Counterheritage: Critical Perspectives on Heritage Conservation in Asia (Routledge Studies in Heritage)

Introduction

  • Popular religion and antiquities collecting constitutes the principle themes of Counterheritage. 
  • Along with Smith (2004, 2006), I view heritage discourse as essentially hegemonic (Bryne 1991, 1996). There is, as it were, a compact among heritage practitioners not to notice that heritage discourse constructs its own subject, that it constructs heritage items out of old things. This ‘not noticing’ may on the face of it seem innocent, but its effects are corrosive.
  • [But this is not Smith says in her book. Yes she argues that heritage is a discourse and a construct, but heritage practitioners as participants are acutely aware of the situation too].
  • The coinage ‘counterheritage’ denotes not an attack on heritage practice but an insistence on transparency. The book argues for a more democratic heritage practice, one that respects the existence of other ways of relating to old things and one prepared to take a clear-eyed view of its own history. 
  • I have advocated a ‘countermapping’ approach which, identifying the map as a technology of power in colonial and post-colonial settings, works to inscribe on maps those elements of the culture and historic of marginalised groups that official heritage mapping practices have neglected to ‘notice’.
  • Heritage’s opposition to the accretion of new on old fabric… Popular religion, by contrast, favours the piling up of fabric upon fabric, renovation upon renovation, according to the logic that spirits and deities are honoured by the labour and funding expended in the renewal and elboration of the fabric of their temples and shrines. Whereas heritage conservation seeks to stabilise built fabric, popular religion cannot seem to abide stasis.
  • Heritage discourse shares with archaeology with modern, Cartesian view that matter is inert and passive (Olsen 2010). This licenses conservators to treat temples as purely human artefacts rather than as phenomena that arise from the bundled effects of divine and human agency. Heritage discourse is wedded to modernity. Ontologically, it proceeds from modern secular rationalism. 
  • Asian popular religion, on the other hand, frames the world in a way similar ot that pertaining during the European Renaissance when all phenomena are created by God.