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International Conference on Heritage in Asia: Converging Forces and Conflicting Values Print
Date: 08 Jan 2009 - 10 Jan 2009
Venue: Seminar Room A, B, C & D
AS7, Shaw Foundation Building, Level 1
National University of Singapore @ Kent Ridge
Organisers: Dr DALY Patrick
Download Files: Program Hotel Booking Form

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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, 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 – 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. In response, suitable theoretically informed platforms for understanding and mediating these forces and values are much needed.

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.


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
·  Recent Pasts: Industrial, 20th Century And Independence Heritage
·  Rural, Urban Transitions: Landscapes of the Vernacular and Everyday Heritage

Heritage, Reconstruction and Reconciliation

In recent years a number of Asian countries have endured devastating disasters, whether it be from earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis, or from the manmade violence of civil wars and conflict. Recent disasters in China and Myanmar have led to the destruction of irreplaceable architectural and archaeological sites. 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 The Recovery Of 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
·  Including ‘The Marginal’/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 industrial heritage a relevant category of social commemoration? Does a concern for the preservation of 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’? Do new media technologies present new opportunities for interpreting the past? Potential themes include:
·  The Modern/Postmodern: Towards Asian Centric Theories of Heritage 
·  Simultaneous Presents And The Multiple Temporalities Of Place
·  Media, Popular Culture And Heritage


Prof William Logan
UNESCO Chair and Director of Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia-Pacific, Deakin University

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

Dr Johannes Widodo
Associate Professor of Architecture, National University of Singapore


Admission is free. Do register early as seats are available on a first come, first served basis. We would gratefully request that you RSVP to Valerie Yeo at Tel No. 6516 5279 or e-mail: indicating your name, email, designation, organization/ affiliation and contact number.


We have arranged a special accommodation rate of SGD 140 nett (per room/night with breakfast) at the YMCA Metropolitan, Singapore. Please visit the hotel website at for more information.

Please download Hotel Booking Form here and email/fax it to Ms Valerie Yeo ASAP in order to maximize room availability.


Dr Patrick Daly (
Dr Tim Winter (

Conference Secretariat:
Ms Valerie Yeo
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
469A Tower Block, Level 10, Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259770
Tel: (65) 6516 5279
Fax: (65) 6779 1428

Contact Person: Mdm Valerie YEO