A Political-Ecological Heritage of Resource Contest and Conflict

Authored by: Michael R. Dove

Routledge Handbook of Heritage in Asia

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415600453
eBook ISBN: 9780203156001
Adobe ISBN: 9781136582042


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There is an interesting divide in studies of ‘heritage’ in Asia between the subjects of cultural heritage on the one hand and on the other hand natural heritage. The loss, restoration and preservation of particular domains of cultural heritage draw considerable attention; and the same could be said for particular places of natural heritage, as in protected areas, but there are few efforts that span the two subjects. There are few efforts, that is, that pertain to the intersections of nature and culture, to society-environment relations – the study of the Asian heritage of natural resource use, for example. The exceptions to this rule are instructive. For example, there are one or two World Heritage sites that have risen to prominence in the region, like the rice terraces of the Ifugao of Northern Luzon in the Philippines (Conklin 1980) that clearly feature anthropogenic landscapes. Some attention has also been given to the pan-Asian tradition of ‘sacred trees/forests’, which are popularly seen as native means of conserving the natural environment (Darlington 2003; Freeman 1999; Sponsel 2005). But these are exceptional sites. Almost by definition, they are not relevant to the vast majority of the lands and peoples of Asia (Dove et al. 2011). More numerous have been the studies by anthropologists and other social scientists of systems of indigenous knowledge, including indigenous environmental knowledge, throughout Asia – even if the language of ‘cultural heritage’ has not typically been employed in describing them. These studies have greatly widened academic understandings of the existence and sophistication of non-western systems of understanding and relating to the natural environment.

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