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Maags, Christina (2019) 'Struggles of recognition: adverse effects of China’s living human treasures program.' International Journal of Heritage Studies, 25 (8). pp. 780-795.

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Heritagization processes have resulted in struggles of recognition across the globe. Scholarly work has demonstrated that determining what and whose cultural architecture, objects and practices are to be considered ‘heritage’ results in inclusion and exclusion effects which deprive some individuals, communities or ethnic groups of recognition. Many of these studies build on Western theories of recognition as developed by Axel Honneth or Nancy Fraser. However, due to the Western origin of these theories and – in most cases – application to democratic nation-states, the question arises whether Western theories of recognition can in fact be applied to non-Western authoritarian states. Taking the Chinese LHT system, the so-called ‘representative ICH Inheritor program,’ as a case study, I explore to what extent Western theories of recognition explain struggles of recognition in PR China. I argue that while these theories are useful in explaining the effects and purposes underlying struggles of recognition, authoritarian regimes like China may exacerbate struggles of recognition since their ‘institutional patterns of value recognition’ can more openly and forcefully use recognition and misrecognition as a tool to foster political and economic objectives. However, citizens respond by resigning, contesting or circumventing official decision-making processes.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: China, intangible cultural heritage (ICH), inheritors, living human treasures (LHT), recognition
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
ISSN: 13527258
Copyright Statement: © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in International Journal of Heritage Studies on 07 November 2018, available online:
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 30 May 2019 10:37

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