Discourses and Practices between Traditions and World Heritage Making in Angkor after 1990

  • Keiko MiuraEmail author
Part of the Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context book series (TRANSCULT)


After three decades of civil war in Cambodia, Angkor was recaptured to serve the civilizing visions of a country that had re-emerged from barbarity and the decadence of its cultural heritage and traditions. In this sense, UNESCO’s international campaigns to “Save Angkor,” launched in 1991, and the subsequent World Heritage nomination in 1992 (Angkor was simultaneously inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger) were to become civilizing missions that allowed Cambodia to be re-integrated into the international community of “civilized nations.” In the nearly two decades since, the focus of attention paid to Angkor by the Cambodian government and the international community has shifted from a rescue operation of the monuments and sites to a campaign on how to effectively utilize the heritage for economic development in the country. It has also involved questions of how to control people’s presence and activities in the site, which has necessitated the restriction of some “traditional” local practices. Many of the restrictions were imposed on the inhabitants for the sake of tourism development and the maintaining of the assumed ideal conditions of a World Heritage Site; that is, World Heritage-Making. Discourses have emerged about which traditions to respect and maintain, and which ones to restrict or abandon. At the same time, new traditions have been invented to suit the era of tourism development. This paper analyses the divergent and somewhat contradictory discourses and practices on traditions and “World Heritage-making” in Angkor, as demonstrated by various social actors, local, national, and international.


World Heritage Tourism Development Heritage Site Local Inhabitant World Heritage Site 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I owe a great deal of thanks to many individuals and organizations for their various contributions during my PhD research on Angkor heritage, local communities, tourism development, and heritage management (1998–2004). Although I am unable to list all the names here, I would like to make special mention of the UNESCO Office in Phnom Penh and the APSARA Authority for sharing knowledge, concerns, and data, as well as facilitating my research and participation in international conferences on Angkor. I would like to extend my special thanks to the Research Institute of Wet Rice Culture of Waseda University in Tokyo, Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research, Promotion Research of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), and the interdisciplinary cultural property research group of Göttingen University for enabling me to continue my research in Angkor. Last, but not least, I acknowledge my debt of gratitude to the Cluster of Excellence, “Asia and Europe in a Global Context,” Heidelberg University, for their kind invitation to attend the 2nd International Workshop on Heritage in March 2011 and for including this paper in the proceedings.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Letters, Arts and SciencesWaseda UniversityTokyoJapan

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