The Boston University Center for the Study of Asia presents
The New England Asia Seminar and East Asian Archaeology Forum
Contested Heritage: Monuments, Politics, and Memory in Asia
Friday, March 16, 2018 from 2:00 – 5:00 pm
The Seminar and Forum will take place at:
Photonics Building, Room 203
8 St. Mary’s Street, Boston University
followed by a reception in the Photonics 7th Floor Atrium
In August 2017, the US was rocked by a tragic weekend of protests and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that followed a series of white nationalist rallies against the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a public park. This has been followed by extensive discussions and debates about the meaning and relevance of historical monuments, buildings, sites, and other material aspects of cultural heritage in a changing world.
Of course, the complex interplay among politics, nationalism, museums, monuments, archaeological and historical sites, and related issues has a long and rich history in all of the world’s cultures and regions. Asia provides some of the most interesting and engaging examples of this intertwining of past and present, of “cultural” and “political,” and of the many forces that are constantly forcing us to reconsider ideas of cultural identity, the symbolism of monuments and sites, and the politics of heritage.
This seminar will explore the political and nationalistic pressures behind the creation, preservation, and destruction of historical monuments, architecture, and other types of heritage sites in Asia. Invited scholars will present selected Asian case studies to explore a range of themes including the political symbolism of antiquities and sites; the intentional or unintentional preservation or destruction of particular sites/themes as local, national, and regional politics change; and the changing use of heritage symbolism for economic or political goals. We hope that these will stimulate a wide-ranging discussion with the audience about how intertwined these various issues are in Asia, and how cultural heritage choices about what gets funded, preserved, displayed, or removed are often much more complicated than they seem, and of great relevance to Asia in the modern world.
Cultural Appropriations and Weaponized Pseudohistory: The Dark Side of Archaeology and Ancient History in Korea
Ancient history and its archaeological dimension in Korea have long been subject to appropriations based on political or nationalist interest. An analysis of the development and growth of these fields in both Koreas and of ways their subjects are received in the political and popular realms quickly suggests some telling patterns. Not surprisingly, given Korea’s modern history, areas that are most subject to political or nationalist revision tend to involve early relations with neighboring peoples and polities, particularly those associated with modern China and Japan. In this talk I will address various ways in which archaeology and ancient history have been hyper-politicized in Korea in the past two decades, focusing especially on the association with China. After providing a brief summary of the essentials of the early history the Korean peninsula, I will first address a much-publicized history dispute that developed in 2004 between South Korea and China over ownership of an ancient kingdom whose territories straddled the current China-Korea border. I will then discuss a more recent phenomenon in which ultranationalist groups advocating an extreme form of pseudohistory has gained great influence over lawmakers in South Korea, which has had severe negative impact on scholarship in Korea and abroad and has greatly set back academic work on the archaeology and early history of the peninsula. I will stress that Korea’s colonial experience in the first half of the twentieth century still informs the interpretation of ancient history there, most especially in the popular realm.
Mark E. Byington is the president and co-founder of the Cambridge Institute for the Study of Korea, an organization that seeks to develop academic studies involving Korea and the surrounding region outside of the university setting. He was formerly the founder and project director of the Early Korea Project at the Korea Institute, Harvard University, in which capacity he served as editor of Early Korea, an edited serial publication focused on early Korean history and archaeology, and the Early Korea Project Occasional Series. He received an A.M. degree from the Regional Studies East Asia program at Harvard (1996) and a Ph.D. degree from the department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard (2003), with a research focus on the early history and archaeology of northeastern China and the Korean peninsula. He is also a past lecturer in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, where he taught courses on Korean history and archaeology. He is presently a Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, and an Affiliated Fellow at the Center for the Study of Asia, Boston University, at both of which he researches and develops programs on the early history and archaeology of Northeast China. He is the author and editor of several publications, the most recent of which is The Ancient State of Puyŏ in Northeast Asia: Archaeology and Historical Memory, Harvard University Asia Center Press, 2016. His primary research interest centers on the formation and development of early states in the Korea-Manchuria region. His current research involves the application of remote sensing and geographic information systems, and particularly the use of historical imagery, in studies of the archaeology and early history of northeastern China.
Bringing Home Cambodia’s Blood Antiquities: The Intersection of Cultural Heritage, Cultural Diplomacy, and Cultural Nationalism
Today Mesopotamia is a global hotspot for the looting and destruction of cultural heritage, but four decades ago it was Indochina: Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. In Cambodia, internationally celebrated for the spectacular Khmer temple complex at Angkor Wat, fighting erupted between government forces and the Khmer Rouge in 1970. As is happening today in Iraq and Syria, Cambodia’s deadly conflict led to an organized trade in so-called “blood antiquities,” which in turn helped to bankroll the fighting. As we are also seeing today in the Middle East, this pillage went hand in hand with the cultural cleansing of thousands of Buddhist, Muslim and Christian sites.
Tess Davis, a lawyer and archaeologist by training, is Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition. Davis oversees the organization’s work to fight cultural racketeering worldwide and also manages the day-to-day operations of the institute’s staff in Washington. She has been a legal consultant for the Cambodian and US governments and works with both the art world and law enforcement to keep looted antiquities off the market. She writes and speaks widely on these issues — having been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, Foreign Policy, the Diplomat, the Cambodia Daily, and various scholarly publications — and featured in documentaries in America and Europe. In 2015, the Royal Government of Cambodia knighted Davis for her work to recover the country’s plundered treasures, awarding her the rank of Commander in the Royal Order of the Sahametrei. She is admitted to the New York State Bar and an Affiliated Researcher at the University of Glasgow.
Culture Wars: The Tactical and Diplomatic Value of Heritage in Current Middle East Conflicts
Allison Cuneo is the Project Manager for Cultural Heritage Initiatives at ASOR (the American Schools of Oriental Research), and manages and provides logistical and research support for ASOR’s Syrian Heritage Initiative. An archaeologist specializing in heritage management, Allison earned her doctorate in the Department of Archaeology at Boston University, and her dissertation focused on protection strategies for cultural sites in Iraq. Her work revolves around the management of threatened cultural resources and the importance of involving local communities in archaeological research. She also earned an MA in Archaeological Heritage Management from Boston University, which explored more generally on the protection of cultural property during armed conflict. Prior to joining ASOR, Allison was the Program Manager for the Mosul University Archaeology Program, part of the Iraq University Linking Program (ULP) funded by the US Embassy to design and implement online courses and real-time video conferences with Mosul University and conduct cultural study programs in the US and in Iraq. She has extensive archaeological fieldwork experience in Iraq, England, Spain, Greece, and Israel.
Museums and the Politics of China’s Grand New Cultural Vision
Robert Murowchick is the Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Asia at Boston University, where he also serves as Adjunct Associate Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology, and Director of AsianARC (formerly the International Center for East Asian Archaeology and Cultural History). He earned his B.A. in Archaeology from Yale, and his M.A. in Regional Studies-East Asia and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Harvard. His doctoral work focused on the development of bronze metallurgy in the so-called Dian 滇 culture in Yunnan, combining ethnographic and archaeological data with laboratory analyses to examine the relationship between the Bronze Age cultures of southwest China and Vietnam. In addition to his ongoing research into the development of early metallurgy in China and Southeast Asia, other primary interests include archaeological remote sensing (particularly the use of aerial and satellite imagery), the relationship among politics, nationalism, and archaeological research, and the illicit international trade in looted antiquities.
From 1991-2004, Dr. Murowchick served as Co-Investigator and then as Co-Principal Investigator of the multi-faceted collaborative archaeological field program “Investigations into Early Shang Civilization,” between the Peabody Museum (Harvard University) and the Institute of Archaeology (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing). Centered in Shangqiu County in eastern Henan Province, China, this project investigated the origins of the powerful Shang civilization through a program of geological coring and landscape reconstruction, geophysical remote sensing, and archaeological excavation. He is the Principal Investigator of the current project ARC/Base: A Comprehensive, Multilingual Bibliographic Database for Asian Archaeology. He served for six years as an Academic Trustee on the Governing Board of the Archaeological Institute of America, and has also served as Associate Director of Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, the John King Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, and Harvard’s Title VI National Resource Center for East Asian Studies.
This event is supported by the Boston University Center for the Humanities