Organized Panel Session
This panel deals with the links between contemporary communities in Southeast Asia and perceptions of the past, especially how “the past” shapes politics, economics, ethnic identity, and notions of cultural heritage in a substantial, material way. The papers in this panel build on the idea that the study and safeguarding of texts, sites, and artifacts can be profoundly intertwined with any number of contemporary agendas. In many cases, the past can be appropriated, even constructed, by different stakeholders with competing interests. Versions of the past can be subject to contested or negotiated interpretations, and are often coopted in constructions of national meta-narratives, histories, and mythologies. Material elements in the form of artifacts, sites, and landscapes can take on changing meanings and symbolic power. They can be instrumental in the formation of cultural identities, and in the inclusion or exclusion of certain communities. Beyond political considerations, elements of the past can also be subject to commodification, which can have a direct impact on local tourist economies and ongoing development. With a focus on these issues, the papers in this panel illustrate the many tensions related to ownership over, access to, and management of cultural heritage when it comes to archaeological materials and locations.