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Safeguarding sega: Transmission, inscription, and appropriation of Chagossian intangible cultural heritage

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1020-1033
JournalInternational Journal of Heritage Studies
Volume25
Issue number10
Early online date16 Dec 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2019

Abstract

This article explores two related efforts to transmit and inscribe the knowledge and practices of the Chagossian community in the context of forced displacement to Mauritius and Seychelles, and geographical dispersal between Mauritius, Seychelles, and the UK. The first is the Mauritian government’s nomination of Chagossian sega (an Indian Ocean genre of music and dance) to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. The second is an AHRC project entailing a series of heritage transmission workshops with the Chagossian communities in Mauritius and the UK and an open access website hosting instructive cultural heritage materials generated at the workshops. Safeguarding sega offers the possibility of political, social, and financial benefits such as increased legitimacy, strengthened collective identification, and funding for cultural activities. It also risks loss of control over community knowledge and products. We show that efforts to transmit and inscribe do not necessarily ‘freeze cultural change’ into a ‘static element’, not least because there are limits to the extent to which people use a list, an inventory, or a recording as a guide to ‘living’ cultural practice.

    Research areas

  • Chagos Archipelago, Mauritius, intangible cultural heritage (ICH), ICH, UNESCO, urgent safeguarding list, sega music

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