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

3 March 2017

First part of a two-parts conference jointly organized by: Seoul National University, Asia Centre (Seoul), Vietnam National University (Hanoi), International Institute for Asian Studies (Leiden), Leiden University (Leiden), École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris). An initiative directed by IIAS.


Reviewed title: M.A. Mills, P.J. Claus & S. Diamond (eds.) 2015. South Asian folklore: an encyclopedia, Routledge (first published in 2003), ISBN 9780415866927.


The Workshop on the Heritage of Ancient and Urban Sites sought to unravel the complex politics involved in the manufacturing of heritage. To understand how stake-holders from across Southeast Asia define and voice local priorities, twenty-two cultural heritage practitioners based in...


In June 2016, Tate Modern will present the first international retrospective of Indian artist Bhupen Khakhar (1934-2003) since his death. Renowned for his vibrant palette, unique style and bold examination of class and sexuality, Khakhar played a central role in modern Indian art, but was also a...


Reviewed title: Herzfeld, M. 2016. Siege of the Spirits: Community and Polity in Bangkok, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 9780226331584


The inhabitants of the river valleys of the Pamir Mountains in Tajik Badakhshan cherish a rich and multilingual tradition of oral poetry, sung on a variety of festive occasions and commemorative gatherings. For the Ismailis of Tajik Badakhshan (an autonomous region within the Central Asian...


Xinjiang’s largest cities have undergone a series of redevelopment programs over the last decade. The westerly autonomous region in China is inextricably connected to the romantic narrative of the Silk Road, a narrative that is used to legitimize the destruction and gentrification of historic...