(Resisting) Heritage Protection - Exploring Relations Between Resistance and Protection of Cultural Heritage in Southeast Asia

Uppsala University, Sweden

In public archaeology and heritage practice, community engagement is not only about including the local community in the interpretation of the past. Often, aspects of living and religious heritage are involved and therefore contemporary uses of sites and objects also need to be taken into consideration. These uses might be in conflict with the official heritage discourse and its aim to protect and preserve, which sometimes results in resistance from local communities. To push for political action and advocacy through community engagement requires a better understanding of resistance, which is what this presentation targets. Much of the current research about resistance and cultural heritage protection focuses on activists and civil society resisting demolition and destruction of heritage in urban development areas, in nationalist, colonial and postcolonial contexts, as well as in situations of conflict and war. However, there are also other, non-violent and more subtle forms of resistance in relation to heritage protection that need to be recognized, such as resistance by marginalised groups and local communities who intentionally choose to remain on the fringes, to be able to develop alternative strategies for heritage protection and temporary stewardship that are not accepted within conventional and official heritage management. Likewise, resistance might not only occur to protect heritage from destruction, it can also be the other way around: heritage protection through resisting protection. One such example is World Heritage designation that implies protection of certain conventional, often material heritage values, whereas resisting World Heritage designation can lead to protection of other heritage values, embedded in, for example, living and religious heritage. Through selected case studies in Southeast Asia, this presentation aims at identifying and better understanding various forms of resistance and how these relate to heritage practice and protection.