Cultural Heritage and Human Rights

  • Helaine Silverman
  • D. Fairchild Ruggles

Heritage is a concept to which most people would assign a positive value. The preservation of material culture – objects of art and of daily use, architecture, landscape form – and intangible culture – performances of dance, music, theater, and ritual, as well as language and human memory – are generally regarded as a shared common good by which everyone benefits. Both personal and community identities are formed through such tangible objects and intangible cultural performances, and a formation of a strong identity would seem to be a fundamentally good thing. But heritage is also intertwined with identity and territory, where individuals and communities are often in competition or outright conflict. Conflicts may occur over issues of indigenous land and cultural property rights, or between ethnic minorities and dominant majorities disputing the right to define and manage the cultural heritage of the minority. At stake is the question of who defines cultural heritage and who should control stewardship and the benefits of cultural heritage.


Cultural Heritage United Nations Cultural Property Universal Declaration American Anthropologist 
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Cultural Heritage Instruments

  1. Declaration Concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage, UNESCO, 2003 (http:// portal .unesco .org /en /ev.php -URL _ID = 1 7 7 1 8 &URL _DO =DO _TOPIC&URL _ SECTION=201.html).
  2. Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UN, 1994 ( instree/declra.htm).
  3. Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, UNESCO adopted 1954, ratified 1956 (
  4. Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) (
  5. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, UN adopted 1966, ratified 1976 (http://www.
  6. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN adopted 1966, ratified 1976 (
  7. Protocol of San Salvador, added to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 1988 (
  8. Resolution No. 1, 19th meeting of the General Assembly of ICOM (International Council of Museums), 1998 (
  9. The Nara Document on Authenticity, 1994 (
  10. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN, 1948 (
  11. World Heritage Convention, UNESCO, 1972 (

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helaine Silverman
    • 1
  • D. Fairchild Ruggles
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Landscape ArchitectureUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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