Heritage Conserved and Contested: Asian and European Perspectives

Welcome to the website of the Summer Programme in Asian Studies, a programme set up by IIAS in collaboration with Leiden University and hosted in Leiden and Amsterdam.

Registration is now open! Registration closes on the 15th of January 2011

Heritage Conserved and Contested: Asian and European Perspectives

This first Summer Programme in Asian Studies aims to shed light on the various definitions, interests, and practices associated with the question of cultural heritage in Asia and Europe.

The programme aims at Master’s and doctoral students incorporating heritage issues in their work.

Research specialists from various academic backgrounds (social anthropology, history, archaeology, conservation studies including cultural resource management) will combine their expertise to provide participants with an intensive – yet interactive – experience. The theme of cultural heritage touches upon a wide array of knowledge forms and traditions (including those of local actors) while it also links theoretical frameworks with applied and policy-relevant knowledge and action.

The programme will be run by two world-renown scholars in the fields of cultural heritage theory and cultural Asian history, respectively: Prof. Michael Herzfeld (Harvard University) and Prof. Nira Wickramasinghe (Leiden University).

The key questions associated with cultural heritage that arise most frequently are:

  • Who determines what “heritage” is and what mechanisms are in place to ensure that a reasonable consensus is involved?
  • What is the role of national governments and inter-national (state) organizations in such processes and how is that role calibrated to local and regional interests and needs?
  • To what extent have private economic interests now, whether in symbiosis with state authorities or independently, become the new forces redefining cultural heritage boundaries and canons?
  • To what extent are religious claims given equal emphasis in deciding the appropriate use of sites claimed by religious groups, and what are the consequences of observed differences and inequities?
  • What provisions are made for people displaced by such interventions and what avenues are explored for involving them in the reconstruction and preservation processes? What is (or could be) the role of local voluntary actors and non-state agencies, and how does that role affect or modify our understanding of the concept of “civil society”?
  • What provisions are made for the preservation and exhibition of alternative perspectives?
  • To what extent is the concept of “heritage” a European invention, and how does its history affect its current reception and implementation in Asia? Are there Asian ways – “official” or “vernacular”- that should be associated to this ever-evolving definition?  How far do Asian religious traditions (e.g., the doctrine of reincarnation) direct ideas of preservation and reconstruction?
  • What is the meaning of “intangible heritage,” how useful is this category, and what conceptual and practical problems does it evince?
  • When dealing specifically with Asia and Europe: how should the various agencies and stakeholders go about addressing the question of the specifically colonial heritage or cultural legacy. To what extent is there a “shared [colonial, postcolonial, and/or crypto-colonial] heritage”?
  • Should we support conservation or creative transformation? What is the role of contemporary artists in the definition of cultural heritage?
  • How and why has cultural heritage in fast-growing Asian (and European) cities, especially urban physical space, become such a contested political and social ground?  Do archaeologists and historians face particular difficulties in urban contexts, and how far should their consultative role affect overall planning?

In addition, the Summer Programme will explore methodological issues, including:

  • The use of video and other visual recording techniques in addressing heritage issues.
  • The engagement of legal and other policy experts, including civil society activists, in determining appropriate courses of action.
  • The representation of the various academic disciplines in decision-making.
  • Ethnographic and survey approaches to local responses and politics.

(Read more: http://www.summerprogramme.asia/)

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