‘Same Same but Different?’

A Roundtable Discussion on the Philosophies, Methodologies, and Practicalities of Conserving Cultural Heritage in Asia

Authored by: Kecia L. Fong , Tim Winter , Hae Un Rii , Pinraj Khanjanusthiti , Aparna Tandon

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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‘Same same but different’. A common expression in Asia. Initially perplexing, its simultaneous embrace of contradiction and similarity is a powerful statement. This simple phrase of four words conveys an acceptance of and tolerance for contradictions, differences, and variations within an understanding of the similarities which link and unite. It is applied to all manner of experiences and aspects of the tangible world. How is this relevant to a roundtable discussion on heritage conservation in Asia? With the addition of a single word, it aptly describes the current tension and discourse that is ongoing within the heritage conservation profession in Asia – ‘same same but different – how?’ Over the past twenty years there has been much discussion and international debate regarding the boundaries and essence of heritage and these expanding definitions have profound implications for conservation. The inclusion of vernacular forms and the recognition of the inextricable link between places and objects and the socio-cultural interactions which are bound to and constitute them have challenged the heritage conservation sector to rethink some of its foundation assumptions of what and how to conserve. A great deal of this debate is occurring in Asia and is evidenced in the number of regional conferences, charters and proclamations with some variation on this theme. It is a discourse that questions the applicability of ‘standards’ or notions of international best practice as they are introduced – or in some cases imposed – in a wide variety of contexts throughout the region. The debate has also both been driven by and reinforced ideas among many that Asia needs a distinct set of philosophies and methodologies for the conservation of cultural heritage.

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