Raise the Red Lanterns! The Rise of Asian Heritage Management at Angkor

Author: Sarah- Kim Youngblutt (Leiden Institute for Area Studies, Universiteit Leiden)
Speaker: Sarah- Kim Youngblutt
Topic: Linguistic Anthropology
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Short Abstract:

This paper considers recent changes in the presentation and conservation of Angkorean sites, which have resulted from a flood of Chinese investment in Cambodia and a shifting of organizational structure in the heritage management system.

Long Abstract

Angkorean heritage has and always will be iconic; its ownership is representative of the cosmopolitan elite, in both a national and international context. The desire for Angkor-ness is strong among elite, indirectly propelling the looting of Angkorean sites, often before they are documented (Chapman “A Heritage of Ruins: The Ancient Sites of Southeast Asia and their Conservation”).

Meanwhile, the Angkor Park and its surrounds have economic and strategic value for foreign investors, who are interested in profiting from tourist markets and cheap Cambodian labour. Since 2012, the dynamic interplay between International Agencies and APSARA National Authority in the Angkor Park has been challenged by a lack of local technical and financial capacity, cultural barriers between stakeholders and the inability of site management systems to launch.

Although nucleated in Siem Reap, international market competition is not buffered by the boundary of the World Heritage Site; it affects residents in the park, is transparent in tourism and marketing schemes, and is seen in inconsistent conservation practices. Due to an economic shift, and a recent flood of Chinese investment into the country, there has been a rapid shuffling of key players in Cambodian heritage management. This paper considers how changes in the organizational structure of the heritage management apparatus will affect site management and conservation values for the next decade.