Authenticity and heritage conservation: seeking common complexities beyond the 'eastern' and 'western' dichotomy



Gao Q & Jones S (2021) Authenticity and heritage conservation: seeking common complexities beyond the 'eastern' and 'western' dichotomy. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 27 (1), pp. 90-106.

This article challenges the claimed gulf between 'Eastern' and 'Western' concepts and approaches to heritage conservation through an analysis of the common complexities surrounding authenticity. The past few decades have witnessed an important critique of 'Eurocentric' notions of heritage conservation, drawing on 'non-Western', particularly Asian, contexts. Authenticity has been a core principle and defining element in this development. Endorsed by a series of charters and documents, a relativistic approach emphasising the cultural specificity of authenticity has been introduced alongside the European-originated materialist approach in international policy and conservation philosophy. However, the promotion of Asian difference has also contributed to an increasingly entrenched and unproductive dichotomy between 'Eastern' and 'Western' approaches to heritage. This article reveals common complexities surrounding authenticity in two countries crosscutting this dualism-China and Scotland. Drawing on a number of ethnographic projects, our analysis identifies themes that characterise the experience of authenticity across different cultural contexts. It contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the evolving relationships between heritage conservation and contemporary societies with important implications for global heritage discourses and collaborative ventures crosscutting 'Eastern' and 'Western' contexts.

Authenticity; heritage conservation; dichotomy; China; Scotland

International Journal of Heritage Studies: Volume 27, Issue 1

FundersArts and Humanities Research Council, Arts and Humanities Research Council, The British Academy and Historic Scotland
Publication date31/12/2021
Publication date online21/07/2020
Date accepted by journal04/07/2020

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Professor Sian Jones

Professor Sian Jones

Professor of Heritage, History