Call for Papers: International Conference Heritage Conservation along the Belt and Road Zones

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CALL FOR PAPERS

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International Conference
Heritage Conservation along the Belt and Road Zones: Between Politics and Professionalism

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4-5 June 2020, The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong SAR, China

 

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been regarded as “the most significant and far-reaching initiative that China has ever put forward”. The primary aim of this initiative is to promote the regional economic cooperation of countries along the traditional Silk Road and what has been dubbed the Maritime Silk Road, now rebranded as the Belt and Road zones. The initiative covers various dimensions, including trade and finance, infrastructure and investment, and people to people interactions. Understandably, the first two dimensions have captured a lot of scholarly and media attention due largely to the potential economic benefits brought forth to the BRI states. However, the last dimension people to people interactions, which address more the cultural aspect of the BRI is almost completely ignored. This conference aims to bring this aspect of cultural diplomacy, or indeed, cultural politics of the BRI, to the fore and looks at its implications for China, other BRI countries, as well as the UNESCO. Specifically, it shall focus on the dynamics of politics and professionalism in the diplomacy of heritage conservation.

 

The establishment and development of the Silk Road bear testimony to the historical interactions of people among the BRI countries. The vestiges of people to people bonds can be seen in the numerous heritage sites along the economic corridors of BRI. With the increasing prominence of the World Heritage List under the UNESCO framework, conservation of heritage sites of BRI countries thus becomes an important arena for cooperation and conflict. Cooperation refers to the potential opportunities for cultural, historical and technological exchanges between China and other BRI countries over the process of heritage conservation. It requires a dialogue among major stakeholders, particularly professionals in the field, on exercising good governance in utilizing huge financial and human resources for heritage conservation. Conflict, on the other hand, refers to the interpretation of the background, historical values and meanings of the heritage sites, which are highly contested in nature. When political interests challenge “professional judgment”, the vision of the past can take on very different iterations. Moreover, states are wont to instil a sense of cultural nationalism over heritage sites with their own histories of conquest and defeat, countering the national narratives of their neighbours. The conference shall enrich our understanding of the dynamics between politics and professionalism in heritage conservation among BRI countries in a comparative perspective. Selected papers will be published in a journal special issue and/or conference volume.

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Objectives of the Conference

This conference aims to bring together scholars in the field of heritage studies for an intensive discussion on heritage governance among the BRI countries, focusing in particular on the role of heritage diplomacy as well as the uneasy relationship between “politics” and “professionalism” in the conservation process. Specifically, the conference seeks to address the following questions:

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  1. Examination of empirical cases of heritage conservation in BRI countries: How have the BRI states prioritized the projects of heritage conservation? What are the main considerations for BRI states to engage in heritage conservation together? How has the UNESCO enhanced international cooperation of BRI heritage conservation? What are the opportunities and challenges ahead?
  2. Reflection on China’s heritage diplomacy: In what ways have China exerted its soft power, a.k.a. political influence, over the decision-making process of heritage conservation of other BRI countries? What strategies have China used? And how have other BRI countries responded to China’s potential influence in heritage conservation?
  3. Analysis of the dynamics between politics and professionalism in heritage conservation: To what extent can heritage conservation be “free from politics”? What roles have the professionals at different levels played in the process of heritage conservation? To what extent have they been able to affect other stakeholders in directing a professional approach in the conservation of heritage sites?
  4. Reconsidering the role of community participation in heritage governance: What are the main issues related to community participation in heritage conservation? What are the considerations of BRI governments in involving communities in heritage conservation and management programs? How does community-based heritage governance work in BRI heritage sites?

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Submission Instructions

Paper proposals should include a title, name of the author, institutional affiliation, email address, an abstract (300 words) and a brief personal biography (150 words). The proposal should be submitted via this form by 31 December 2019. Successful applicants will be notified by 30 January 2020 and will be required to send a draft paper (6000- 8000 words) by 4 May 2020.

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The conference will take place in The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China. Travel subsidy and local accommodation will be provided for all accepted non-local participants.

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Conveners

  • Dr. Victor Chan (Department of Social Science, the Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
  • Dr. Yew Foong Hui (Department of Sociology, Hong Kong Shue Yan University)
  • Prof. Desmond Hui (Department of Social Science, the Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
  • Dr. Kazem Vafadari (College of Asia Pacific Studies, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University)

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Contact Information
For enquiries about the conference and submission of abstracts, please contact Dr. Victor Chan at victorchan@hsu.edu.hk.

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The conference is fully supported by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (Project No. IIDS14-H03-19).