Community Creative Capital: UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage Politics Revisited at the Bulgarian Chitalishte

By Nadezhda Dimitrova Savova.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Why is it that cultural policy cuts are hardly ever mentioned in the discourses on the inadequacies of welfare and education under the neo-liberalist logic after the collapse of the Soviet Union? Why, indeed, when there are joint ministries of culture and education pointing to their common function of formation of civic values? This paper attempts to describe how this is partially due to a misunderstood concept of cultural policy as an elitist, “high arts” master narrative, and uses an observable phenomenon in Bulgaria that presents an alternative kind of cultural politics focused on local arts.
The study examines the chitalishte, or the Bulgarian state-funded community cultural centers, connected in a network of close to 4000 chitalishtes, where locals (amateurs) engage in various forms of performance and visual arts productions. The chitalishte represents a unique public tool for creativity encouragement pre-dating communism, as it localizes cultural policy and, simultaneously, de-professionalizes cultural production by affirming the role of the amateur artist in the making of what the research names "community creative capital," i.e. a locus of intersection between social and cultural capital enhancing creative forms of civil society participation.
The "grounding" and "de-professionalization" of cultural policy in the Bulgarian case is analyzed within the international context of the "immaterialization of cultural policy," evident in UNESCO’s conventions on heritage and development, where policy-makers are starting to comprehend the social salience of the arts down to the community level, as well as of the living - not archiving - of cultural heritage in society.

Keywords: Cultural Policy, UNESCO, Community Cultural Center, Heritage, Amateur Arts, Creativity, Community Creative Capital, Social Capital, Cultural Capital

The International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.193-204. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 603.467KB).

Nadezhda Dimitrova Savova

PhD Candidate, Anthropology Department, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA

I am a doctoral candidate from Bulgaria in Cultural Anthropology at Princeton University, also taking classes at the Woodrow Wilson School for Public Policy and developing work with the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Research. I have a BA in International Relations and Spanish Literature from Furman University, and am currently conducting research comparing the community cultural center networks in Cuba and Bulgaria. I also do research on the cultural initiatives in the favelas in Rio de Janeiro, and am generally interested in the socially transformative role of the arts.

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