Heritage and the Politics of Culture
Co-Authors: Gabriel Fauveaud - Dr., Université de Montréal
Urban heritage conservation in Asia has often been portrayed as a State enterprise, sometimes undertaken in partnership with the private sector. The State produces an « authorized heritage discourse » that sets the principles and boundaries of heritage conservation. Multiple actors, including the civil society, can oppose this discourse, claiming broader and diverse heritage understandings and practices, and producing in turn « non-heritage discourses ». The interplay between « authorized » and « non-authorized » is a milestone of critical heritage studies. Drawing on the case of Phnom Penh, the national capital of Cambodia, we would like to question this dichotomy. In contemporary urban Cambodia, the State has strategically withdrawn from urban heritage conservation as a field of policy for various reasons including priorities of economic modernization. Since the years 2000s, State’s disengagement has generated a specific landscape of social agency in the conservation field. Urban legacies have been conserved by various categories of actors including foreign donors, Cambodian tycoons, developers, ordinary owners, and tenants who use those legacies for various purposes without necessarily defining them as « cultural heritage ». By looking at their practices, we explore the specificities of heritage conservation « beyond the State ». This brings us to move beyond the concept of heritage as a « status » and to examine how, more broadly, urban legacies are involved into sociopolitical and economic rationalities that participate to the development of the emergent metropolis.