Implementation of the UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in Switzerland

An ethnography of cultural bureaucracy in the federalist context (2009-2014)

This research aimed to study the implementation of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO 2003) in Switzerland, ratified by the Swiss Confederation in 2008.

The project identifies the mechanisms for the implementation of the first inventory of living traditions – an oxymoron chosen by the authorities in charge of the intangible cultural heritage dossier – on Swiss territory. Based on a multi-scalar (local, regional and federal) ethnographic survey complemented by an in-depth knowledge of relevant documents and policy decisions, the research questions how living culture is defined, selected, conceived, promoted and experienced within the federal administration as well as in the reality of the cantonal executives and on the ground by the social actors who pass it on to future generations.

Adopting a relatively broad comparative approach, this project not only shed light on the specificities of cultural policy in Switzerland from a new angle – intangible cultural heritage – but also questioned in a more global way the effects of the UNESCO Conventions on cultural policies throughout the world.


Swiss National Science Foundation (as part of the Sinergia Projects “Intangible Cultural Heritage: the Midas Touch?” followed by “Whispered Words”, directed by Prof. Ellen Hertz from the University of Neuchâtel)

Outputs of the sinergia project (SNSF):
>Intangible Cultural Heritage: The Midas Touch?
>Intangible Cultural Heritage in Switzerland: Whispered Words

Recent publications:

  • Hertz, Ellen, Graezer Bideau Florence, Leimgruber Walter et Munz Hervé. (2018). Politiques de la tradition : Le patrimoine culturel immatériel. EPF Lausanne, PPUR, collection Le savoir suisse.
  • Graezer Bideau, Florence. (2020). “Le rôle des experts dans la création de l’inventaire du patrimoine culturel immatériel”, in Julia Csergo, Christian Hottin et Pierre Schmit (dir.). Le patrimoine culturel immatériel au seuil des sciences sociales. Actes du colloque de Cerisy-la-Salle, septembre 2012. Paris, Éditions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (Ethnologie de la France et des mondes contemporains), pp. 191-202.
  • Graezer Bideau, Florence et Ellen Herzt. (2017). “Regard sur les politiques du PCI en Suisses”, in Françoise Lempereur (dir.). Le patrimoine culturel immatériel, pp. 317-328. Liège, Presses universitaires de Liège.

Recent activities:

Graezer Bideau, Florence, “Les anthropologues face aux ‘traditions vivantes’: l’exemple suisse”, Colloque international Nommer/Normer : approches pluridisciplinaires du patrimoine culturel immatériel. 9-10 novembre 2020 repoussé en 2021, Institut des Sciences sociales du politique, Ministère de la Culture, INHA-INP, auditorium Colbert, Paris.

Graezer Bideau, Florence, “Vous avez dit : “traditions vivantes urbaines” en Suisse? ”, Colloque international Une approche interdisciplinaire du patrimoine culturel immatériel. 7-8 mars, 2019. Museum Fünf Kontinente, Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München, Deutschland.

Graezer Bideau, Florence, “Inventories without archives: the list of ‘Living Traditions in Switzerland’”, Colloque international Archiving Intangible Cultural Heritage & Performing Arts – a Symposium for Living Traditions, August 6-7, 2018, Artlab, EPFL.