City University of Hong Kong Dep
Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics
Heritage in Asia: The Political Economies of Conservation
Dr. Tim Winter
The University of Sydney
Date: 7 July 2009, Tuesday
Time: 4:30 – 6:00pm
Venue: B7603 (Lift 3, 7/F, Blue Zone), Academic Building, CityU
Across Asia rapid economic and social change means the region’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 Asia’s social, cultural and physical landscapes. But as the region’s societies look forward, there are competing forces that ensure they re-visit the past and the inherited. In recent years the idea of ‘heritage’ – both natural and cultural – has come to the fore across Asia, driven by a language of identity, tradition, revival, and sustainability.
And yet, an appreciation of the complex role heritage plays in Asia today often remains partial at best, particularly in academia. Frequently treated as a sub-discipline within the social sciences and humanities, ‘heritage’ has also been fragmented across disciplines, with specialists typically approaching ‘conservation’ from sector-specific, technical perspectives. This situation means the wider socio-cultural contexts within which heritage sits, and the economic and political forces that enmesh it, invariably remain overlooked. In Asia this situation is compounded by the fact that much of the discussion on heritage - in both academic and policy environments – has, to date, relied upon concepts and ideas imported from ‘the west’, most notably Europe.
In response, this presentation calls for a greater appreciation of the wider political economies of heritage in Asia today. To illustrate this, the talk begins by examining a number of recent Asian conservation charters and declarations within a longer history of global heritage governance. This will be followed by a series of examples illustrating how the Empire of today’s global capitalism (re)creates particular forms of the ‘traditional’ and the ‘authentic’. In offering science – seen as a technology of coloniality – as the analytical link between these various examples, the paper highlights some of the key factors driving heritage in Asia today. It is argued that only by understanding the wider political-economy of heritage can we develop more sensitive and appropriate ideas of conservation.
Tim Winter is a Research Fellow at the University of Sydney. He is author of Post-conflict Heritage, Postcolonial Tourism; Culture, Politics and Development at Angkor, and editor of Asia on Tour: Exploring the Rise of Asian Tourism and Expressions of Cambodia: the Politics of Tradition, Identity and Change (all Routledge) and Heritage in Asia: Converging Forces, Conflicting Values (forthcoming). Having consulted for the World Bank, Getty Conservation Institute and World Monuments Fund, he is also editor of the ICOMOS journal Historic Environment. He is currently a Visiting Scholar, University of Cambridge working on heritage and conflict transformation, and the role of cool-living heritage in an age of air-conditioning.
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