Dynamics of cultural heritage development in Sarawak
conference contributionposted on 2014-01-01, 00:00 authored by Jonathan Sweet, Meghan KellyMeghan Kelly
This paper discusses contestation and legitimization in the heritage process in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Since 2011 the authors have assisted the Rurum Kelabit Sarawak (RKS) to plan a community museum. The museum is envisaged as an anchor for the preservation and representation of the Kelabit culture. In particular, through consultation and capacity building, the project is seeking to incorporate heritage values into development and cultural tourism plans. The paper considers the roles of historical and contemporary agents in the awakening of heritage consciousness in this community. This process has facilitated questions about priorities including, heritage, tourism, representation and the expression of identity through contemporary design, which this paper will contextualize within the discourse of cultural heritage and development in South East Asia. Apart from the RKS and their range of partners, important agents include the Sarawak Government, with jurisdiction over native customs; the Sarawak Museum Department, an official custodian of cultural heritage; UNESCO, through its promotion of the rights of indigenous people and the integration of culture and development; and the WWF, assisting with the Heart of Borneo conservation project. The authors see this case study of a community museum development process as an opportunity to reflect on the interrelated and contested roles and responsibilities of local, national and trans-national agents in a heritage project that contributes to an understanding of cultural politics and heritage-making.