Session Abstract: Heritage is all the rage in Southeast Asia today. The discourse of “heritage” and “preservation” – particularly as expressed through UNESCO – permeates our scholarship, either as contemporary or historical observers. However, the question remains: how can we as scholars of Southeast Asia – and Asia more broadly – use these terms productively, rather than passively transmit neoliberal or functionalist notions of the past and its material remains in the present? Amid an apparent “heritage rush,” the papers on this panel examine the historical and contemporary changes in who gets to decide what counts as heritage, what it means, how to preserve it, and to what end. Easum, for example, places the ongoing campaign to list the city of Chiang Mai as a World Heritage site in the historical context of state elites, deciding what was and wasn’t heritage or history in the semi-colonial north. Yapp, then explores the curious surge of interest Dutch colonial sites as aspects of post-colonial Indonesian heritage. The state additionally plays a role in Noseworthy & Quang’s study of who has the power to define authenticity in the case of Cham living heritage sites in Vietnam. Moving the focus toward Champa sites in Vietnam, Chau examines the tension between the material remains of heritage and the recreation of spaces lost to either time or war. Thus, in this panel, we explore these conceptions of living heritage among local Southeast Asian communities, the commodification of heritage sites, along with the shaping and reshaping of historical memory.
Paper Presenter: Taylor Easum – Indiana State University
Paper Presenter: Lauren Yapp – University of Colorado, Boulder
Paper Presenter: William B. Noseworthy – McNeese State University
Paper Presenter: Mya Chau – Loyola Marymount University