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In Session: Living Heritage & Historical Memory in Southeast Asia (II)
1: Stakeholders, Politics, and Ethics in the Preservation of Cultural Heritage
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Columbia University, United States
Powerful coalitions of government, private philanthropy, the corporate sector, and NGOs are engaged in the preservation of Southeast Asia’s cultural heritage. The public-private partnership model, often viewed as the most sustainable approach to preservation, each side brings to the table their own interests to which tangible and intangible heritage are subject. But often the preservation of cultural heritage wrought with tensions between commercial interests, political agendas, and societal benefits: Efforts to convert the site of the former American Consulate at Danang into a memorial for war crimes perpetrated during the U.S.-Vietnam war were scuttled by a burgeoning tourism industry seeking to cater to American visitors.
The excavation of the Belitung shipwreck in Indonesian waters again raises the question of commercial involvement in the preservation of cultural heritage. While an expedient commercial venture ostensibly intended the avoid looting, the excavation elicited criticism into the hasty execution of the excavation as well as the ethics and legality of the excavation itself.
Since becoming a listed UNESCO heritage site, Luang Prabang in Northern Laos struggles to balance economic sustainably and the externalities of tourism. Other UNESCO heritage sites, the ancient capitals of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya in Thailand, elevate national and dynastic narratives above marginal ones.
This presentation will consider ethical frameworks that reconcile the need to preserve tangible and intangible heritage with the need to fund such preservation. It will further examine the roles of supranational organizations and the international community in cultural heritage preservation relative to national and local entities.