists must continue to monitor patrimonialization processes and their implications through daily, close-grained ethnographic research in the local areas involved in these processes. In addition to carrying out documentary-style cataloguing, let us not forget to critically address the political strategies connected to the local sites and their affect on the individuals. These local actors are the carriers of the specific traditions that are defined from the outside as “heritage,” but which should be recognized and prized in any case on the basis of their value, a value attached to them by local communities but constructively and critically “mediated” with the outside. As De Varine warns us, nature and culture die rapidly when they are made into the objects of appropriation and codification by specialists who do not belong to the local population; when they belong to the population and constitute its heritage, however, they live and thrive32.

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Notes

2 For a deeper analysis of the Nolan Gigli feast, which I am not able to address in this context, please see the following: Ballacchino 2008, 2009, 2011; the following publications are forthcoming: a monograph based on my complete research, and an article about the ties between the Gigli and Watts Towers in Los Angeles, a tower construction listed among the heritage of the state of California which, according to some scholars including myself, may have been influenced by the Nolan Gigli feast as they were constructed by a migrant from Campania.

3 For a deeper review of the literature on the “community of practice” concept, see the following: Lave and Wenger 1988, 1991, Wenger 1998, Wenger; McDermott; Snyder 2002.

4 See the undergraduate thesis D’Uva 2010 for an outline of the various attempts to nominate the Gigli feast.

5 I address this specific question in an essay titled “I Gigli di Nola ‘in viaggio verso l’UNESCO’: autenticità, serialità ed eccellenza di un patrimonio immateriale e del suo territorio” presented at the international seminar “Atelier de recherche en sciences sociales et humaines, Allemagne, France, Italie»: Institutions, territoires et communautés – Perspectives sur le patrimoine culturel immatériel translocal, PREMIER ATELIER, L’inscription territoriale du patrimoine immatériel,” DFG, Villa Vigoni, Maison des Sciences de l’Homme – Forschungskonferenzen in den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften, held March 23 to 26, 2010.

6 However, Italy has been involved in the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) trans-national nomination of the Mediterranean diet, discussed by Broccolini in this volume.

7 In Italian, just as in English, the term “machine” is generally associated with industrial production, but here I refer to the meaning that this term has taken on in the Italian festive vocabulary, according to which “festival structures carried on the shoulders” can be described as “big wooden constructions.” Please see the two illustrations included in the article.

8 The ICCD, Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione (Central Institute for Cataloguing and Documentation) of MiBAC, the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali (Ministry of Cultural Goods and Activities), defines the standards for cataloguing various types of cultural goods. There is a set of norms, rules and methodologies that must be followed in order to acquire the most homogenous and standard information possible at the national level. To better understand some aspects of Italian Ministerial cataloguing using the BDI form, please see the following: Tucci and Bravo 2006, and the second volume of the folder Scheda BDI Beni demoetnoantropologici immateriali (Istituto centrale per il catalogo e la documentazione 2006).

9 For an additional analysis of cataloguing activity in the Italian tradition, please see the article by Alessandra Broccolini in this volume.

10 See the text of the protocol, signed June 30, 2006, and published at http://www.conteanolana.it/protocollo-finale-NOLA.pdf <accessed July 4, 2012> to understand the objectives and aims of the project.

11 The coordinating entity in charge of the network nomination was composed of the University of Messina historian who initiated the agreement protocol among the cities, a University of Rome anthropologist who has been studying local traditions for years, and an expert who analyzed the Gigli of Nola nomination in his undergraduate thesis, supervised by an advisor who was also the president of the Italian National UNESCO Commission.

12 The initial project was proposed alongside another one titled “I Percorsi della Fede. La Varia di Palmi nello scenario delle grandi Macchine lignee a spalla italiane” (Itineraries of faith: the Varia of Palmi among the large, Italian, wooden, shoulder-carried machines).

13 It might also be hypothesized that personal reasons also motivated the network coordinator to take on this role, which went beyond her specific professional expertise. She might have been motivated mainly by a desire for civic involvement and local pride, seeing that she comes from one of the cities included in the project. Another hypothesis is that this visibility might have granted her some “authority” in terms of public recognizability within local political or academic dynamics. At any rate, this role allowed her to construct a certain level of profile, with the result that she is currently coordinating, for example, the nomination attempt for Italian Opera.

14 See Bindi (2009) for more information about the patrimonialization processes linked to the Misteri feast in Molise. During the 2007 edition of the feast, the town hall of Campobasso made a request to enter into the Italian shoulder-carried machine circuit. Their entrance appeared to be officially recognized in 2008, but was blocked immediately after the application due to personal conflicts with the circuit coordinators.

15 The document, published in a Palmi newspaper, was ironically titled “UNESCO o DIVIDESCO? Quali verità?” (UNite-ESCO or divide-ESCO? What is the truth?) and included an article by the network coordinator alongside an article by the mayor of Palmi representing a counter-argument. The two arguments asserted two different interpretations of the confused and highly contested events surrounding the network nomination activities, characterized by marked inclusions and exclusions, and of the coordinating committee’s selection procedures, which caused problems at local and national levels.
Please see
http://www.madreterranews.it/public/upload/120720112034_716959_1.pdf <accessed July 4, 2012>.

16 These involve highlighting (after the fact) positive relations, harmony and authenticity, but also specifying which different kinds of actors were participating in the discourse.

17 “Cultura Immateriale e prospettiva UNESCO: La Rete delle grandi Macchine a spalla italiane.”
Please see http://www.rivistasitiunesco.it/articolo.php?id_articolo=438 <accessed July 4, 2012>.

18 For further analysis of some of the delicate questions linked to heritage and UNESCO policies, see, among others, the following: Palumbo 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2007, Matsura 2002, Risse 2003. Bortolotto 2008, Zagato 2008, Bendix and Hafstein 2009, Pietrobruno 2009.

19 In relation to the Santa Rosa feast of Viterbo, please see the following literature that Broccolini used in her cataloguing work: Piacentini 1991, Arduini 2000. I would also like to thank my colleague for the data provided.

20 For a more extensive investigation of the issues connected to the Varia feast of Palmi, please see the following publications cited in the cataloguing work of Rotundo, who is to be thanked for the data provided by his work: Lacquaniti 1957, Ferraro 1987, Grillea 1990, Galluccio and Lovecchio 2000, Marino 2000.

21 In relation to this point, see the presentation La Varia di Palmi: dal lavoro sul campo al documento. Rilevamento, documentazione e schedatura made by Rotundo at a Palmi-based conference La Calabria verso l’UNESCO. La Varia di Palmi nella Rete Italiana delle Grandi Macchine a spalla, held November 26, 2010, on the topic of the network nomination.

22 For example, they set up stands in the piazzas as information points and sold t-shirts and gadgets to publicize the initiative, alongside the distribution of collection boxes in various commercial sites, or the fundraising campaign, called “un’euro per UNESCO” (a Euro for UNESCO). Their promotional activities were conducted even through social networking platforms.

23 For a bibliography on the Candalieri feast of Sassari that was also used in the cataloguing work of Solinas, see the following publications: Pittalis 1912, 1921 and 1988, Spanu 1994, 2007, Campanelli and Mereu 2006, Luiu 2007, Cau and Saba 2008, Brigaglia and Ruju 2009. Solinas is also to be thanked for the data provided by her work.

24 See note 7.

25 See Manganelli 1973, Avella 1993 and my own contributions listed in the bibliography.

26 In relation to the “passion” that Nolan locals feel for the Gigli feast and its implications in daily practices, please see one of my recent articles: Ballacchino 2011.

27 Initially, this interest was based on a desire to promote local areas in terms of culture and tourism, which was often subordinated to efforts to attract financing for activities like these that are aimed at developing the local economic system.

28 See Lombardi Satriani (1973) for a discussion of the Italian debate in that period about popular tradition and the concept of “folklore” which was linked to a process of developing and commercializing local areas that involved a redefinition of popular culture.

29 Pro Loco are associations connected to individual Italian municipalities that carry out activities related to various touristic, social, cultural, and sport-related spheres.

30 See Sassen (2002) for an interesting take on this issue.

31 In relation to this point, see the numerous discussions posted in the guest section of a Nolan paranza’s website, which for years has been collecting the most significant debates about the city of Nola’s social life and its Gigli feast. See http://www.fantasticteam.it/PRIMAPAGINA.htm <accessed July 4, 2012>.

32 See De Varine 2005.

Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1: Giglio “festive machines”, Gigli feast in Nola [Photograph by Sabrina Iorio 2011, reproduced courtesy of the author].
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