Team of the UNESCO Chair

Kristin Kuutma, UNESCO Chairholder, Professor of Cultural Studies

Aet Annist, Associate Professor of Ethnology

Elo-Hanna Seljamaa, Associate Professor of Estonian and Comparative Folklore

Siarhiej Makarevich, Junior Research Fellow in Ethnology

Daina Pupkeviciute, Junior Research Fellow in Ethnology

Christiana Holsapple, Research Fellow in Heritage Studies

Kristiina Porila, UNESCO Cooperation Specialist

Kristi Grünberg, Project Coordinator

Maarja Veisson, Research Assistant

Reet Ruusmann, Project Manager at the Department of Ethnology

Chahal Garg, research participant


Kristin Kuutma

Holder of the UNESCO Chair on Applied Studies of Intangible Cultural Heritage
Professor of Cultural Studies, Ph.D.

The research of Professor Kristin Kuutma focuses on heritage policies and the links between cultural heritage and identity. She has also been actively involved in implementing the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage on the international level – as an expert representing Estonia in the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, participating at numerous expert meetings, and serving the UNESCO secretariat in an advisory capacity. At the national level, she is the Chairman of the Council of the Estonian National Commission for UNESCO and a member of the Estonian Council for Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Estonian Research Information System



Masters & Ph.D. Supervision (choice)

  • Caroline Haubold „The Role of Song Celebrations and Choral Societies in the Formation and Manifestation of the Baltic German Identity." Ph.D., under supervision
  • Siarhiej Makarevič "Living Heritage as a Resource for Sustainable Livelihoods." Ph.D., under supervision
  • Savannah Rivka Powell „Songs Carried by Ancestors and Hidden in Archives: The Politics of Minority Identities, Gender, and UNESCO Status for the Seto of Estonia and the Ainu of Japan.” Ph.D., under supervision
  • Alena Shisheliakina, Ph.D. (2022)  “Being a woman and being Tatar: intersectional perspectives on identity and tradition in the post-soviet context.”


  • Triinu Arak, MA (2020) "Inventory of the Choral Landscape in Tartu, Estonia in the Years 2017-2019". (In Estonian)
  • Siarhiej Makarevič, MA (2022) „Revitalisation of Local Weaving Tradition in Hancavicy District (Belarus).“
  • Mare Mätas, MA, about Kihnu cultural heritage, under supervision
  • Katarina Stradner, MA (2021) „Creating a Representation: The Singing to the Accompaniment of the Gusle as a Nomination to the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.“

Recent publications (choice):

Kuutma, Kristin 2019. Conclusion: The Politics of Scale for Intangible Cultural Heritage - Identification, Ownership, and Representation. - Tuuli Lähdesmäki, Suzie Thomas, Yujie Zhu (Eds). 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.

Kuutma, Kristin 2023. Organizing an Ideal: ‘Collective Governance’ of Ownership and Rights. - Chiara Bortolotto, Ahmed Skounti. At the Crossroads: Intangible Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development. Routledge [forthcoming].

Aet Annist

Associate Professor of Ethnology, Ph.D.

At the analytical center of Aet Annist's attention is developing the concept of dispossession in its different forms (social, symbolic, ethnic dispossession, and dispossession of the future) as well as the new class relations emerging from this setting, as a continuation of dispossession or in reaction to this. In such processes, the institutionalization of heritage culture bears a crucial role in peripheral regions - a theme she has addressed within the IRG project led by the UNESCO Chairholder Kristin Kuutma and within the Horizon2020 project PROMISE, led by Manchester University. Aet Annist's current research interests encompass the theme of climate socialities and links between forest protests and heritage culture.

She has contributed regularly to Estonian media, to applied research for Estonian ministries and Parliament as a consultant, to art exhibitions as a writer, and as an activist, consultant, and facilitator to the activities of Estonian and British protest groups.

Estonian Research Information System


Google Scholar


Masters & Ph.D. Supervision (choice)

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; Annist, Aet 2020. Home and Heritage out of Place: The Disjunction of Exile. - International Journal of Heritage Studies, Vol 26, 10, 942-954.

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 (Ed). Politics and Policies of Rural Authenticity. Routledge, 42−59.

Pilkington, Hilary; Acik, Necla; Annist, Aet; Chorvat, Ivan; Dähnke, Iris; Nartova, Nadia; Shilova, Anastasia and Yasaveyev, Iskender 2021. Positive marginality? Young people’s activism and the paradoxes of recognition politics. - Journal of Youth Studies.

Annist, Aet 2022. Post-socialism as an experience of distancing and dispossession in rural and transnational Estonia. - Critique of Anthropology, 42 (2), 137−153.


Associate Professor of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, Ph.D.
Programme director of “Folkloristics and Applied Heritage Studies”

Elo-Hanna Seljamaa researches ethnicity, nationalism, and integration in Estonia and is fascinated by living with difference as it is experienced in daily life and institutionalized in policies. She is consequently interested in processes of heritagisation and inclusions, exclusions and interventions by means of heritage management.

As a folklorist, she is drawn to traditions that do not fit easily into UNESCO’s formulation of intangible cultural heritage. Her research project (2018-2021), a start-up grant funded by the Estonian Research Council, explored these topics through the lens of belonging and non-belonging.

As an educator, she is intrigued by the genre of Master’s thesis that invites students to apply in practice the theoretical knowledge acquired during their studies and to learn new skills.

Elo-Hanna Seljamaa frequently collaborates with the Estonian Folk Culture Centre. She has curated art exhibitions and explored the use of ethnographic methods in the study of culture and artistic research.

Estonian Research Information System


Google Scholar


Masters & Ph.D. Supervision (choice)

Recent publications (choice):

Harro-Loit, Halliki; Vihalemm, Triin; Jõesalu, Kirsti; Seljamaa, Elo-Hanna 2020. Mapping celebration practices in Estonia: which days of importance actually influence societal rhythms? - Anu Kannike, Katre Pärn, Monika Tasa (toim). - Interdisciplinary Approaches to Culture Theory. Tartu: Tartu University Press, 248−328.

Seljamaa, Elo-Hanna 2021. Diversities claimed, displayed and silenced: Encounters at the new Estonian National Museum. - Ethnologia Europaea, 51 (1), 72−98.

Seljamaa, Elo-Hanna 2022. Kuulub – ei kuulu. Kuulumise, konviviaalsuse ja autohtoonsuse mõistetest [Belonging – Non-belonging: On the Concepts of Belonging, Conviviality and Autochthony]. – Keel ja Kirjandus, 5, 404−422.


Photo of Siarhiej Makarevich

Junior Research Fellow in Ethnology, MA


Siarhiej Makarevich focuses on applied research of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) with a particular interest in traditional craftsmanship. As a cum laude graduate of the “Folkloristics and Applied Heritage Studies” MA programme at the University of Tartu, he gained a solid understanding of the international ICH framework and its application in local contexts in the example of Belarus. At present, he is widening his research area to the Baltic region and shifting its focus to explore the intersection of living heritage and sustainable development.

His academic interest in living heritage developed from his practical experience as a craftsman as well as diverse work experience as a junior research fellow in the local crafts centre in Belarus, intern in the open-air museum in Germany, a participant in volunteering projects on different heritage sights and several social initiatives related to folk culture.

Estonian Research Information System

Research Fellow in Heritage Studies, PhD

Christiana Holsapple earned her Ph.D. in 2022 at the University of Tartu Institute of Cultural Research, where she was also a Junior Research Fellow from 2020-2021. Her dissertation dealt with global structures of inequality and narratives of positionality in Gagauzia, an autonomous region in Moldova. A key focus of her doctoral project included how heritagization initiatives and accompanying patterns of inclusion/exclusion interplay with modern frameworks of national normativity.

Estonian Research Information System

Recent publications:

Holsapple, Christiana 2020. Bordering and Strategic Belonging in Gagauzia. - Journal of Borderlands Studies, Vol 37, 5, 935-953.

Holsapple, Christiana 2022. Ethnopolitical Entrepreneurs as Nation-Builders? Heritage and Innovation in Gagauzia. - Nationalities Papers, 1−19. 

Holsapple, Christiana 2022. Speaking ‘No Language?’: Reflections on (Il)Legitimate Multilingualism from Fieldwork in Gagauzia. - Prue Holmes, Judith Reynolds, Sara Ganassin (Ed.). The Politics of Researching Multilingually Bristol: Multilingual Matters.


UNESCO Cooperation Specialist, MA

Kristiina Porila got her Master’s degree from the University of Kiel (Germany), where she studied ethnology (Europäische Ethnologie/Volkskunde). 

Before working for the UNESCO Chair, she was involved in implementing the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Estonia. For seven years, she worked at the Estonian Folk Culture Centre, where – among other tasks – she was part of the team that conceptualized and started the Estonian inventory for intangible cultural heritage (available only in Estonian) and built up a training program about intangible heritage. She also has experience working with the Convention on the international level – e.g., evaluating nomination files for UNESCO’s global lists of intangible heritage (in the Subsidiary and Consultative Bodies) and representing Estonia at international meetings.

Kristiina Porila is a member of UNESCO's global network of facilitators for Intangible Cultural Heritage and a volunteer reviewer of the 2003 Convention Research Bibliography.