Is Common Future Common? Envisioning Changes in the Maritime Cultural Heritage Future in Asia

Independent Researcher, Thailand

This paper sets out the tone for the session’s discussion. It proposes the development of the ‘heritage future’ notion in Asia and explores the need for foresight and ‘future literacy’ in the maritime cultural heritage sector. The critical question is whether common future is a common heritage concept and strategy. Article 4 of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention is an interesting example that has framed how the heritage practitioners are going. Each state party has ‘the duty’ to ensure ‘the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations…’ Although the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage does not explicitly address the benefits for the future, the implication of such a concept is seen in the promotion of heritage conservation and preservation and the programme for sustainable development. The future orientation is well accepted in the heritage field, though its meaning and implementation of the maritime heritage in Asia for future generations are seemingly unclear or somehow inconceivable. To what extent is the present Asian’s heritage policy concerned about the future generations’ needs and interests? While the future resembles the present, continuing uncritical heritage practices may compromise the opportunities for heritage wellbeing. The main challenge lies in the uncertainty of the heritage future. The awareness of change and alternatives is crucial. This paper begins with a focus on the transitional acceptance of the future approach in Thailand as a representative case in Asia. It then theoretically and conceptually discusses the implications of a futuristic approach to maritime cultural heritage practice and promotes intergenerational equity. Ultimately, the paper hopes to encourage debate about the development of maritime heritage futures to drive away from the conceptual to strategic in Thailand and the broader Asian region.