UNESCO World Heritage has established itself as a major forum for contemporary heritage conservation and as a global brand that channels the flows of tourists, investments, and development funds worldwide. It has also been accused of being too Eurocentric, despite its claim of applying universal standards when adding sites to the World Heritage List. The years from 2009 to 2015 saw unprecedented levels of confrontation at the annual World Heritage Committee sessions. Strong states of the Global South challenged the advice of expert bodies. Yet the numerical dominance of European properties on the World Heritage List continues, as does the considerable Northern bias in the selection and applied standards of the involved experts. This has parallels in other international organizations such as the World Bank or the IMF where reform efforts meant to benefit the Global South were also stunted by national self-interests. The lecture will argue that, due to its increased importance, the performance of the World Heritage Committee responds to similar pressures and dynamics now, rather than to anything specific to heritage.
Christoph Brumann heads the research groups "The Global Political Economy of Cultural Heritage" and "Buddhist Temple Economies in Urban Asia" at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle (Germany), and is Honorary Professor of Anthropology at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. He has published on cultural heritage, global processes, urban anthropology, the culture concept, utopian communes, and Japanese society.