UNESCO's Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage came into force in April 2006, signalling a major expansion of the global system of heritage protection from the tangible to the intangible. It is an expansion that some heritage professionals see as opening up a Pandora's box of confusions and complexities. The conservation of inanimate objects tangible sites and monuments and artefacts - is difficult enough; but the protection of heritage embodied in people raises new sets of ethical and practical issues. The paper canvasses these concerns and focuses on how the notion of human rights must be used as a way of limiting and shaping the Intangible List. In particular it outlines the ways in which the protection and preservation of cultural heritage is linked to 'cultural rights' as a form of human rights. This linkage is not clearly recognised by cultural heritage practitioners in many countries, who view their work merely as technical, or even by human rights workers, despite the abundance of opportunities around the world to witness people struggling to assert their cultural rights in order to protect their heritage and identity.
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This paper is an abridged version of W. S. Logan, 'Closing Pandora's Box: Human Rights Conundrums in Cultural Heritage Protection', in H. Silverman and D. Ruggles Fairchild (eds), Cultural Heritage and Human Rights, New York, Springer (2008).
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