Campaigns Against Popular Religion and its Heritage in Asia

Authored by: Denis Byrne

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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Nearly twenty years ago I wrote a review article (Byrne 1991) which discussed the West’s hegemonic dominance of global heritage practice. I had been particularly influenced in this by a small but influential article recently written by conservation architects Chen Wei and Andreas Aas (1989). Citing the case of built heritage sites in Asia which had histories of continuous construction and reconstruction, these authors point to the inability of the Venice Charter to accommodate Asian traditions of conservation. For many of us, these authors opened our eyes to the previously unsuspected truth that what we had taken to be a universally agreed ‘international’ approach to heritage conservation was in reality an approach culturally and historically specific to the West. Parading itself as universal, this Western approach had obscured from view many radically alternative traditions by which people in the non-West related to old places. We came to see ‘Venice Charter heritage’ as an example of the kind of twentieth-century soft imperialism which secured the West’s global supremacy and which was a substitute for the gunboat diplomacy of an earlier era.

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