The article was published in the journal Music and Politics 3, Number 1, 2009.


This article examines the effects of UNESCO’s 2001 proclamation of Georgian polyphonic song as a “masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage.” Related ideas about tradition and the safeguarding of traditional cultures are examined, as is the impact of globalization, its perceived threats and the opportunities it creates for cultural diversity, cultural exchange and dialogue.

By analyzing paradoxes and contradictions arising from UNESCO’s definitions of and action plans towards “intangible cultural heritage,” the article demonstrates that the features selected by UNESCO as characteristic of “intangible heritage”—oral traditions and expressions, performing arts, social practices, and knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe—are also found in modern Georgian popular music genres such as pop, rock, and rap, though these genres are not viewed as cultural heritage. The article thus argues that, while the long-term nationalist cultural policies endorsing the primacy of Georgian traditional polyphony have found a new ideological endorsement within UNESCO’s discourse of culture, the reality of the country’s cultural life is not accommodated.

Click on the link for full article: Unesco