UNESCO section chief on campus & via webcast on February 20th

On Monday evening, February 20th, 2006 at 7:30 pm, Dr. Rieks Smeets, chief of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage section, will deliver the annual Lloyd B. Thomas Lecture on "Safeguarding Living Heritage" at the University of Missouri.

His talk will also be transmitted worldwide via internet webcast from Missouri’s Center for eResearch. Details on viewing the webcast will be available on this site by February 1st.

Dr. Smeets will describe and illustrate the history of ongoing efforts by the United Nations to foster new approaches to understanding and protecting the cultural heritage of humanity, devoting special attention to the diversity and evolution of the communities and groups that create, re-create, and transmit oral traditions, traditions of music and dance, ritual and festive events, and other forms. He will focus on the UNESCO Convention of 2003 for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, which has already been ratified by member states from six continents, and on the results it has produced so far.

Sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences at Missouri, the Thomas Lecture is an annual event that features public speakers on diverse topics that celebrate the study of the arts and sciences. In previous years lecturers have included such leading intellectual figures as biologist E. O. Wilson, filmmaker Ken Burns, sociologist Jonathan Kozol, and many others. In 2006 the Thomas Lecture also celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the founding of Missouri’s Center for Studies in Oral Tradition.

Dr. Smeets began his career as a descriptive linguist at Leiden University, with a specialty in Slavic languages and in the languages and cultures of the Caucasus and the Balkans. After serving as secretary-general of the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO, he was appointed in April 2003 as chief of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) section in Paris. Under his leadership 43 additional masterpieces of ICH have recently been identified and proclaimed, including oral traditions, rituals, cultural spaces, and traditional crafts from Africa, the Arab states, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America, and Latin America and the Caribbean. This third round of proclamations, together with the 47 masterpieces identified previously, brings the UNESCO cadré of intangible traditions to nearly one hundred in all.

Selected publications

  • 1984 - Studies in West Circassian Phonology and Morphology. Leiden: Hakuchi Press.
  • 1992 - Valencies, Actants and Actant-coding in Circassian, in: G. Hewitt (ed.), Caucasian Perspectives, Unterschleissheim: Lincom Europa.
  • 1994 - Ed., The Indigenous Languages of the Caucasus, vol. IV, Northeast Caucasian Languages. Delaware, NY: Caravan Books.
  • 1997 - Suffixal marking of plural in Ubykh verb forms; developments in a moribund language, Studia Caucasologica III.
  • 1999 - Talen en taalpolitiek in de Europese Unie (Languages and language policies in the European Union), in: N. van der Sijs, Taaltrots. Amsterdam / Antwerpen: Contact.
  • 1999 - Het Rusland van de 100 talen (The hundred languages of Russia), in: N. van der Sijs, Taaltrots, Amsterdam/Antwerpen: Contact.
  • 2002 - Naar een samenhangend taalbeleid voor het Nederlands vanuit Europees perspectief (Towards integrated language policies for Dutch from a European perspective). Den Haag: Nederlandse Taalunie.
  • 2004 - Language as a Vehicle of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, Museum International 221-222.
  • 2004 - Intangible Cultural Heritage and its Link to Tangible Cultural and Natural Heritage, in: Yamamoto, Masako and Mari Fujimoto (ed.s): Utaki in Okinawa and Sacred Spaces in Asia. Tokyo: The Japan Foundation.
  • 2005 - Introduction and Comments by the Secretariat, in: Smeets (ed.): 2005.
  • 2005 - Ed., Report of the Expert Meeting on Inventorying Intangible Cultural Heritage, Paris, 17-18 March, 2005. UNESCO.