From Colonial Map to Visitor’s Parcours: Tourist Guides and the Spatiotemporal Making of the Archaeological Park of Angkor

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


This paper discusses the spatiotemporal formation process of the Archaeological Park of Angkor near Siem Reap in current day Cambodia. Within the time frame of the French rule in Indochina, it focuses on the first travel guidebooks created between 1900 and 1950, the most important of which were written by the first Conservators General of Angkor, Jean Commaille, Henri Marchal, and Maurice Glaize. This paper argues that these guidebooks were a powerful control tool used by the colonial authorities to realize a gradual and finally almost all-encompassing figuration of the spatiotemporal facets of the park for tourism purposes. Accompanying the administrative and legal delimitation of the park and within a traceable development from undefined conventions (1900–1909) and early attempts of vulgarization (1909–1913), to mechanization (1920s–1930s) and finally standardization (1940s–1950s), these guidebooks developed graphic maps, walking diagrams, circuits, itineraries, and a time-dependent parcours for the park and inside the temples to regulate the visitors’ object selection, body movement, time management, and visual orientation. Together with the structural conservation work affected in situ by the scientific staff, these guidebooks contributed considerably to the progressive decontextualization of the Angkorian temples from a living site of local social practice and (trans)regional Buddhist pilgrimage to a stylized heritage reserve of dead colonial archaeology—a conflict that became even more visible with the effects of globalized mass tourism after the inscription of the Archaeological Park of Angkor to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1992.


Tourist guide Archaeology Architectural conservation Parcours Archaeological Park of Angkor 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cluster of Excellence ‘Asia and Europe in a Global Context’, Chair of Global Art HistoryHeidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany

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