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Walker, S., Mullagh, L., Evans, M., Wang, Y., 2019.

Design ecologies: Sustaining ethno-cultural significance of products through urban ecologies of creative practice

Output Type:Journal article
Publication:International Journal of Anthropology and Ethnology
Publisher:Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Volume/Issue:3 (1)
Pagination:pp. 1-33

This paper presents an account of field research and its findings from an international knowledge exchange project entitled Design Ecologies: Sustaining ethno-cultural significance of products through urban ecologies of creative practice, jointly funded by the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Beijing. The contribution of this paper is to effectively communicate the processes, mechanisms and benefits of an academic knowledge exchange programme. In this case, six exchange visits were carried out, three to China by the British team and three to the UK by the Chinese team. These visits offered opportunities for both teams to gain insights into a variety of heritage sites and craft practices, as well as to the wider policy landscapes in each country. We found that the use of certain terms, like 'creative industries', to refer to traditional craft practices and other heritage related activities can be problematic as they tend to emphasise their instrumental rather than their intrinsic value. The Chinese team found the importance and significance of volunteers within the UK's cultural heritage landscape to be very different from that of China, which does not have a history of volunteering. On the other hand, China supports its Intangible Cultural Heritage through adoption of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, hereafter referred to as the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) programme or UNESCO convention (UNESCO 2019b; Cominelli and Greffe 2012); in contrast, the UK has not ratified the UNESCO convention. The China team commented on the UK's approach to heritage that keeps a sense of 'living' heritage, e.g. The English Lake District is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre in which people still live and work. In China, such areas are often depopulated to preserve the heritage and focus on tourism. The British team identified opportunities for design contributions in the visualisation of interrelated and interdependent "ecosystems" of design and production, as observed in Jingdezhen Ceramics Factory. Also, at Taoxichuan Creative Zone design was already being used effectively for the design of artefacts, points of sale, branding and packaging. There is much potential for this to be explored and developed further with different case studies in the UK and China. A shared understanding was developed from the knowledge exchange visits and visit reports created by each of the respective teams. These led to a set of conclusions, insights and themes. Finally, this project has already paved the way for a further Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) research project entitled Located Making, in collaboration with the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology and Ningxia University.