Folklore, the City and a World in Transition: Intangible Cultural Heritage in Georgia (Caucasus)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Focusing on Georgia (Caucasus), this chapter addresses key concerns in research on intangible cultural heritage: the implications of redefining national folklore as world heritage for questions of custodianship and sustainability; the impact of safeguarding agendas on music-makers and their practices; and the relationship between heritage management and tourism. I examine the legacy of UNESCO’s 2001 proclamation of Georgian Polyphonic Singing as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. I outline the tensions between ‘authentic’ and ‘academic’ styles and the reasons behind resistance to innovation. I consider the range of activity in which traditional music ensembles engage in the capital city of Tbilisi and what this reveals about further tensions between music as cultural capital and music as social capital. Finally, I consider the ways in which foreign enthusiasts interact with village singers at summer camps in Georgia’s back regions and the potential of these grassroots initiatives to contribute to the sustainability of participatory musical practices and the economic regeneration of local communities. I suggest that while Georgian polyphony may still be viewed as folklore in its national frame of reference, the ever-widening network of foreign practitioners has helped it make the transition to world heritage.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic as Heritage
Subtitle of host publicationHistorical and Ethnographic Perspectives
EditorsBarley Norton, Naomi Matsumoto
Place of PublicationLondon and New York
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-315-39386-5
ISBN (Print)978-1-138-22804-7
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameSOAS Musicology Series


  • Georgia
  • Intangible cultural heritage
  • Authenticity
  • Cultural tourism


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