Heritage in Asia: Converging Forces and Conflicting Values
An International Conference, 08-10th January 2009
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.
Abstract Deadline: 01 September 2008
Further Details and Submission Form Available the Asia Research Institute website.
Rapid economic and social change across Asia today means the regionâ€™s heritage is at once under threat and undergoing a revival as never before. Expanding infrastructures, increasing incomes, liberalizing economies and the lowering of borders, both physical and political, are all converging as powerful forces transforming Asiaâ€™s social, cultural and physical landscapes. But as the regionâ€™s societies look forward, there are competing forces that ensure they re-visit the past and the inherited. In recent years the idea of â€˜heritageâ€™ â€“ both natural and cultural â€“ has come to the fore across Asia, driven by a language of identity, tradition, revival, and sustainability. For some, heritage has become an effective means for protecting those landscapes, rituals, artifacts or traditional values endangered by rapid socio-economic change. For others, it has emerged as a valuable resource for achieving wider goals such as poverty alleviation, the legitimization of narratives of place and past, nation building or the cultural profiling of citizens. And yet for others, heritage protection is an obstacle inhibiting progress, national unification, or the shedding of unwanted memories.
In a region of immensely uneven change – such that the pre-/industrial and post-industrial all co-exist to create simultaneous presents â€“ major analytical challenges arise from the need to preserve, safeguard and restore in contexts where aspirations for modernization and development are powerful and legitimate forces. To date however, much of the analysis of heritage in Asia has relied upon inherited or borrowed conceptions, and assumptions about what should be valued and privileged. The legacies of colonialism, state-centric agendas, social inequality, and the uneasy management of pluralist populations all conspire to stifle open and innovative discussion. There is little doubt that over the coming decade the contestations surrounding heritage in Asia will continue to intensify, whereby converging forces and conflicting values are the norm.