by Charlotte Waelde
The first five months of our project, ‘Celebrating local stewardship in a global market: community heritage, intellectual property protection and sustainable development in India’ have been both hard work and very rewarding. Because of the strong commitment of every member of the team, we have managed in this relatively short space of time to achieve a great deal.
Bringing together different academic disciplines in a research project is always a challenge. Not only is there is the ever present danger of staying within disciplinary silos, but in addition it is all too easy to fall into patterns of miscommunication as language can be inaccessible or mean different things to different people. Including monthly skype meetings into this project was specifically designed to overcome those hurdles. Not only do these meetings mean that we all stay in touch on a regular basis, but in addition having the ‘journal club’ as a standing item on the agenda means that we are introduced to ideas relevant to the project but in relation to which only one member may have expertise. A piece of reading is circulated in advance, introduced by a member of the team and then discussed by the group. At our last meeting we addressed forum theatre – one of the methodologies used in the project. At the next meeting we will consider ‘authenticity’.
In December we undertook our first field trip to visit the Baul, Chau and Patachitra communities in West Bengal and surroundings. The trip was expertly organised via ContactBase. It was a challenging trip in that we covered nearly 1500 kms in 10 days, one leg of which was on an overnight train, but it was also hugely informative. We all learned a great deal from and about the communities with whom we are working for this project, and we now have a wealth of information from which we are developing our heritage sensitive intellectual property and marketing strategies (HIPAMS). Forum theatre was used as an important means of communication in our interactions with these communities. In September we will return to start to test our ideas with the communities and co-create exploitation strategies that have what the communities consider is central to their intangible heritage at their heart.
The interdisciplinary nature of our collaboration is also proving to be highly intellectually stimulating. As suggested, bringing different discipline together can be a challenge, but in this project there is an openness and willingness by all to engage and learn from each other. We are encountering some concepts that are both central to the project, and which cross disciplinary boundaries: ‘authenticity’; ‘(mis)appropriation’; ‘exploitation’; ‘(over)commercialisation’ are just some of the ideas that we are grappling with on an intellectual level, each of which also has practical implications in this project. As a team we are addressing these with a refreshing intellectual excitement which will inform our academic publications in due course.
Our ideas about HIPAMS are spreading across borders. We are involved in a British Council funded project in Kyrgyzstan which is targeting entrepreneurs interested in developing business based on intangible cultural heritage. Six members of our India team are engaging with the very enthusiastic audiences in Kyrgyzstan and spreading ideas about how intangible cultural heritage can sustain livelihoods while respecting and safeguarding the all-important traditions.