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.


“Reading the world always precedes reading the word, and reading the word implies continually reading the world.” 1Freire, P. 1999. A Paulo Freire Reader. New York: Herder...


The Power and Pleasure of Possessions in Korean Painted Screens
Showing at the Charles B. Wang Center, Stony Brook University until 23 December 2016
Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas (8 April–12 June 2017)
Cleveland Museum of Art (5 August–5 November 2017...


The various stakeholders of a heritage site will commonly appreciate it for different reasons; sometimes to such an extent that conflict and contestation occurs. This is the case at the World Heritage site Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area, which is not only a holy place for the  Maitreya...


Adrian Perkasa, my friend and colleague from Airlangga University, drove a circuitous route, avoiding trucks, chickens and rice drying on the road, on our way to the shrine known locally as Watu Ombo. As occurred at all of the small shrines near villages, the Caretaker (Juru...


From 14-16 March 2016, the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, the Netherlands, was the venue of a large international conference on the role of languages in Asia. The conference was co-sponsored by the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics, the Leiden University Institute for Area...


Heritage sites and commemorative practices have become visual protagonists of a nationalist rhetoric in modern Central Asia. Central Asia is defined as the region encompassing the former-Soviet republics, in addition to Xinjiang, Afghanistan and Mongolia. This special issue analyses cultural...