From Community to Humanity: Dance as Intangible Cultural Heritage
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From Community to Humanity: Dance as Intangible Cultural Heritage


My dissertation project examines the gradual phases of recontextualizing, folklorizing, heritagizing, and choreographing dance in Macedonia, Serbia, and Croatia, and in the Former Yugoslavia in general. In order to demonstrate how dance becomes an intangible cultural heritage, I combine UNESCO archival materials with ethnographic research and interviews with dancers, choreographers, and heritage experts. While I trace how the discourses around folklore and intangible cultural heritage were used in the construction of the Yugoslav, and later in the post-Yugoslav nation-states, I also write about the hegemonic relationship between dance and institutions. I emphasize dance as a vehicle for mediating ideas around authenticity, distinctiveness, and national identity, while also acknowledging how the UNESCO process of safeguarding and listing culture allows countries such as Macedonia, Serbia, and Croatia to achieve international recognition. By studying the relationship between dance, archives, and UNESCO conventions, we can understand the intersection between institutions and issues around nationalism, but also how discourses of dance shifted dance production and reception in various historical and political contexts during and after the existence of the Yugoslav state.In the first chapter, I explore the creation of the folkloric discourse and the processes of constructing national archives, based on fears of disappearing culture amidst modernization. I also elaborate on the institutionalization of dance through folklore research and the emergence of specific methods of study that conceptualized social dances as of national importance. In the second chapter, I discuss the transformation of the archive into a choreographed repertoire that depicts issues around authenticity, exoticism, and stylization. I show the development of amateur and professional dance ensembles that were responsible for popularizing dance as heritage and further demonstrate how heritage is safeguarded through performance. Finally, in the third chapter, I uncover the bureaucratic process through which dance becomes an intangible cultural heritage. I demonstrate how through the process of heritagization, dance becomes both a commodity and a medium through which post-Yugoslav nation-states can market their cultures in a global arena and affirm their national identities.

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