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15.30  Managed Landscapes: The Social Construction of Scale at Angkor

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15:30, Saturday 4 Jun 2016 (30 minutes)

In constructing the scales that frame our political, social and cultural lives, we do not neutrally siphon off a particular part of the world and label it as local, national or global. Instead, processes of scaling are concerned with the perceived relationships between physical and psychological areas of different sizes and importance. This paper will seek to examine the relationship between areas and objects valued for their cultural heritage and the spaces and populations surrounding them. It will investigate the social construction of scale in cultural heritage management by different stakeholders, demonstrating how the influences of management practices have extended out from heritage spaces to affect the surrounding material landscape and people in different ways. 

Cultural heritage management involves the production of boundaries between spaces with heritage values and spaces without; with it there is the conscious inclusion or exclusion of spaces, populations and behaviours. The interpretation and contextualization of a heritage site or object can vary with the different political, social and economic agendas of stakeholders. In particular, the relationship between heritage and everyday contemporary life can alter the construction of scales, and thus the definition of boundaries, used to (formally and informally) manage heritage spaces. Through processes of inclusion and exclusion, boundaries are constructed and affirmed across the heritage landscape affecting the form and function of heritage regions. As cultural heritage management seeks to become more participatory and inclusionary, the multitude of relationships and boundaries between spaces of significance, interpretation and contemporary life need to be recognized and catered for. 

This paper will examine the social construction of scale in the interpretation and management of the Angkor World Heritage site (Cambodia), demonstrating that the spatial understandings that guide the evaluation of heritage objects and sites can vary dramatically between stakeholders. The research starts with the assumption that if heritage professionals are actively creating boundaries around heritage areas and objects, then local communities also possess the potential to delineate such spaces, even if the process is less formal and explicit. Utilizing a mixed-method approach to explore polyvocal understandings of Angkor, interviews, textual and GIS-based spatial analysis are used to explore the relationships between heritage and the surrounding space and population. 

The paper will illustrate the need to ensure pluralistic methodologies and approaches which encourage participatory management structures which can ensure successful cultural heritage conservation. It will demonstrate the ease with which such approaches can be incorporated as a means to improving community involvement in heritage management. At Angkor, as with other heritage sites, significant spaces do not sit in some external world disconnected from the contemporary landscape. Rather, interpretation of values and meanings is framed through inclusion and exclusion of “traditional” and “modern” landscapes, behaviours and people. Through the social, cultural and physical construction of scale by the various stakeholders at Angkor (Cambodia), boundaries between the significant and the insignificant are created and utilized in the interpretation and management of the “heritage site.” More importantly, as this paper will demonstrate, this process must not be considered as occurring in congruent fashion between different stakeholders. Instead vastly different borders and hierarchies between spaces emerge from different political, social and economic agendas. Understanding the ways in which heritage scales are constructed for political and social purposes will allow these multiple perceptions to be incorporated within management practices, facilitating more participatory and less conflicted cultural heritage management.

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