International Institute for Asian Studies
Asian Heritages - IIAS addresses the variety of definitions associated with heritage and their implication for social agency, including those currently questioned of 'national heritage' or 'shared heritage' | Read more
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The Asian heritages cluster focuses on the politics of culture and cultural heritages in Asia. It addresses the variety of definitions associated with heritage and their implications for social agency.

In particular it explores the notion of heritage as it has evolved from a European originated concept associated with architecture and monumental archaeology to incorporate a broader diversity of cultural forms and values. This includes the contested distinctions of 'tangible' and 'intangible' heritages, and the importance of cultural heritage in defining one's own identity or identities vis-à-vis those of others.

In Asia, the notion of cultural heritage is often associated with the construction of post-independence nation-state models, the definition of national 'traditions' and 'authenticity' and the idea of a pre/post-colonial historical national continuity. The cluster engages with a broad range of related concepts, and more generally, with issues pertaining to the political economy of heritage. It also focuses on the dangers involved in the commoditization of perceived endangered local cultures/heritages, including languages, religious practices, crafts and art forms, as well as forms of material vernacular heritage – issues increasingly prevalent in Asia's fast transforming social landscapes. Other areas of exploration include the practise of heritage conservation in Asia and Europe and urban revitalisation through cultural heritage preservation.

'Heritage' includes the process in which heritage is produced. The cluster recognises that in addition to governments and institutions a larger set of stakeholders are involved in the field of heritage, with a role for local communities in defining and preserving their own heritage.

summer School 2014Critical Heritage Studiesikay weaving as heritage

Urban Heritage in Taipeisummer Programme 2011Heritages in Asia and Europe

Asian Heritages Updates

Summer Workshop on Lanna Weaving and Dyeing
6 July 2017

Summer Workshop on Lanna Weaving and Dyeing in Chiang Mai, Thailand

IIAS lecture
7 June 2017

In this talk, Prof. Hue-Tam Ho Tai (Harvard) will introduce two female spirit mediums who are believed to be able to channel Ho Chi Minh. As such, they enjoy the support of powerful men and attract followers from all walks of life. While they are careful to always assert that they “wholeheartedly follow Uncle Ho and the Party,” the belief that Ho Chi Minh speaks through them subtly challenges the state’s monopoly on the legacy of Ho Chi Minh and hence the moral authority it derives from being its inheritor. 
Drinks afterwards.

IIAS lecture
6 June 2017

The narratives of local art histories in East and Southeast Asia are divided by national boundaries and shaped deeply by colonisation, cold war structures and globalisation/global-liberalism. The forms of modern and contemporary art histories are juxtapositions of a series of national narratives without consideration of their integration with each other, although these national narratives follow similar structures and models: the pioneer artists who travel back from their enlightened journeys in Europe, the struggle between Western and local traditions, and the heroic narratives of great success in international events. These art history narratives reflect the historical progress of Asian countries and the self-consciousness of their identities and self-depictions. Most of the time, the arguments and questions of the basic definition of art also play an important part in these narratives.

31 May 2017

An afternoon with two lectures and dicusssion: “Reorienting the Study of Chinese Pure Land Buddhism” by Dr Charles Jones, and
“The Return of Chinese Tantra: Neo-Zhenyan and its Evolving Polemic” by Cody Bahir.
Drinks afterwards.


Kathmandu Triennale is Nepal’s premier platform for global contemporary arts. It is the latest iteration of the pioneering Kathmandu International Art Festival. Like the precursory Festivals, whose 2009 and 2012 editions centered on the themes ‘Status of Women’ and ‘Earth|Body|Mind’, the...


The redesigned Historical Photographs of China web site ( was formally launched in January 2017, showcasing over 10,500 images, including 1,400 recently added images from nine new collections.


Reviewed title:

Michael Dylan Foster. 2015
The Book of Yōkai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore
Berkeley: University of California Press
ISBN 9780520271029


The Indian Himalayan state of Sikkim, which separates Nepal to the west and Bhutan to the east, emerges into the historical record with the establishment of the Namgyal dynasty in the 1640s. As a Buddhist kingdom Sikkim's closest cultural links were with their northern neighbour Tibet, but...


During the period of the East India Company’s authority in Bengal, the Company stationed a ‘Collector’ in Rangpur (now in northern Bangladesh). The Collectors, of whom the most famous was Warren Hasting's envoy to Bhutan and Tibet, George Bogle (1746-81), were responsible for the Company's...