Digesting the Finnish Nature and Past: Food, Pastness, and the Naturalness of the National in the Wiki-Inventory for Living Heritage
Keywords:food heritage, intangible cultural heritage, nationalism, naturalness, pastness
This article examines the inventorying of Finnish intangible cultural heritage with regard to UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. I analyse the participatory Wiki-inventory for Living Heritage, concentrating on entries that discuss food and foodways to study how food, materiality, and the national intertwine with practices of producing intangible cultural heritage. The article’s theoretical background draws from the fields of banal nationalism and critical heritage studies. Food is eminently important in narratives of Finnishness: by using the concepts of naturalness and pastness, I show how Finnish food becomes interpreted as ‘authentic’ Finnish heritage. The concepts illuminate the complex processes in which the materiality of food, the Finnish terroir and landscape, narratives of the past, and the consumer who prepares, eats, and digests the heritagised food are tied to each other. These processes reinforce the banality of Finnishness, although the practices of inventorying paradoxically strive for the ideal of cultural diversity that UNESCO promotes.
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