Narratives around heritage are continuously developed and disseminated across the globe. The narrative of ‘heritage under threat’ tells the story of how and why intangible cultural heritage (ICH) practices are valuable, why are they disappearing, and how they can be protected from destruction. Focusing on PR China, this talk presents the results of a frame analysis to identify narratives on ‘heritage under threat’ as employed by the UNESCO, the Chinese party-state, and academics. I argue that while policy narratives in any country undergo a process of congruence-building, circulation, and implementation, these processes take distinctive forms in authoritarian countries due to the states’ discursive and political monopoly: While non-state actors are involved, the state primarily steers the appropriation process. Nevertheless, once established, the policy narrative transforms across time and space, enabling local actors to use it to pursue their own interests.
Christina Maags is Lecturer in Chinese Politics at the Politics Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Christina’s research interests focus on the politics around cultural heritage in PR China unfolding, for instance, within the Chinese Living Human Treasures System (chuanchengren xiangmu), policy diffusion and implementation processes, tourism, and expert-state cooperation. Most recently, Christina has co-edited a volume on Chinese Cultural Heritage in the Making: Experiences, Negotiations and Contestations at Amsterdam University Press and published “When East Meets West: International Change and Its Effects on Domestic Cultural Institutions” in Politics & Policy (2019).