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Introduction: investing in cultural diversity


  • Sophia Labadi has a PhD and a Masters in Cultural Heritage Studies from the University College London (UK) and graduated from the Institute of Political Sciences in Grenoble (France). Since 2004 she has worked for a number of regional and international organisations. At UNESCO she participated in the strategic planning and drafting of the 2009 World report on cultural diversity and has also worked in the Secretariat of the 2003 Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention and the 1972 World Heritage Convention. In parallel, she has been an active researcher. For her research she has received a number of scholarships and awards, most recently the 2008 Cultural Policy Research Award.


The aim of this introduction is to contextualise the multifarious notion of cultural diversity by analysing, firstly, its relations with globalisation as well as the different normative actions undertaken by UNESCO to protect it against the negative impacts of the globalisation processes. This introduction also explains how globalisation can be beneficial for cultural diversity and contribute to new, fluid and deterritorialised phenomena. Finally, fear of cultural diversity, characterised by ethnocentric attitudes that attempt to preserve “authentic identities”, is briefly touched upon, along with the obvious limitations of such stances. The second part of this introduction presents the articles selected for this issue among the background papers commissioned by UNESCO to help to draft the 2009 World Report on cultural diversity. Each article sheds light on particular dimensions of cultural diversity: in combination, they provide a valuable overview of its multiple meanings and contexts.