Heritage, Local Communities and the Safeguarding of ‘Spirit of Place’ in Taiwan

Topics: Cultural heritage, World Heritage Site, Community Pages: 14 (4793 words) Published: May 3, 2013
Heritage, Local Communities and the Safeguarding of ‘Spirit of Place’ in Taiwan Peter Davis, Han-yin Huang International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University, NE1 7RU, UK [email protected]; [email protected] AND Wan-chen Liu Graduate Institute for Museum Studies, Fu-Jen Catholic University, Taipei, Taiwan [email protected] Abstract: After brief reviews of the theoretical issues relating to place and ecomuseological processes this paper traces the changing relationships between people and place in Taiwan. Recent research carried out by the authors with local communities on Matsu (a group of Taiwanese islands off the coast of mainland China), and case study material collected from local cultural workshops in southern Taiwan provides a focus for the discussion. Both sets of data demonstrate the growing awareness of heritage by local communities in Taiwan, and their recognition that heritage is significant because it reflects and builds local identities, can aid community sustainability and provides a sense of place. It is suggested that the research and processes described here indicate that the heritage sector in Taiwan would benefit by becoming more community-centred, with consultation, involvement and democratisation playing a significant part of the process of safeguarding natural resources, the cultural environment and intangible cultural heritage.

1. Heritage and ‘Sense of Place’ Terms such as ‘belonging’, ‘identity’, and ‘community’ are frequently used when discussing ideas about place, and the more elusive ‘sense of place’ or ‘spirit of place’. Exploring place has been a research focus in several disciplines, including anthropology, ecology, geography, psychology, sociology and (to a lesser extent) cultural and heritage studies. The human geographers Yi-Fu Tuan, Edward Relph and Anne Buttimer are regarded as pioneers in using experiential perspectives to reflect on place and ‘sense of


place’ (Cresswell 2004, 19; Hubbard, Kitchin, and Valentine 2004, 5). Tuan (1977) reminds us that a sense of place goes beyond aesthetic appreciation – in other words places are not always comfortable or welcoming - while Relph (1976) demands that we examine the idea in terms of ‘authenticity’. The notion of ‘authenticity’ is itself a challenging notion, and one of particular relevance to heritage professionals concerned with in-situ conservation and the interpretation of ‘authentic’ heritage. Buttimer (1980) argues that place is something that must be experienced rather than described, a view that relates closely to ecomuseum philosophy, discussed later. All three authors emphasize that place provides ‘a world of meaning’ (Hubbard, Kitchin, and Valentine 2004, 5). Tuan’s view is that place is a space endowed with meaning and value. Indeed he regards space and place as mutually defined terms: ‘what begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better and endow it with value’ (Tuan 1977, 6). Casey (1996) agrees that place must be experienced: ‘there is no knowing or sensing a place except by being in that place, and to be in a place is to be in a position to perceive it’ (Casey 1996, 18). Escobar (2001, 140) emphasizes this dichotomy between place as a conceptualization of identity, our mental image or ‘category of thought’ about a locality; and place as a physical entity, ‘a constructed reality’. Our perceptions of places affect us, places modify our behaviour. In terms of heritage this is important when we try to understand its significance. What role does heritage actually play in the construction of a ‘sense of place’? Smith (2006, 77) suggests that the ‘affect’ of place helps us to understand the meaning of heritage and heritage sites. She writes: Heritage as place, or heritage places, may not only be conceived as representational of past human experiences but also of creating an affect on current experiences and perceptions of the world. Thus, a heritage place may...

References: Buttimer, A. 1980. Home, Reach and the Sense of Place. In The Human Experience of Space and Place. ed. A. Buttimer and D. Seamon. New York: St Martins Press Casey, E. 1996. How to get from space to place and back again in a fairly short stretch of time: phenomenological prolegomena. In Sense of Place, ed. S. Field and K. Basso. Santa Fe, CA: School of American Research Press. Chiao, H.Y. 2007. The proposed ecomuseum in Nan fang Ao: its difficulties and challenges. MA diss., University of Leicester Corsane, G., Davis, P., Elliot, S., Maggi, M., Murtas, D. and Rogers, S. 2007a. Ecomuseum evaluation: experiences in Piemonte and Liguria, Italy. International Journal of Heritage Studies 13(2): 101-116. Corsane, G., Davis, P., Elliot, S., Maggi, M., Murtas, D. and Rogers, S. Ecomuseum performance in Piemonte and Liguria, Italy: the significance of capital. International Journal of Heritage Studies 13(3): 223-239. Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA). 1999a. A Passage of Community Renaissance. Taipei: CCA Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA). 1999b. A Preliminary Survey of Local Cultural Workshops. Taipei: CCA Crooke, E. 2005. Dealing with the Past: Museums and Heritage in Northern Ireland and Cape Town, South Africa. International Journal of Heritage Studies 11(2): 131-142 Cultural Environment Workshops. 2000. The Development of Arts and Cultures in Taiwan: theory and practice. Taipei: Cultural Environment Fund Davis, P. 1999. Ecomuseums: a sense of place. New York: Leicester University Press Davis, P. 2004. Ecomuseum and the Democratisation of Japanese Museology. International Journal of Heritage Studies 10 (1): 93-110 Davis, P. 2005. Places, 'cultural touchstones ' and the ecomuseum. In Heritage, Museums and Galleries: An Introductory Reader, ed. Gerard Corsane: 365-376. London and New York: Routledge Davis, P. 2007. Ecomuseums and sustainability in Italy, Japan and China: concept adaptation through implementation. In Museum Revolutions: how museums change and are changed, ed. S. Knell, S. Macleod and S. Watson: 198-214. London, Routledge Escobar, A. 2001. Culture sits in places:reflections on globalisation and subaltern strategies in localisation. Political Geography 20: 139 - 174
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