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Written by Joachim Willms [Managing Director]   
International Conference
08-10th January 2009

Asia Research Institute, National University of  Singapore.

Rapid economic and social change across Asia today 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. 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, 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  - 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.

Hosted  in  Singapore, Heritage  in Asia:  Converging Forces  and Conflicting Values  examines  heritage  in relation  to  the  broader  social,  environmental  and  economic  changes occurring  across Asia  today. Moving  beyond sector  specific  analyses, we  define  heritage  in holistic  terms  and  include  the  natural  and  cultural,  the  tangible  and intangible.  We  strongly  welcome  contributions   which  consider  the  validity  of  current  heritage  theory  for understanding  contemporary Asia,  and where appropriate,  offer  new conceptual  and  analytical directions. We  also encourage  submissions   from  researchers  who  offer  insights   into  the  connections   between  heritage  and  social development, urban studies, post-conflict reconstruction, migration/diaspora, trans-national capitalism, human rights, or popular culture. The conference provides  the interdisciplinary platform necessary  for making  sense of  the broader contexts  and  forces  surrounding heritage  in Asia  today;  and,  in so doing, offers an  innovative  look  at  the  rapid  and complex socio-cultural changes now occurring across the region.


Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Prof. William Logan,
Director of  Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia-Pacific, Deakin University.

Dr. Nobuko Inaba,
Professor of  World Heritage Studies Program, University of  Tsukuba

Call for Papers

Abstract Deadline: 1st  September 2008

Poposed Themes:

Heritage in Cosmopolitan Urban Spaces 
Across  Asia  cities  continue  to  expand  at unprecedented  rates. Migrating  populations,   urban  development  and  real  estate speculation  are  placing  severe  pressure  on  fragile  heritage resources. Simultaneously  though,  as   cities   compete  for attention in today’s  ‘new economies’ they  increasingly draw on heritage resources  to  brand  themselves  as  sites  of  cultural or historical  interest. What  strategies  successfully  protect  historic sites   from  the  real  estate  developer?  What  role  should  the residues  of  colonialism play in new urban blueprints? How can the  social  pluralism  of  today’s  urban  landscapes  be  reflected and  equitably  represented  in  the  built  environment? Potential themes include:
  • Heritage and Performing The Global City
  • Industrial, 20th Century And Independence Heritage
  • Rural, Urban Transitions: Landscapes of the Vernacular and Everyday Heritage

Heritage, Reconstruction and Reconciliation
In  recent  years   devastating  disasters - whether it be from earthquakes,  cyclones and tsunamis, or from  the  manmade violence of  civil wars  and  conflict  - have led  to  the destruction of  irreplaceable  architectural  and  archaeological  sites  across Asia. But should reconstruction and revival  merely be about the heritage resources  themselves, or can heritage play a wider role in  the  re-constitution  of  traumatized  communities   and  the reconstruction  of  livelihoods?  Does   the  language  of ‘commemoration’,  so  favored  by the  international  community, merely  result  in  the  retention  of  localized  hostilities  or  can memorials  be used as  a tool for reconciliation? Potential themes include:

  • Heritage And Post-Conflict/Post Disaster Livelihoods
  • Trauma, Memory And Forgetting
  • Post-Disaster Governance: Capacity Building, Geopolitics And Cultural Diplomacy

Economies of  Heritage
Heritage is now widely employed as a ‘resource’ for socio-economic development. The use of cultural and natural heritage by governments,  non-governmental agencies and institutions like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank within a framework of development  has   yet  to  receive  the critical attention it deserves. Is heritage merely being exploited as an economic resource by wealthy elites or can it contribute to programs of  ‘sustainable  development’  that  foster  more equitable economic  growth? Can poverty reduction help curb the illicit trafficking of cultural antiquities?  In  what circumstances do initiatives to promote intangible heritage create gender specific economies? Potential themes include:

  • Heritage, Tourism And Development
  • Theorizing the ‘Values’ of Heritage
  • Sustainability, Community, Participation: Concepts or Buzzwords?

Heritage and Diversity
In  recent  years  cultural  heritage  has  emerged  as  an  effective tool  for promoting a benign language of  difference within and across  communities. But  how  successfully do  current  heritage policies  reflect  the  cultural,  ethnic  and  religious  diversities  of Asia?  Do  UNESCO  conventions   on  ‘intangible  heritage’  promote pluralism  or  are  they enabling  states  to  further  their agendas   of  culturally  profiling  their  citizens?  How will  the
consumption of  the Other or the exotic by a fast growing Asian tourism market  influence  the  socio-cultural  topography of  the region? Potential themes include:

  • Ethnicity, Culture And Plurality
  • Heritage, Human Rights, And Indigenity
  • Empowering The ‘Bearers Of  Culture’

Heritage and Modernity
Modernity  across   Asia  has   destabilized  previously  accepted assumptions  about  ‘authenticity’  and  the  aesthetics  of  nature and  culture.  Do heritage  frameworks   conceived  within  the cultural  traditions  of  ‘Western’ modernity remain valid for Asia today?  In  a  region  undergoing  rapid  industrialization,  is indus t r ial  her i tage  a  relevant  category  of social commemoration?  Does   a  concern  for  preserving  cultural heritage  inhibit  the  shedding  of  the  ‘post-colonial’?  How should  natural  landscapes   best  be  protected  from  ‘modern’ intrusions?  What  rights   should  communities   living  inside
historic  landscapes   have  towards   development  and ‘modernization’? Does  new media present  fresh  opportunities for interpreting the past? Potential themes include:

  • The Modern/Postmodern: Towards Asian Centric Theories of  Heritage
  • Simultaneous Presents & Multiple Temporalities of Place
  • Media, Popular Culture And Heritage

Submission Details
250-word  abstracts  and  a  5-line biography  should  be submitted  by 1st September 2008. Successful applicants will be advised by 15th September and will  be required to send in a completed paper by 15th December 2008. Some funding will be available for those in the Asian Region, post-graduate students, and others unable to fund themselves. Selected papers will be put forward for publication in a refereed edited volume.

Submit enquiries/Abstracts to Dr Patrick Daly ( This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ) or Dr Tim Winter ( This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

Further Details and Submission Form Available at:
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