The Global Political Economy of Cultural Heritage
Head of Research Group
Pierpaolo De Giosa
Leah Cheung Ah Li
Ph.D Candidate IMPRS ANARCHIE
A paradoxical consequence of the spread of modernity and the belief in constant progress is the growing veneration for those things that have not changed. Cultural revolutions that break radically with the past are no longer the order of the day, and almost everywhere in the contemporary world, the preservation of specific past things and practices for future generations is seen as a moral imperative. The potential of cultural heritage for attracting visitors, generating income, bolstering political claims, and instilling self-esteem in present-day collectivities is increasingly recognised and exploited, and increasingly also, this occurs in a not only local or national but global framework influenced by distant agencies and their standards. Reference to heritage can have clearly instrumental purposes but as it is often coupled with a genuine interest in history, the past, and the things and practices in question, the close-up perspective of anthropology is uniquely suited to dissect the frequently contested social fields taking shape around it.
We address these issues in ethnographic research projects on UNESCO World Heritage as a transnational arena and on its articulation with the local situations of three World Heritage cities, Istanbul, Melaka and Xi'an. An older, open-ended project on traditions, democracy, and the townscape of contemporary Kyoto – also a World Heritage city – provides an important reference point. With its focus on the present-day uses of history and the past, this focus group complements the other departmental focus group on Historical Anthropology in Eurasia and the International Max Planck Research School Anthropology, Archaeology and History in Eurasia (ANARCHIE).