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Rethinking the global heritage discourse – overcoming ‘East’ and ‘West’?

Author: Akagawa, Natsuko
Date: 2015

Akagawa, N. 2015. Rethinking the global heritage discourse – overcoming ‘East’ and ‘West’? International Journal of Heritage Studies 22(1): pp. 14-25.

This article illustrates how Japan’s involvement in international heritage discourse, in particular since the Nara Conference in 1994, played an important role in the development of a global understanding of heritage and what it constitutes. It explores the way the Ise Shrine came to be represented as an iconic example of an ‘Eastern approach’ to heritage to become central in the paradigm shift within global heritage discourse towards acknowledging cultural diversity. In this article, however, I argue that the presentation and understanding of the Ise Shrine has perpetuated a number of misconceptions about an Eastern approach to heritage conservation. In particular, its presentation and interpretation as a cultural site devoid of its distinct religious and political significance, limits what can be learned from it. This article argues that without full recognition of the religious beliefs intimately embedded in the traditional social structures, practices and attitudes related to heritage sites, recognition of cultural diversity would remain limited.

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