« Traditional cultural expressions in international law », Lily Martinet’s thesis defence

Illustration by Philippe Le Coq

On June 17, Lily Martinet defended her thesis on « Traditional cultural expressions in international law ».

Thesis summary:

At the beginning of the 21st century, the use of the term “traditional cultural expression” spread among several international forums. Although they have never been legally defined, traditional cultural expressions are mentioned by two instruments originating within the United Nations system: the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007). This thesis presents how this notion emerged and evolved in international law. It also identifies the characteristics of this new legal concept to understand its meaning. This step allows to differentiate traditional cultural expressions from neighboring notions, such as “traditional knowledge” and “intangible cultural heritage.” This leads to the study of legal issues relating to traditional cultural expressions and their safeguarding. Among these issues, the most paramount question is to ascertain the legal form that should be given to the link that binds a traditional cultural expression to the community that created and preserved it. In this view, two approaches appear. The first one considers traditional cultural expressions as a factor of economic development, whereas the second one contemplates them as a tool for the preservation of cultural identities. Confrontation of these two approaches demonstrate the limited role of traditional cultural expressions in the field of economic development.

Members of the thesis committee:

  • Janet BLAKE, Associate Professor, Faculty of law, Shahid Beheshti University, Teheran
  • Marie CORNU, Director of research at CNRS, Institut des Sciences sociales du Politique (ISP, UMR 7220, ENS Paris Saclay, Nanterre University, CNRS), Thesis examiner
  • Cécile DUVELLE, Chief, Intangible Cultural Heritage Section (2008-2015)
  • Véronique GUEVREMONT, Professor, Laval University, Quebec, Thesis examiner
  • Hélène RUIZ FABRI, Professor at Sorbonne Law School, Pantheon-Sorbonne University, Director of Max Planck Institute Luxembourg, Director of research.

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