Jason Vitorillo

Jason Vitorillo is teaching in the Arts and Cultural Management Program at LASALE College of the Arts, Singapore. His current research interests include international cultural policy, local arts management models in Asia Pacific, and cultural governance and democracy. Recently, he contributed a chapter to the publication Routledge Handbook of Cultural and Creative Industries in Asia.

Views from the periphery: Cultural democracy in the Philippines

The 2001 UNESCO General Conference on the Universal Declaration of Cultural Diversity states that diversity is embodied in the uniqueness and plurality of identities of the groups and societies making up humankind. The defense of cultural diversity is an ethical imperative, inseparable from respect for human dignity.

On one side of the whole concept of cultural governance is a narrow sense of a sectorial concept of governance – that points to cultural policy based on the relationship of culture and administration. This also concerns the governance of cultural institutions, which entails the direct and indirect involvement of government (Portoles, 2014). Mercer (2012) argues that even in the narrow sense cultural governance should be put in a broader political context referring to the burning issues of the modern world: the shift from government to governance as “our joint and uneven terms of engagement with the complex field of economic, social, political, and cultural power relations in which we are all stakeholders.”

The 1976 Oslo Conference of the European ministers of cultural affairs stated that, “The theory of cultural democracy assumes that there is not only one culture, but many cultures in society. Cultural democracy implies placing importance on amateurs and on creating conditions which will allow people to choose to be active participants rather than just passive receivers of culture. A cultural policy which aims at creating cultural democracy must necessarily be decentralized. Decentralization must be considered both a means and an end in cultural policy.”

Are issues and topics on the democratic dimensions of cultural policy such as pluralism, cultural diversity, interculturalism, inclusion, access to culture, participation in cultural life, and citizen participation in cultural governance present and relevant in the Philippines? What is the aim of the present cultural policy of the country – is it to create fertile conditions for the many subcultures and for those which spontaneously grow forth from certain groups of the population? This paper will investigate the existing policy model(s) in cultural democracy in the Philippines, and discuss how it influences and shapes the behavior, attitude, and response of the arts sector.

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