Our research projects and teaching correspond significantly to the UN Sustainable Development Goals like, e.g., proactive approach to environmental and climate change challenges, responsible consumption and production, or mutually supportive partnerships. Together with students from all corners of the world, we study and discuss how to employ traditional knowledge and skills for the cause.
Besides furthering international cooperation, the UNESCO Chair aims to locally advance and contribute to knowledge in this globally topical field of research when posing questions on cultural politics and management of heritage in Estonia. Based on studies on the social impact of heritage issues, we draw attention, for example, to the consequences of heritage commoditization or heritage reference in political debates. By combining the academic and the applied approach, we participate in social transformations that depend on research-based guidelines.
Current research agendas:
We participate in the University of Tartu Committee for the Guidelines on Sustainable Development. We contribute to the creation of an international online for research references related to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and its implementation. We are compiling an online publication in Estonian to assist those working in the heritage field. This publication draws upon research carried out in the framework of the project . The controversial aspects studied focus on the heritage policies on national level that have glossed over the issues of contrasting rural and urban cultures, of ownership, of inclusion or exclusion of social groups.
Funded by the European Horizon Programme, the project "Revitalising Languages and Safeguarding Cultural Diversity (RISE UP)" aims to empower endangered language communities by building connections between relevant actors, identifying good practices and developing methods through a multi-disciplinary approach. Furthermore, RISE UP will foster the self-confidence of these communities, including learners, new speakers, people who have not yet had the chance to learn their heritage language, supporters, and more. Through the collection and analysis of context information and policies for endangered languages in Europe, the creation of a tool set for communities, the connection of relevant actors and the involvement of young people, specifically, RISE UP aims to provide support and empowerment to endangered language communities in Europe.
RISE UP explores and deals with
The RISE UP consortium is composed of eight partners from six European countries (Austria, Estonia, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom). With their expertise in disciplines such as linguistics, cultural research, education, art, and game development, they work on the achievement of the project’s objectives through a multi-disciplinary approach.
Photo by Robert Sjöblom
Living heritage holds many possibilities for sustainable and ethical practices that support the livelihoods and well-being of communities. Led by the Finnish Heritage Agency, the project "LIVIND – Creative and living cultural heritage as a resource for the Northern Dimension region" (2021-2024) concentrates on recognizing the practical ways in which living heritage can support sustainable development and how it could be developed and used in sustainable ways. The project is mainly funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.
The project envisages multidisciplinary webinars, facilitated workshops, expert lectures, and training in the Northern Dimension Cultural Partnership area on international, national, and local levels. The target groups for these events are relevant NGOs, governmental and other institutions, such as museums and archives, bearer communities, groups and individuals, and private sector partners active in the field of living heritage. Good practices will be collected, shared, and developed through the project events. Small-scale pilot projects will be implemented. The project includes research activities led by the UNESCO Chair. A concrete result will be an online platform, a multidisciplinary resource bank of methods, and good practices.
The partnership of the University of Tartu with the New European Bauhaus is organized through the UNESCO Chair on Applied Studies of Intangible Cultural Heritage. While actively participating in NEB activities itself, the Chair will coordinate and engage other interested UT research groups and "inject" NEB spirit and agenda into planned activities in the span of the project.
The project PHVKU21920 "Research and development at the UNESCO Chair on Applied Heritage Studies" supports the development of the international and domestic network, launching of social media communication channels, participation in joint research projects and convention of relevant seminars.
The interdisciplinary project IUT34-32 "Cultural heritage as a socio-cultural resource and contested field" was an ethnological study of the process where cultural expressions and practices are designated (intangible) cultural heritage and converted into a socio-cultural resource. We proposed a reflexive critical analysis of heritage construction and community revitalisation when examining cultural heritage interpretations or applications from four perspectives: heritage conceptualisation and policy-making on international, national or local community level; remembrance of difficult pasts and commemorative practices on collective and individual level; cultural heritage as resource in rural entrepreneurship; aspects of exclusion and contestation of the prescriptive heritage framework.
Recent publications (choice):
Annist, Aet 2020. Introduction: Performance, Power, Exclusion, and Expansion in Anthropological Accounts of Protests. - Conflict and Society, Vol 6 (1), 183-200.
Kuutma, Kristin 2019. Conclusion: The Politics of Scale for Intangible Cultural Heritage - Identification, Ownership, and Representation. - Tuuli Lähdesmäki, Suzie Thomas and Yujie Zhu (Ed). Politics of Scale: New Directions in Critical Heritage Studies. New York-Oxford: Berghahn, 156-170.
Kuutma, Kristin 2019. Inside the UNESCO Apparatus: from Intangible Representations to Tangible Effects. - Natsuko Akagawa, Laurajane Smith (Eds). Intangible Heritage: the practices and politics of safeguarding. Routledge, Taylor&Francis Group, 68-83.
Kuutma, Kristin; Annist, Aet 2020. Home and Heritage out of Place: The Disjunction of Exile. - International Journal of Heritage Studies, Vol 26, 10, 942-954.
Kuutma, Kristin; Vaivade, Anita 2021. Political Imperatives in the Heritage Regime and the Emergent Collaborative Scenarios on the Ground: Case Studies from the Baltics. - Slovenský národopis/Slovak Ethnology, Vol 69, No 4, 519-533.
Plüschke-Altof, Bianka; Annist, Aet 2021. Populism of the Dispossessed: Rethinking the Link between Rural Authenticity and Populism in the Context of Neoliberal Regional Governance. - Pavel Pospech; Eirik Magnus Fuglestad; Elizabete Figueiredo (Eds). Politics and Policies of Rural Authenticity, Routledge, 42-59.
Seljamaa, Elo-Hanna 2021. Diversities claimed, displayed and silenced: Encounters at the new Estonian National Museum. - Ethnologia Europaea, 51 (1), 72−98.