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Heritage Regimes and the State

Regina F. Bendix
Aditya Eggert
Arnika Peselmann

States and their ‘Thing': Selection Processes, Administrative Structures, and Expert Knowledge

Anthropology’s Payback: “The Gastronomic Meal of the French”

The Ethnographic Elements of a Heritage Distinction247

Jean-Louis Tornatore

Texte intégral

1 Introduction

  • 247 This article appears in French in, 24, summer 2012. Translated from French by Mari (...)
  • 248 According to a quantitative survey commissioned by the Research Center for the Study and Observatio (...)

1The fifth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which was held in Nairobi in November 2010, inscribed “The gastronomic meal of the French” on its Representative List. “The gastronomic meal of the French” (GMF) is the official designation for the certified item. According to the definition taken from the nomination dossier and given on UNESCO’s website (UNESCO 2010), it is variously “the art of good eating and drinking” enjoyed on the occasion of a “festive meal;” a “customary social practice” involving “togetherness,” “the pleasure of taste,” and “the balance between human beings and the products of nature;” and a custom whose celebration in the form of this UNESCO inscription is presented as contributing to the fight against the standardization and increasing uniformity of ways of life around the world. The nine-minute documentary included in the dossier is quite remarkable in that it constructs this sort of meal, this art of entertaining – from the “careful selection of dishes from a constantly growing repertoire of recipes” to the meal itself, which unfolds according to a “fixed structure” – as a cultural unit in which 95% of a particular community, namely the French people, can recognize itself.248 It then goes on to set up that cultural unit as a subject for anthropological inquiry, in that it includes the classical themes of anthropology, such as the relationship between nature and culture, customs, social spheres, material culture, and transmission. It is quite an experience to watch this documentary and feel the surprise of seeing oneself, as a Frenchman, “objectified” in this way: To feel a sense of familiarity – “they are talking about me!” – while, at the same time, feeling imperfectly captured. It is both “right” and “not quite right;” “we don’t do it like that!” This terrain is of course a minefield for the 21st-century anthropologist faced with the phrase “of the French,” a category that invites debate as soon as it is put forward. And yet that is exactly what the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) apparatus has done in including this category in its list as a substantial entity; inscribing it as an object in the marble of its list. I believe that this is the first time that anthropological objectification has struck, if I may put it that way, so precisely at this level: At an entire Western national entity. At the very least, it is the first time that it has designated and affected our national community. What we owe this “anthropological payback” to is a politics of heritage; this, in turn, suggests that the anthropological themes that I listed above, which are by definition scholarly, have, to a certain extent, become heritage themes, destined now to become political. I should add that this has surely always been the case, but no one has ever said so out loud, or at least not in those terms. What we have here is heritage exacerbating the political dimension of anthropological concepts.

2I wanted to understand how we had come to the point where scholarship and politics are tied together within and for the sake of this heritage object, the GMF. This is a central question in my research on heritage, but in this case, my line of inquiry took on a particular shade: The act of eating holds almost no interest for me; the obsession with talking endlessly about what one is eating, while eating it, which is considered very French, has, to be honest, always annoyed me; and as for the typically jingoistic way in which France is made out to be the country of food and cookery par excellence, I find that completely unbearable. It is one thing to enjoy cooking up little dishes at home or among friends, but making a cultural trait out of this pleasure, duly circumscribed and labeled as such, could be seen as one more step towards the reification of culture. In fact, at first glance, and when the first newspaper accounts of UNESCO’s decision came out, the reactions to the heritage choice seemed to confirm my fears.

  • 249 I do not share the view generally agreed upon among anthropologists, which was recently solemnly re (...)
  • 250 The materials to which I had access consisted of four interviews and a few status reports, along wi (...)
  • 251 For a different and complementary approach to the UNESCO inscription, see Csergo 2011.

3As a result of these reactions, I began this research project. It would have been easy to develop a substantial monograph on the project of heritagization. However, I decided to confine myself to a quick investigation instead, one which I may never follow up on at all or develop into anything larger.249 Establishing the boundaries of a project also means setting out the scope of its significance: Here is how I see that scope as it follows from the boundaries of my “blitz ethnography.” I make no claim to have reconstituted the process that culminated in the Nairobi decision; at the very most, I may have been able to get a sense of its uncertainties and the adjustments that were required of the decision makers. This uncertainty was heightened by the novelty of the process, which was intended to define an object in such a way that the object would fit the parameters of a category and be eligible to fit into an apparatus – that is to say, the apparatus established by the 2003 ICH Convention – which had not only very recently come into effect (in April 2006) but had also only even more recently been ratified by France (in July 2006): The system was new and untested both for UNESCO and for the French state. I was also able to appreciate the very political dimension of the system, or rather that the political dimension is a particularly flagrant dimension of the ICH apparatus and informs the entire process. The political dimension is what completely motivates the actions of some of the players within the system, and this was visible in their reluctance to play the “ethnographic interview” game, or at least in the carefulness in their speech which could be seen in the almost complete lack of success I had in attempting to gain access to the minutes of the meetings that were held throughout the process.250 If I cannot “say everything” – or anyway, everything about the interactions that I see – I have, at least, in examining this political dimension and its interaction with the issues that follow from it, been able to arrive at a general reflection on the politics of the ICH. I submit this look at the situation with no greater claim for it than that it is a first step, a partial analysis: As the expression, completely up for debate, of an uncertain thought process.251

2 The ICH “Refrain”

4The modern profusion of ways of creating memorials and celebrating heritage (which are also often castigated, at least in France, for their very proliferation) can be understood as adaptations to the modern conditions of life (mobility, vulnerability and uncertainty) in a world that is taken to be globalized. The profusion itself could be seen as a result of globalization. One of the characteristics of globalization is said to be transforming the people−nation−territory relationship or at least calling the naturalness of this relationship, taken over from the construction of the European nations, into question (Thiesse 1999). If we look at it this way, we can imagine that these practices could provide a way for scattered individuals or communities to produce an adapted kind of village, in other words, one that suspends, relativizes, nuances (or does who knows what else to) the idea of being rooted in a territory; but then again, the new politics of heritage could be a way of reconsidering the relationship between territory and sovereignty. So then, all the activity around heritage nowadays is creating new territorialities and new kinds of territorialization in a constant game of territorialization, deterritorialization and reterritorialization. It is probably scarcely possible to overestimate the political inflection of all of this activity, but at the same time, we should also not underestimate the ability of nation states to use the idea of heritage for their own ends.

  • 252 “El condor pasa” is a traditional Andean song, adapted in 1913 by a Peruvian composer and folkloris (...)
  • 253 As Hafstein writes, “the intangible heritage is the community” (2011: 86).

5The possibilities inherent in the international and national ICH apparatus must be seen from this perspective, which will mean emphasizing its basic ambivalence: The apparatus allows for the best and the worst possible outcomes. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari have developed a dynamic (rhizomatic) conception of territory: It is the branding – the quality, the material of expression – that makes the territory (Deleuze and Guattari 1980: 388) and the territory is always in the process of deterritorialization, moving towards other arrangements that will create a reterritorialization (Deleuze and Guattari 1980: 402). To describe this marking of territory, they have developed the metaphor of the “refrain” or “incantation,” which can be territorial, indicate new arrangements, or involve absolute deterritorialization. It is tempting to see something like an incantation – or a potential incantation – in any move to make the ICH concrete, in the sense that such a concretization can happen on several different levels of territorial arrangement: international, national, translocal, or local. The story of the song “El condor pasa” told by Vladimir Hafstein (2007) is relevant and telling:252 It involves a history of colonial expropriation that has been taken by the Bolivian state as a reason for mobilizing to defend the integrity of national cultures, but that very mobilization has then actually been the occasion for a muzzling of Bolivia’s Indian populations. In fact, Hafstein concludes that “the lessons to be drawn from this episode go well beyond the problem of transnational cultural fluidities” (Hafstein 2007: 339). The episode reveals that there are several territorialities involved which are intertwined but not necessarily convergent, all of which are organized around the same refrain, the same incantation, in this case Andean folklore, but with purposes which are by no means always beneficial to the communities themselves. The politics of ICH can be a hell paved with better or worse intentions; at any rate, they take away with one hand what they claim to offer with the other (Hafstein 2011). Looked at within the reality of the story of “El condor pasa” – in other words, looking at how it actually works – the ICH apparatus could be seen as the epitome of a contrôlat, a tool characteristic of “control societies” (monitor societies?), the new type of society which, according to Gilles Deleuze (1990), followed the “disciplinary societies” that Foucault described. The institution of an “ICH community,”253 therefore, would have more to do with monitoring populations than with managing them. Its main aim would not be to discipline them but to keep a watch over them by occupying them; we could say, therefore, that “occupying,” as much in the sense of possessing and invading as in the sense of filling, saturating, or directing time, is the goal of the politics of ICH.

6However, we cannot stop there. “There is no reason to ask,” Deleuze says about the different kinds of societies, “which regime is the most onerous or the most tolerable, because it is within each one that liberation and bondage confront each other” (Deleuze 1990: 241, emphasis added). The question is, then, to understand how the pairing of territorialization and deterritorialization is worked out within the various national implementations of the politics of ICH: To what ends and who profits from it? Let us look at some possible scenarios, taking them as strictly delineated hypotheses that we can test empirically, noting that scenarios 1 and 2 are from the point of view of the state and scenarios 4 and 5 are from the point of view of communities, and they can, therefore, be looked at in connection or in dialogue with each other.

  1. The ICH reterritorializes, allowing for a resistance to the deterritorialization (in the sense of a move towards uniformity) that follows from the changes brought by globalization. This is the first reasoning, which appears in the reasons given for the convention. It allows us to see the state as a protector (from forces such as global capitalism) – or at the very least, it allows the state to develop a rhetoric of protection – along the model of the Bolivian state in the example cited by Hafstein.

  2. The ICH reterritorializes (or nationalizes), allowing for resistance to the deterritorialization (in the sense of liberation) that follows from the exchanges, circulation and creations of the free flow of information and of cultural motifs (for example, in the long-distance networks of the “creative industries”). This allows us to see the state as a controller or regulator – for example, in the name of the protection of cultural diversity.

  3. The ICH reterritorializes (in other words, promotes the formation of social and cultural mediating entities), allowing for a resistance to the deterritorialization caused by the state and accentuated by the machinery of capitalism.

  4. The ICH is a response to deterritorialization (in the sense of the disintegration of communities due to globalization) and is seen as a way to ensure the integrity of communities and to reaffirm their integration into the nation. This allows us to see the community as a protected entity.

  1. The ICH is a result of deterritorialization (in the sense of the “denationalization” of communities or of communitarianism) and a means of resisting the state’s reterritorialization. This allows us to see the community as “liberated” and autonomous in its cultural choices.

7The first scenario is consistent with the fourth, and the fifth one is a response to the second one. Communities and states can use ICH as a way to fight against the negative effects of globalization (scenarios 1, 2 and 4), but that does not mean that globalization has only negative effects (scenario 5) nor that states have no common cause with globalization (scenario 3). Ultimately, the only point of this outline of hypothetical scenarios is to emphasize the fact that, first of all, the capacity to territorialize or deterritorialize is not a property attached to collective entities: Thus, the state can be seen as either territorializing or deterritorializing, and it can just as easily resist liberalism as it can promote it or work towards it. We can, therefore, see the state (or whatever collective entity is at issue) as containing antagonistic forces, and we have to see the politics that it promotes, including that of ICH, in that context. Secondly, even though one can say that the most important principle of ICH is not territory but the community – and that, in this way, it breaks with how European states have traditionally viewed the idea of heritage – in order to promote the recognition of cultures on an international level, the implementation of the UNESCO 2003 Convention rests with the states. The state remains an inescapable player in the promotion of heritage, and so we can say that ICH is still the state.

3 The “Take”

  • 254 See Tornatore 2011.

8In order to understand what tune ICH is playing (and on what level), we first need to look at how each individual state – which is of course the first and primary level on which the politics of ICH is carried out – takes hold of the convention and puts it into practice. In other words, what their “take” is.254 Here, I would like to adapt an idea about expertise on objects – whether they be brand-name watches, socalled traditional foie gras, paintings by the masters, archeological sites, or holy relics – developed by Christian Bessy and Francis Chateauraynaud (1995). The “take” that experts have on objects sends us back to the work of mediation which, in the process of expert evaluation, organizes connections among materials, modes of perceptions, networks of people and objects that are more or less arranged in collectives or institutions, and descriptive conventions (Bessy and Chateauraynaud 1995: 234). In this case, it is cultural phenomena that are objectified (named, designated, embodied, labeled) within scientific, cultural and administrative institutions that organize similar mediations: ad hoc museums, state services, a contingent of conservationists, and also clubs, groups and associations. Systems of classification, inventories and lists work to establish cultural entities and transform them into “heritage” entities. The nation, as we know, is a great producer of such entities.

9Understanding that the convention is subject to “national takes” also means taking into account the history of public action on the management of the past and on this sort of inventory taking, as well as the way in which a tradition of heritage expertise can influence the interpretation of the means available for bringing to light the entities defined by the convention. Without going into detail on heritage institutions, which tend to exist at the intersection of knowledge and power, suffice it to say here that in the French tradition, cultural phenomena have been vetted by two historically-based politico-scientific institutional configurations, both of which also involve obvious government involvement. First of all, there is folklore. Here, we should note that its development, from the 19th century to the Second World War, is tied to cataloguing and mapmaking methodology; in France, folklore has never been truly established among the sciences and was lastingly discredited by the “cultural decline” orchestrated by the French state during the Second World War. Then, more recently, there is the institution of ethnological heritage, a specifically French invention which found itself at the junction of the development of ethnology in France and the politics of a heritage-based celebration of culture in its anthropological sense (Fabre 1997, Rautenberg 2003, Tornatore 2004).

10The French “take” on the convention ought to be measured against one of these two configurations, both of which are part of the national tradition; in addition, this “take” needs to be imagined not only on the level of the state, but also on the level of associations and groups, of segments of civil society, of the communities to which the UNESCO language refers and those who have appointed themselves as the representatives of those communities. This, in turn, brings up two questions. On the one hand, there is the question of the degree of agreement or complicity among these various groups. In this context, we should note that it is only in France that ethnology rejects, or is at least suspicious of, the idea of “folklore.” Elsewhere the divisions are much less clear-cut and terms, such as tradition, folklore, customs, heritage, and of course culture, are used less rigorously and more flexibly. On the other hand, we have the question of the performative quality of the take. This understanding is framed by the culture’s traditions of objectification or celebration of culture, but it is no less constructed in the very “take” on the convention. Seen this way, to “take” the convention is to bend it to one’s own tradition in bending oneself to it in turn: It is to adapt oneself to it. This notion of “take,” I reiterate, connects material with perceptions and descriptive conventions and brings all those elements into play. If we only consider the perceptions and the descriptions, we are not doing justice to what the material does and causes to be done in the process of the “take.” The material, in this case, is a political mechanism that induces a particular mode of apprehension. The taking engages and defines the one who takes; if it is informed, it also informs; and we can postulate that the taker does not emerge unmarked from the taking. Can the French take on the convention mold, or even shake up the culture’s traditions of politicization? Can the convention force those who take it on to adjust their actions with respect to the convention’s project as well as their idea of heritage, of the principles that inform the ways in which heritage value is assigned? In this analysis of the recording on the gastronomic meal of the French, the GMF, as an ICH, I will attempt to answer these questions.

4 How to Make French Gastronomy into a Matter of State

11Let us try, first of all, to describe the process or at least to set out its major steps, in order to gain some understanding of the project.

4.1 A Political and Scientific Assembly Process

  • 255 Since the record is public and the people involved are known, I did not see any reason to hide thei (...)
  • 256 Jack Lang is a leftist French politician (member of the Socialist Party) known for having put a str (...)

12To begin with, we find one person who was actively involved in championing and promoting food cultures and heavily engaged in cultural politics. Francis Chevrier255 was the director of cultural affairs for the city of Blois when Jack Lang was its mayor.256 In that capacity, he founded the “Meetings of History” festival, which in its second year was devoted to “Foods of the World.” Most of all, though, for our purposes here, in 2001, while Lang was the French national Minister of Education and also of Higher Education, Chevrier was behind the creation of a European institute devoted to research on food, the European Institute for the History and Culture of Food (IEHCA), of which he is currently the director. The organization is a foundation hosted by the Institute of France and, therefore, also under the auspices of the Ministry of Higher Education. Closely connected with the François Rabelais University in Tours, the institute is defined as an “agency for scientific development” (IEHCA, accessed May 16, 2012) or as a “network of researchers,” (Interview Chevrier 2011) whose activities, then, revolved around research, training and the organization of seminars and symposia. It was within the context of his activities for the institute that Chevrier happened, “fortuitously,” as he says, to read the new UNESCO ICH Convention, soon after it was developed. Reading that text, and especially Article 2 which defines the entities covered under the convention, was decisive for Chevrier: “I said to myself, you’d think that this was written to be about cuisine” (Interview Chevrier 2011). From there it was but a short step to imagining the inclusion of French cuisine, or gastronomy, or some aspect of that cultural reality, on one of the lists (the Representative List or the preservation list) set up by the convention.

  • 257 The following paragraph is based on my interview with Chevrier.
  • 258 Benamou was a special adviser to the President from the presidential election, in May 2007, to Marc (...)

13What becomes clear from his own words and from what he has told me about how the application process began257 is that Chevrier set himself to carrying out this project, or one might say projection, with a very sure political sense, the sense of someone who was used to navigating in decision-making spheres. He began by trying out his idea on UNESCO, whose headquarters are in Paris, first meeting with the person in charge of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Section, who told him that the idea was viable. That official invited him to convince the French government to take on the case. Chevrier then went on to propose the project to the various relevant ministries, one after the other – the Ministry of Agriculture, and then the Ministry of Culture – but he ran into strong resistance there, which he attributes to what he calls “the administration’s splendid stalemate” (Interview Chevrier 2011). The Ministry of Agriculture found the project uninteresting because it had no European dimension; the Ministry of Culture was uninterested because they could not see what gastronomy had to do with culture (and I will come back to this very important point). Chevalier’s strategy was, as he put it, to “keep on knocking where the decisions are made.” For that reason, he never considered taking his case to the ethnology division of the Ministry of Culture, which was at that time in decline (and which is now trying to find some administrative legitimacy in promoting the agenda of the 2003 Convention): “If we had gone that route,” he says, “we would still have been at it twenty-five years from now!” (Interview Chevrier 2011). Not getting anywhere with the ministries, therefore, he took his case higher up, right to the President’s office. Chevrier approached the President via his special adviser for culture and audiovisuals, Georges-Marc Benamou, a well-known leftist journalist who had taken part in Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential election and whom Sarkozy had then appointed to his cabinet.258 Over the second half of 2007, a number of meetings were held with members of the presidential cabinet (the final meeting was presided over by the cabinet director), first to determine the technical feasibility of the project, after consultations with the relevant ministries (of culture, agriculture and foreign affairs), and then, finally, to endorse it. This was what led to Sarkozy’s official announcement of the project at the opening of the first International Agricultural Exhibition held during his presidency, on February 23, 2008.

14Before we return to this crucial episode, I would like to finish describing the inaugural process, or line of attack, imagined by Chevrier. He said that he had quickly realized that the IEHCA could not be in charge of the case because it was not set up to do that sort of thing. In other words, it is an organization with scientific and cultural aims and not suited to the political needs of the project, all the more so because the institute’s scientific council was not entirely in agreement on the project. The solution that Chevrier saw was to create an ad hoc structure, a voluntary nonprofit association (under France’s Law 1901), to be presided over by someone substantial, well-known and influential, and the ideal person for this position was Jean-Robert Pitte, “an old friend” (Interview Chevrier 2011) of Chevrier’s. Pitte, a geographer and university professor, had several advantages. First of all, he was a specialist in gastronomy and had written several books on the subject, in particular one entitled “French Gastronomy. The History and Geography of a Passion” (Pitte 1991). Furthermore, at that point, he was the president of Paris-Sorbonne University (Paris IV), which was seen as very good for name recognition outside of France. Finally, he was “very well connected in rightist political circles” (Interview Chevrier 2011). Therefore, he was truly ideal because, just like Chevrier himself in his way, Pitte was at the intersection of science and politics, at the junction of the two worlds. In fact, both men have hybrid personalities and complement each other politically, being on opposite sides of the left−right spectrum.

15Pitte and Chevrier started working together very quickly in 2007, and in the wake of the presidential declaration, they efficiently set up an ad hoc structure, the French Commission for Heritage and Food Cultures (Mission française du patrimoine et des cultures alimentaires, MFPCA), whose statutes declared its purpose to be to “contribute to the inclusion of French gastronomy” and to “work towards the recognition of cuisine in general and French cuisine in particular as an important component of heritage” (MFPCA 2011). The commission’s financing was largely provided in the form of services: Its operational premises and its secretariat were provided by the Ministry of Agriculture and its director was a cultural operative hired on contract by the same ministry, while the project’s lead scientist was an academic temporarily transferred to the Ministry of Research and Higher Education for the duration of the project (more on that below). In 2008, the system was in place, summed up as follows by one of the people involved:

  • 259 Ory is a Professor of Modern History, a specialist in cultural history, and a very media-savvy inte (...)
  • 260 The UMP (Union pour un mouvement populaire; Union for a Popular Movement) is the main rightist part (...)

There is the IEHCA, which is the scientific network for the business, on the left. The IEHCA created the MFPCA, which is its enforcer, its ‘military wing,’ on the right. The president of the IEHCA is Pascal Ory,259 from the Socialist Party, and the president of the MFPCA is J.-R. Pitte, from the UMP.260

4.2 Sponsorships: People Mobilizing and Being Mobilized by Gastronomy

  • 261 In other words, starred chefs, chefs étoilés, the star being the hallmark of excellence awarded by (...)
  • 262 The Institute for Taste, created in 1999 (and originally called the French Institute for Taste), is (...)
  • 263 One of Europe’s main porcelain manufacturers.
  • 264 We should point out that the critic on the commission worked for the daily newspaper Le Monde, whic (...)

16So what was at stake in this beginning stage when the project was starting to take shape? Simply put, it was French gastronomy, as set out in the MFPCA’s purpose statement: International recognition for a specifically French art and way of eating and drinking well. The list of the people who were involved and who took up the cause, in other words the list of people who were mobilized by gastronomy, is a good indicator of the stakes. Without even going into an analysis of the support committee for the “inclusion of France’s food heritage,” set up between 2006 and 2007, a simple look at the list of the founding members of the MFPCA is telling enough: Aside from the founding duo, this group included two leading chefs,261 a representative of the Paul Bocuse foundation, the president of the Hotel Trade and Industry Union, the founder of the Institute for Taste,262 the president of Slow Food France, the chairman of the joint chambers of agriculture, the executive head of the Sèvres National Porcelain Factory,263 a food critic, a former ambassador to UNESCO, and three academic historians. Agriculture, the hospitality sector, the restaurant industry, and high cuisine were all well represented here, along with a reference to the traditional art of entertaining – to eat well one must also eat from high-quality tableware – and a reference to a probably more recent quality of French cuisine and entertaining that implicitly involves striking back against the Americanization of food. Including a representative of food criticism was essential; that genre is considered an art form in France.264 The vitally necessary presence of the historians reminds us that, in the words of Philippe Joutard (2000), history is a “French passion” and that the historian is the favorite intellectual figure of the French. Finally, the strategic inclusion of the former ambassador shows that it was crucial to the project’s sponsors to make sure that the commission had a sound understanding of the institution that had introduced and was sponsoring the category of ICH, as well as privileged access.

4.3 “The Best Food in the World”

17Aside from a reading of the definition of the category, which anyone could do, the crucial question for us here is whether French gastronomy is an eligible entity for the label of ICH, according to the letter and the spirit of the convention. The official announcement of the application, therefore, is a key moment in the process, because it allows us to gauge how well the project is aligned with its targeted aim and to gain an appreciation for the fine-tuning required: How to adjust the idea of French gastronomy to fit the category? And, at the same time, how flexible is the category; is it flexible enough to accommodate the French entry?

18The French president’s speech announcing the project showed right from the beginning that it had the government’s blessing. In the account – as the ethnomethodologists say – of the selection process that seems to have become formalized and established in reports in the press, that inaugural speech was also a moment that was noted for the presidential style of the announcement, which was annoying to people from the outset. The agricultural exhibition, the Salon de l’agriculture, which is held every year in Paris, is a required stop on the political circuit. Even though less than 4% of the workforce is involved in agriculture, everyone courts and lavishes attention on the rural, agricultural world because it is seen as a sort of privileged location for the essence of Frenchness and, therefore, also for French heritage. Sarkozy’s predecessors knew how to cultivate the image of the France that is rooted in villages and the soil, and Jacques Chirac was perfectly at home at the agricultural exhibition, but Sarkozy enjoyed no such popularity in the agricultural community, so he wanted to find a connection and to make a point of appearing at the first exhibition of his five-year term. He started right off with an inaugural speech that was unusual for the exhibition in its solemnity; in it, he laid out the main foundations of his agricultural policy and announced measures to be phased in. At the very beginning of the speech, he spoke about the project to get the French contribution included in UNESCO’s list:

  • 265 UMP politician and the president of the agricultural exhibition.

I am very happy to be here among you to mark the inauguration of this 45th International Agriculture Exhibition, and I would like to welcome all the foreign ministers who have honored us with their presence. I want, of course, to welcome all of France’s farmers, but also everyone – the industrial leaders, the employees and the craftspeople – thanks to whom France is at the forefront of the world in the agricultural and agri-food sector. Dear Christian Patria,265 I am perfectly aware that this Agricultural Exhibition is an extraordinary showcase for France’s trades and products. It is a global meeting place, an opportunity for discoveries and pleasure. For centuries, agriculture has been part of France’s identity and tradition. Today, even beyond its cultural dimension, agriculture carries a double charge. It has an economic component, to which I will return, but it is also a bearer of civilization. Agriculture has shaped our landscapes. It gave our Fatherland a soul and to this day, it is agriculture that allows France to have the second-largest surface area of any country in Europe. If it weren’t for agriculture, our country would be a desert. Agriculture and the trades and occupations that shape it are also the source of our country’s gastronomic diversity. I have taken the initiative for France to become the first country to submit an application with UNESCO, in 2009, to have our gastronomic heritage be recognized as part of the world’s heritage. We have the best food culture in the world – anyway, from our point of view […] well, of course we want to compare ourselves with everyone else – and we would like to have this recognized as part of the world’s heritage. (Sarkozy 2008)

  • 266 For an anthropological approach to the debates within the UNESCO on the criteria and on the princip (...)

19In fact, the president made many more headlines that day by insulting a visitor who refused to shake his hand. It is the infamous “Get out of here, you pathetic schmuck!” (“Casse-toi, pauv’con!”) that history will remember from that agricultural exhibition. But even though it only came in second in that day’s news, the way that Sarkozy announced the French application also got its share of negative reactions and especially managed to annoy the foreign observers as well as the UNESCO representatives in charge of the convention. Indeed, departing from his prepared speech as he often did, in one small phrase praising the excellence of France’s food culture – even though he also acknowledged that his point of view was of necessity subjective and that that was why France was willing to put its “title” on the line and to enter the competition – he appeared to run roughshod over the criterion of representativeness that the UNESCO had so painstakingly developed. In other words, France was entering the field of the “heritagization” of culture based on its own idea of heritage. France’s idea of heritage was primarily based on its uniqueness and excellence, not at all on typicality or representativeness.266

20That one ad lib sentence about the best food in the world, repeated over and over, along with the many comments on it that appeared in the press, show the difficulties involved in the application process and its sensitive nature, even though the project’s sponsors persisted in the position they had established. It was now February 2008, and it was quickly becoming clear that the application would not be ready by the summer, in time to be presented to UNESCO’s intergovernmental committee in 2009. Extra time would be needed in order to work out the contours of the entity the group was proposing so that it would in fact fit the convention’s parameters. The project’s actors, then, were attempting to adjust the convention's “take.” The French state was involved in this on two fronts: As a party, that is, a signatory to the convention, a role that imposed obligations on the state; and as a stakeholder, involved in the construction of a heritage value that would engage the entire nation.

5 Identification and Purification: From French Food Culture to the “Gastronomic Meal of the French”

  • 267 In 2010, the application had five components: I. Identification and definition of the entity; II. C (...)

21Compiling the application267 took fourteen months, from September 2008 to January 2010, which was when the first version of the application dossier was submitted to UNESCO. The first half of 2010 was spent on fine-tuning the file after it had been returned by UNESCO, and the final submission was made in the August of 2010. This phase can primarily be characterized by the way in which it was steered by governmental agencies. The steering was carried out on two levels: The first level was the work done on the nomination dossier, determining the direction it would take, which consisted of inter-ministerial meetings, conducted approximately every month and a half under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture and including representatives from the ministries of culture, agriculture, national education, higher education and research, foreign affairs, and later also health and tourism; at these meetings, the MFPCA reported on the progress of the debate. The second level involved setting guidelines and consisted of meetings at the Élysée Palace involving the President’s advisers.

5.1 Purification as Popularization and as Anthropologization

  • 268 Among other publications, we note Csergo 2001 and Csergo 2004.

22This phase was also marked by the arrival on the scene of Julia Csergo, a historian specializing in food268 who was temporarily liberated from her duties at the University of Lyon (where she was on the faculty) and given the responsibility for the scientific component of the application. Not only did her work as a historical anthropologist provide the necessary scholarly support for the project; she also acted as a purifying agent, in the sense that her input mitigated the very blatant political dimension of the project. In metallurgy, purification is synonymous with enrichment: When a mineral is enriched, the sterile and unproductive parts of it are gotten rid of and the mineral is made productive. To understand how Csergo acted as a purifying agent, it is important to understand the terms of scholarly productivity within an application process that is highly politically charged.

23Csergo was not unknown to the network of people involved in the project; she had been involved in the preparatory discussions when the IEHCA was founded and she was a member of its scientific advisory board. She was one of the people on the council who supported the agenda set out by Chevrier, convinced as she was that the UNESCO convention represented a genuine opportunity to gain recognition for food cultures and, indeed, that there was something in the area of food culture to be put forward as representative of a “French essence” and, therefore, to be established as a heritage:

This convention seems totally revolutionary to me: It should help us think of heritage differently, think about social practices, etc. differently, and so we have to seize it. And this applies to food as well, knowing that the attempts that Jack Lang made in the area of food tended to privilege both chefs and products. I tell myself that here we have an extraordinary tool that means that one day we may finally be able to think differently about heritage. (Interview Csergo 2011)

  • 269 The survey was carried out by students and consisted of interviews with about seventy people who ma (...)

24Csergo saw the convention as offering a way to develop her concept of food and eating as a social practice. In short, she was keen to restore the popular dimension of the practice, in both senses of “popular:” Involving all French people and of not being confined to the most often inaccessible realm of haute cuisine. In order to carry out her mission, she surrounded herself with a scientific council which was, one should note, made up of people who did not necessarily share her conviction about the opportunity offered by the convention. She organized or helped to organize working groups and retreats. And most of all, she initiated a qualitative survey on the question of “what does gastronomy mean to you?” specifically for the purpose of emphasizing the popular aspect of gastronomy.269 An article in the daily Le Monde, giving the history of the application process, did a very good job of describing the challenge:

Carefully avoiding coming at the issue from the angle of know-how, which would mean it’s only about cooks, or of products, which implies business and marketing – which the UNESCO abhors – the historian undertook a series of interviews throughout 2009. She set her students to work on the subject and discovered a wonderful nugget that came from a 67-year-old grandmother: “Gastronomy belongs to everyone as long as everyone puts in a little bit of themselves.” (Ribaut 2010)

  • 270 Christian Hottin was the head of the Ethnology Commission in the Ministry of Culture at that time a (...)
  • 271 Workshops on food practices, Vitré, France, April 3, 2009. These meetings were mandated by the thir (...)

25Csergo’s objective was to define, or redefine, the entry (the element) being nominated, since the reactions to the presidential announcement had clearly shown how necessary this was. The entry could not consist of gastronomy alone, though the word could and maybe should appear in it. According to Christian Hottin,270 the change from “gastronomy” to “the gastronomic meal of the French” happened rather late in the process: He says it was a few months into 2009, at a meeting of experts, organized under the auspices of the UNESCO, on the subject of food cultures.271 Since I do not have access to the minutes of all the meetings, it is hard for me to have a precise picture of the trial and error of the process and the progressive adjustments that were made. However, it is safe to assume that the fall and winter of 2008 were a pivotal period. The minutes of the inter-ministerial meeting of November 13, 2008, give us an interesting insight into the issue of what to call the entry: They mention that in her scholarly status update, Csergo emphasized the value of the term “gastronomy,” being the “historically constructed cultural expression of a relationship to eating and drinking that is specific to French society.” A month earlier, she had also laid out this idea in an article in the daily Libération:

  • 272 Readers will not be surprised to learn that the title of the article (“Patrimoine et pot-au-feu,” “ (...)

Of course, France is not alone in having a tradition of meals and hospitality (…) Nevertheless, and surely because of this culture of a discourse of food and eating which is characteristic of France and which can, let’s admit it, become excessive, gastronomy has historically been constructed as one of the representations of France and its culture.272 (Csergo 2008)

26However, in order to be consistent with the spirit of the convention, Csergo suggested focusing on the notion of tradition. As a title for the entry, she proposed “France’s gastronomic traditions” with the subtitle “Table knowledge, knowhow, and rituals.” Referring to gastronomy as a tradition was a way to anchor it historically and to link it with an ethno-anthropological point of view.

  • 273 This last option was championed by the project’s sponsors. The debate took on a particular signific (...)
  • 274 The “non-imposition of values” (non imposition des valeurs), according to Isabelle Kalinowski’s tra (...)

27This was still not the final title. At the end of March 2009, Csergo made a first official proposal: “The traditions of the gastronomic meal.” This proposal was followed by debates refining the proposal and sharpening the various points of view: Should it be “the meal” or indeed “the traditions of the meal?” Should it be called the meal “of the French” or “à la française?”273 In the conversations that followed from my questions and research, Csergo described herself as having been behind the shift in terminology and as having invented the concept of the “gastronomic meal of the French.” She acknowledged having introduced a division among the players involved in the application process, a division that she saw as deriving, on the one hand, from her status as a scholar and, on the other, from her “anthropological academic culture.” The first, her status as a scholar, is what informed her position and allowed her to maintain a distance which is the basis of the difference between herself and the others; to put it according to a classical topos, she relied on scientific reason, attempting to distance herself from passion and feeling, precisely because such things were what she studied. In the same way, taking a classical position that is reminiscent of the Weberian principle of Wertfreiheit,274 she distinguishes herself from researchers who work on food without any critical distance:

  • 275 In the article mentioned above (Csergo 2011), Csergo explicitly repeats this stance, which consists (...)

My object of study is something I totally distance myself from. That, by the way, is what bothers me very much about the relationship that French researchers have to gastronomy: They don’t distance themselves from it and they tend to use elements of a sort of ideology of gastronomic culture. As for me, I try to see it in a totally cool way, to analyze it and to make my analysis objective. (Interview Csergo 2011)275

28The second reason for the division, her anthropological academic culture, was what allowed her to define the entity more closely, on the basis of the research that she was overseeing:

I say that what seems to define gastronomy and the place where it is implemented the best is precisely festive meals, celebratory meals, et cetera. Therefore the question is not at all about knowing whether we have the best [cuisine]; it doesn’t matter what we’re eating. Because at the same time I realize that in France, we no longer have specific well-defined dishes that must be served at particular occasions, aside from the Christmas turkey. Ultimately, we no longer have the kinds of food traditions that can be seen in many other countries, where there are a certain number of holidays that are organized around traditional dishes and rituals. (Interview Csergo 2011)

29The object of Csergo’s research, then, is a cuisine that is de-singularized, inasmuch as it is not connected to specific products or dishes, but singular nevertheless, as the implementation of the social practice of the “shared meal.”

  • 276 While Csergo’s proposal was taken up by the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Agriculture and th (...)

30It was obvious that this definition involved a break with what had gone before in the nomination project, and the proposal was very badly received by the project’s sponsors. It was seen as a significant reduction in what the project covered and as having little to do with its original ambition. “At that point I realized that there was really a disconnect between the thinking of [the two groups]” (Interview Csergo 2011).276 And yet the historian’s point of view would eventually carry the day, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asserting its authority: Political reasoning prevailed, in that France was interested in distinguishing itself not by subverting the convention but rather by respecting it and adhering to its spirit.

5.2 Compromise

  • 277 See Bortolotto 2008.

31As a proof of this political realism, we can see the uniqueness and hence, also the difficulty of the French application, in terms of the 2003 Convention and the kind of heritage that it was intended to promote and the rebalancing of North and South for which it aimed.277 This was clearly spelled out in a remarkable document, a note dated from this same critical period, namely mid-December 2008, from the French delegation to UNESCO and addressed to the MFPCA and to the ministries involved in the application process. This note explicitly detailed four pitfalls that “must be carefully avoided” if the application was to be successful, “regardless of the designation [of the proposed entity] that is finally agreed on:”

32Pitfall number 1: subservience to the economy. “The experts must be convinced that the project is completely free of any commercial or economic angle:” In other words, the agro-food industries and the stakeholders in haute cuisine should not be the beneficiaries of the project and the entity should not be identified either with manufactured products or with the cuisine of restaurant chefs.

33Pitfall number 2: too much self-assurance, “an ostentatious approach,” or an “overly active marshaling of resources.” A low profile is recommended instead, “choosing a relatively modest mode of presentation and discretion about the resources that have been mobilized.” In the spirit of the convention, the project should originate from a “grass-roots community” and not from “well-known professional organizations or organizations with substantial resources.”

34Pitfall number 3: an elitist image, such as that associated with the cuisine of restaurant chefs, which is “famous but not very accessible.” Instead, “the popular and familial aspect of gastronomy” should be stressed.

35Pitfall number 4: a museum-like ossification of the entry into one single tradition. Intangible cultural heritage is a living heritage, and gastronomy, too, should be presented in the image of modern French society, a fusion culture at the intersection of a variety of influences. The theme of cultural diversity should be the guiding principle in the presentation of the application.

36A warning against prestigious or too obvious sponsorships, a concern with playing down the fact that the project was supported by the state and started life with the President’s blessing; It is clear that there was a desire to change the initial project’s direction. Contrary to what the note says (diplomatically), the question of nomenclature was anything but irrelevant. It was clear that the focus on festive meals, celebratory meals and Sunday dinners, seen as both a social and a cultural entity, was going to be the way to avoid the pitfalls that had been laid out. This echoes the conclusions reached by UNESCO experts at the end of the workshops in Vitré in March of 2009, particularly that, even though they are completely eligible to qualify as an intangible cultural heritage, “food practices cannot be reduced to one or more actions or steps of a process, but should, instead, be seen as a structured and complex process that stretches from the acquisition of the raw materials through the act of consumption” (Hottin 2009).

5.3 Folklore versus Ethnological Heritage

37Does it make any sense to contrast the perspectives of folklore and ethnological heritage? Csergo, the historian, as we have seen, built her position from an anthropological perspective, based not on objects but on practices, and not professional practices but ordinary everyday ones. The original developer of the project, for his part, comes from a more global perspective of protecting gastronomy as culture. That, by the way, is the title of a slim volume that he published in June 2011 laying out his point of view (Chevrier 2011). And in spite of what he says in the book’s opening pages, he actually does not retrace – or even refer to, except very superficially – the process that finally led to the inscription of the GMF in the ICH list. What the book does is to celebrate the GMF’s inclusion on the list as a cultural recognition of gastronomy. Chevrier explains how he thinks this inscription along with the battle that was led and the resistance that had to be overcome to achieve that recognition should be understood. The first battle was against an elitist conception of culture, which Chevrier calls “Louis-Quatorzian or Jacobin,” that the Ministry of Culture brought to the process. According to Chevrier, that ministry had usurped the title and should have been called the “Ministry of Fine Arts.” Here was an institution – the Ministry of Culture – that was beholden to powerful corporations which dictated to the ministry the politics it should pursue on matters of cultural activity as well as heritage; and an institution that was jealous of its monopoly “on the enunciation of the principles governing the Beautiful that are worthy of being instilled in the masses” (Chevrier 2011: 98). Set against this double dictate, both institutional and symbolic, what is the message conveyed by the inscription of the GMF on the ICH list? That cuisine, or gastronomy, is a cultural reality that transcends social divisions (it is both scholarly and popular) and political divisions (witness the team that Chevrier formed with Pitte).

  • 278 This debate concerned cultural politics which have now more or less died down in France, at least i (...)
  • 279 See Tornatore 2004.

38Even though Chevrier defends his point of view with implicit references to the contrast between the democratization of culture and a cultural democracy,278 what he reflects is a unifying and neutralizing concept of heritage. Csergo, on the other hand, pushed the social aspect of culture, which made her sensitive to practices that were less centered on the actual food than they were on the act of sharing a meal: On tiny, humble, popular practices, on the side of the ordinary. This leaves us with the question: What tradition of celebration of cultural events was each of them drawing on? Let us propose the following hypothesis: Chevrier does not seem to have any prejudices about folklore – that is just another name for intangible cultural heritage and the place for the celebration of a people’s culture. Csergo, in contrast, is on the side of ethnological heritage – a scholarly and critical approach to cultural pluralism. This tension can only be understood in the light of the French situation as regards the political treatment of culture and what has happened to those two traditions, one scientifically discredited because it was politically compromised and the other politically devalued because of its scientific distance.279 The paradox is that the adjustments to fit the convention were made based on the second tradition, while the politics of ICH could also, or perhaps especially, be read as a form of rehabilitation of folklore. UNESCO, in allowing two traditions, which – in France – are usually seen as irreconcilable, to share the field in this application, has opened the Pandora’s box of heritage.

5.4 What’s Bred in the Bone…

39“Cock-a-doodle-doo!” The French press did not fail to comment on or crow over the success of the French entry. Here is a selection of titles (taken from the press reports available on the IEHCA’s website): “France Offers Its Gastronomy to Humanity” (La Tribune); “The World Is Envious of Our Meals” (Aujourd'hui en France); “UNESCO Crazy for French Gastronomy” (20 minutes); “Cock-a-doodle-doo, Our Great Food Is Classified at UNESCO” (Ouest France); “French Hospitality Is Already Universal” (La Nouvelle République); “UNESCO: Battle of the Chefs’Hats” (L’Express); “The Duty of Heritage. French Gastronomy Enters UNESCO’s Heritage. This Coronation Will Give It a New Momentum.” (Le Monde Magazine); “French Hospitality Becomes Part of World Heritage” (Paris Match). Without looking at the articles, which may well have scrupulously reported what part of French heritage it was that received the UNESCO stamp, we can say that the headline – the hook, and therefore what the reader would remember – was always something to do with gastronomy and France’s excellence in the matter. Csergo (Interview 2011) noted that “the declarations, whether by the commission, the ministry, or whoever, always come back to the same thing: The heritage, the products, the know-how, the AOC [registered designation of origin], the labels, et cetera, until finally you just end up with ‘so good so French.’ Which also gives one the sense that finally, the French politicians ended up exploiting the UNESCO convention for their own purposes.”

40It would appear that for the sponsors of the project, the GMF, the “gastronomic meal of the French,” was a compromise and a starting point. It represented the vanguard of a reconnaissance mission sent out by France’s food culture stating what a “home for gastronomy” – one of the projects listed in the application under the list of measures to which the state has committed itself – would be fully devoted to. Little phrases here and there in Chevrier’s activist book suggest that once the application was successful and the label had been obtained, the project quickly reverted to showing its true colors. Along these lines, Pitte writes in the preface to Chevrier’s book:

The main thing is the satisfaction displayed by the government, local representatives and elected officials, and professionals in the agri-food sector, in the restaurant business, in tourism, all the organizations that promote our food culture, and finally all the anonymous French people who see in this a happy recognition of this cherished part of their identity. (Pitte in Chevrier 2001: 7)

41And Chevrier, evoking the “home for gastronomy”:

A project like this could never be launched without a strong political will and leadership. The state, and also local and, especially, regional authorities need to feel invested in this showcase for French excellence. Of course, the food sector and industry are expected to support such an initiative, which is also designed to emphasize their vitality and to show off the quality of their technique and know-how to the world. (Chevrier 2001: 145)

42Of course, once one has started down that shining path of “French excellence,” it is only a question of which of the many wayside stands to stop at: The next one, according to the people I talked to, would be… wine. Or more precisely, because it is once again in the context of a new application for a UNESCO label: “grapes and wine.” To be continued…

6 The French, Good Food and Heritage

  • 280 According to the site’s home page, it was created in 2011, a year after the UNESCO label was awarde (...)
  • 281 The brand can be bestowed on “initiatives – exhibits, conferences, educational programs, fairs, fes (...)
  • 282 Namely, a recognition of recipes, of “product-specific signs of quality,” “the attribution of a lab (...)

43However, the inscription on the UNESCO list is not, or not only, incidental. We have to think of the GMF as recognition of French food culture: What began as an adjustment to fit the dictates of the UNESCO apparatus then became its own project. We can see that the remarks quoted above, like the book itself, have an internal function: They are intended to maintain the generated momentum. Similar to any other association of diverse parts, the one that propelled the French application to success depended on a delicate balance. This one relied on the French state and it still depends on its ability and resolve to fulfill the commitments implied in the application. Nevertheless, at the same time we should not overestimate the importance of the state’s support, because we must recognize that the balance has now become less fragile if we look at the results of the inscription. After the montage that is the “gastronomic meal of the French” made the inscription, now it is the inscription that makes the montage. The story I have just told is the process of association on which the success of the application depended. The montage could still fall apart; it could still be denounced; but it is stronger now than it was, if only because the “gastronomic meal of the French” has become an entity in itself, distinctive and singular. It has its own website;280 it is also, now, a brand – “gastronomic meal of the French: heritage of humanity” – which can be bestowed on any given project or initiative.281 This is, all in all, a very logical setup, and one which is very well accounted for by “translation vocabulary” (Callon 1986). The project’s sponsors were able to “interest” the state in the project; the state saw “its” interest in it through a President interested in securing the support of farmers and in asserting the image of a “protector state” guarding against the negative effects of globalization; this interest, in turn, came at the price of a transformation in the targeted entity; it was then on behalf of that entity that people mobilized, and the resulting entity was the gastronomic meal of the French. We should not be surprised, therefore, to see that the author of the site – the MFPCA, as it happens – plays along with the rules of the UNESCO inscription perfectly, in carefully laying out not only what the GMF is, but also what the application for the GMF was not.282

44In thinking about the effects of the inscription of the GMF on the UNESCO list, we should also consider the interests of some of the other parties involved, especially those of the clubs and associations in every corner of the country which celebrate various aspects of gastronomic culture. A significant number of these groups are represented in the “proofs of the community’s free, prior and informed consent to the application.” So here we have “the French” (at least 95% of them) by way of their (self-)established agents. Let us suspend, at least for the moment, the social and feminist critique that would see the GMF as an expression of “a ‘middle-class’ or even squarely bourgeois version of French nationalism” (Hertz 2011: 229). We can say, then, that it is a safe bet that the vast majority of “the French” see themselves reflected in the prestigious distinction bestowed by this inscription: The GMF is something in which people recognize themselves; something they are part of; at the worst, maybe, they smile at this “cherished facet of our identity.” What does this gastronomic meal of the French do to or for the French? A bit of collective recognition on the international stage cannot hurt. Indeed, there is a twofold benefit. France is the home of good food, joyful feasts with family and friends, and hospitality. We are experts at this. Our food is our heritage. However, in identifying this particular heritage as belonging to France’s national community, does not the UNESCO inscription make France into a homeland of heritage itself? Because who, indeed, besides France and the French, could build heritage into a transcendent way of life?


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247 This article appears in French in, 24, summer 2012. Translated from French by Marie Deer (

248 According to a quantitative survey commissioned by the Research Center for the Study and Observation of Ways of Life (Centre de Recherche pour l’étude et l’observation des modes de vie, CREDOC) and carried out with a representative sample of 998 subjects (CREDOC 2009).

249 I do not share the view generally agreed upon among anthropologists, which was recently solemnly reaffirmed in a manifesto (Saillant; Kilani; Graezer Bideau 2011), believing unlike them that it is possible to free oneself of the methodological dogma of the long-term research project – which is seen, unfortunately, as the minimum precondition for an “engaged presence” (Saillant; Kilani; Graezer Bideau 2011: 18) – and that it is possible, likewise, to liberate oneself from that wonderful “critical distance.” From the point of view which I am espousing here, the work of the social sciences neither requires nor implies the perspective of an outsider, nor does it inevitably turn on the length of the research project: Like the “quick game” of chess, the quick research project is perfectly conceivable as long as it does not attempt to provide a “view from on high” or a divine perspective (something that, I should point out, not even a long-term research project can guarantee).

250 The materials to which I had access consisted of four interviews and a few status reports, along with one substantial press release and the files submitted to UNESCO.

251 For a different and complementary approach to the UNESCO inscription, see Csergo 2011.

252 “El condor pasa” is a traditional Andean song, adapted in 1913 by a Peruvian composer and folklorist, that tells the story of a revolt by Indian minors who were exploited and despised by Yankee imperialists. (Simon and Garfunkel, collaborating with the group Los Incas, released a version that made the song world famous.)

253 As Hafstein writes, “the intangible heritage is the community” (2011: 86).

254 See Tornatore 2011.

255 Since the record is public and the people involved are known, I did not see any reason to hide their identities.

256 Jack Lang is a leftist French politician (member of the Socialist Party) known for having put a strong French stamp on cultural politics during his two terms as Minister of Culture, both of them under François Mitterrand (1981 to 1986 and 1988 to 1993). He was also the national Minister of Education (1992 to 1993 and 2000 to 2002), a representative, and mayor of the city of Blois from 1989 to 2000.

257 The following paragraph is based on my interview with Chevrier.

258 Benamou was a special adviser to the President from the presidential election, in May 2007, to March 2008.

259 Ory is a Professor of Modern History, a specialist in cultural history, and a very media-savvy intellectual. He is a regular contributor to print and audiovisual media (especially French Culture on Radio France).

260 The UMP (Union pour un mouvement populaire; Union for a Popular Movement) is the main rightist party in France, established by former president Jacques Chirac. The political assembly of this cast of characters owes much to the involvement of Catherine Dumas, a UMP senator and the author of a report (June 2008) that would ultimately clarify the process; see Csergo 2011.

261 In other words, starred chefs, chefs étoilés, the star being the hallmark of excellence awarded by the Guide Michelin, the famous and the oldest (early–20th century) French restaurant guide.

262 The Institute for Taste, created in 1999 (and originally called the French Institute for Taste), is an organization devoted to training and research which is interested in the sensory perceptions and in dietary behaviors. It is involved in the education of taste, especially in young people (Institute du Gout, accessed May 16, 2011)

263 One of Europe’s main porcelain manufacturers.

264 We should point out that the critic on the commission worked for the daily newspaper Le Monde, which is seen as the most impartial newspaper in France or, at any rate, the one with the least identifiable political orientation (although there is a recurrent suspicion that the newspaper is on the center left).

265 UMP politician and the president of the agricultural exhibition.

266 For an anthropological approach to the debates within the UNESCO on the criteria and on the principle of differentiation and classification of the elements of heritage, see Hafstein 2008.

267 In 2010, the application had five components: I. Identification and definition of the entity; II. Contribution to visibility and awareness; III. Protective measures and governmental commitment; IV. Participation and consent of the community, groups and individuals concerned; V. Inclusion of the entity in an inventory. (UNESCO 2010)

268 Among other publications, we note Csergo 2001 and Csergo 2004.

269 The survey was carried out by students and consisted of interviews with about seventy people who made up a representative sample of French society.

270 Christian Hottin was the head of the Ethnology Commission in the Ministry of Culture at that time and was involved in the process in that capacity.

271 Workshops on food practices, Vitré, France, April 3, 2009. These meetings were mandated by the third session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (Istanbul, November 2008) following a request by Peru, supported by France, “to organize meetings of experts on very specific questions and to begin with a meeting on knowledge about food systems and the practices associated with them” (Oral Report).

272 Readers will not be surprised to learn that the title of the article (“Patrimoine et pot-au-feu,” “Heritage and Stew”) comes from the newspaper’s editorial staff and not from the author.

273 This last option was championed by the project’s sponsors. The debate took on a particular significance because French identity was a favorite theme of the political right in power at that time and a theme that was on display in the very controversial Ministry of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Cooperative Development, under whose auspices a grand debate on national identity was being planned, to be held from November 2009 to February 2010 (Csergo 2011: 4).

274 The “non-imposition of values” (non imposition des valeurs), according to Isabelle Kalinowski’s translation; see Kalinowski 2005.

275 In the article mentioned above (Csergo 2011), Csergo explicitly repeats this stance, which consists of her putting herself in the position of an observer of “a practice as familiar as gastronomy” “in the same way in which an ethnologist who was discovering the habits and customs of a faraway population would have done it.”

276 While Csergo’s proposal was taken up by the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Agriculture and the MFPCA continued to champion cuisine and specific products (Interview Csergo 2011).

277 See Bortolotto 2008.

278 This debate concerned cultural politics which have now more or less died down in France, at least in those terms. About this debate, see Bellavance 2000.

279 See Tornatore 2004.

280 According to the site’s home page, it was created in 2011, a year after the UNESCO label was awarded; see Le repas gastronomique des Français 2011.

281 The brand can be bestowed on “initiatives – exhibits, conferences, educational programs, fairs, festivals, meetings, shows, and so on – that enhance the value of the ‘gastronomic meal of the French’ and increase the likelihood of it being carried on in future generations.” A commission made up of representatives of the state and of the MFPCA (which reviews the application portfolios) decides which groups will be licensed to use the name; see Mission Française du Patrimoine et des Cultures Alimentaires (n.d.).

282 Namely, a recognition of recipes, of “product-specific signs of quality,” “the attribution of a label with commercial value,” “the celebration of an elitist practice of haute cuisine,” “an award for the entirety of French food culture,” or “a desire to appear at the top of the list of the best cuisines.”

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