16th Malaysia-Singapore Forum, 20-21 September 2018
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya
HERITAGE AS PROCESS AND WAY OF LIFE
The concepts of conservation and preservation are often taken to imply stagnation and a static link to a distant past. However, heritage and history can in fact form a vital and exciting base for innovation and advancement. In Malaysia and Singapore, rhetoric about heritage commonly revolves around material and embodied forms of culture; heritage is often seen as something that reflects our values in more tangible forms. More engagement is needed, therefore, in examining the nexus between history and heritage on the one hand, and the development of new forms of expression for current times on the other.
Heritage and history are important sources of meaning and expression which give character and resonance to our everyday lives. This is particularly so in countries as diverse and complex as Malaysia and Singapore, where the histories of many different communities are layered, negotiated and contested. However, that complexity and diversity can get lost as more official notions of heritage take over the narrative. There is, therefore, a need to move beyond the formal and conventional sites of heritage (Atkinson 2008: 382), and enter instead into the everyday lives of individuals and communities – where heritage has thrived most as a continuous process.
Heritage as a process implies “something people do” (Smith 2006:192), a “communicative practice” (Dicks: 2000) and a way of “being in the world” (Ingold: 2000). From this proposition, we can see that heritage is lived and involves cultural work/performance that is temporally and culturally contextualized. Therefore, this forum seeks to look at heritage not just as fixed sites or things which focus purely on the form of heritage, but valorises instead the need to see heritage as process, and to examine the meaning making involved in it.
Among the questions the Forum seeks to explore are:
- how are past practices regarded as heritage constituted and utilized in the present?
- what does heritage do?
- how and why do people use it in the present?
- what are the practices by which it is transmitted to the younger generation?
- what are the social meanings attached to these practices by the younger and older generations?
- what is the role and involvement of women and men in the heritage making process in the present?
- how do people make meaning of heritage?
- why is it important to conceptualise heritage cross-culturally?
- what is it we seek from heritage?
The Forum is hosted by Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya; it is co-organized with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore.
The Programme Draft is available here.