The Intangibility of the Intangible in Cross-cultural Contexts: Assessing the Value Gaps in Heritage Protection

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This paper highlights shortcomings in the cultural heritage evaluation process that focuses on the tangible rather than the intangible, thus leading to the exclusion of certain communities. The paper summarizes the results of published research on the exclusion of the so-called Kakure Kirishitan (Hidden Christians) communities in Hirado on the north-western tip of Nagasaki Prefecture. The study investigated the heritage-making process using triangulation methodology combining document analysis and fieldwork in Hirado. The results showed that in the face of cultural differences in evaluating the intangible and religious, the authorities the Japan Agency for Cultural Affairs and UNESCO followed the global authenticity and integrity criteria. I argue that privileging tangible secular elements of the religious heritage led to the disregarding of cultural values that make the nominated site of Hirado unique.


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