Past Events

Nation and Ethnicity in the Making of Heritage in Malaysia and Singapore

Penang Institute and ISEAS are proud to host a panel discussion titled “Nation and Ethnicity in the Making of Heritage in Malaysia and Singapore

Title: Nation and Ethnicity in the Making of Heritage in Malaysia and Singapore
Date: 11 December 2019, Wednesday
Time: 8.00pm – 10.00pm (Doors open at 7.30pm)
Venue: Conference Hall, Penang Institute, 10-12 Brown Road, 10350 George Town

About the Talk

Heritage has become an essential feature of national and ethnic communities, a marker of distinction in the global and national politics of difference. In multi-ethnic societies like Malaysia and Singapore, whether or not the heritage of ethnic communities is recognized as an organic part of national heritage has implications for the ethnic communities concerned, and is a process that is not to be taken for granted. Thus, through the lens of the heritage-making process in multi-ethnic societies, we can see how threads of the past are selected to weave together the intricate narratives of nation and ethnicity.

Hui Yew-Foong will take up the issue of “Cemeteries as Communal and National Heritage”. Cemeteries, as a matter of convention, has always been communal, that is, associated with specific religious and/or ethnic communities. Yet, increasingly, cemeteries have come to be articulated as national heritage as well. The presentation will delve into the processes involved in making communal cemeteries part of the national heritage-scape.

Jonathan Sweet will address the topic of “Conservation and Heritage Making in the Kelabit Highlands”. His presentation will discuss the “Kelabit Highlands Community Museum Development Project” in Sarawak, an example of a heritage-making process in which an indigenous, Christian, and geographically remote community seeks to conserve and promote its own values in challenging circumstances.

Lim Sok Swan will look into the “Management of Heritage Sites and Multiculturalism”. While the State Parties play a critical role in the nomination and protection of World Heritage Sites, the responsibility for managing such sites always involves local authorities and residents. This leads to complexities in communication and management, and how the imagination of multiculturalism plays out. The presentation will explore the challenges in accommodating differences in cultural development and the needs of minorities.

Yeo Kang Shua will examine “The Subconscious Bias in the Making of Architectural Heritage” in Singapore. Yeo observes that apart from religious buildings that are closely and directly associated with particular religious or ethnic communities, secular buildings are more often than not made into heritage sites as a result of their architectural merit rather than their association with any community. The presentation will highlight this bias using Singapore’s examples and suggest how this bias can be addressed.

Moderator: Dato’ Dr Ooi Kee Beng, Executive Director of Penang Institute

About the Speakers

Hui Yew-Foong is an anthropologist and Associate Professor with the Hong Kong Shue Yan University, and he is also a Senior Fellow with ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. He has done extensive field research on the Chinese diaspora and its transnational linkages in Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and most recently, Australia. He also led efforts in documenting graves in the Kwong Hou Sua Teochew Cemetery and Bukit Brown Cemetery in Singapore.

Jonathan Sweet is a member of the cultural heritage and museum studies department at Deakin University, Australia. He has a long-standing interest in South and Southeast Asia and has contributed to development programmes and published on aspects of heritage and museum processes in the region.

Lim Sok Swan received her Master’s degree from the Department of Anthropology, National Taiwan University. Her current research interest focuses on heritage management and creative industries. She is currently based in Penang Institute as a Special Projects Officer.

Yeo Kang Shua was trained as an architect and architectural historian, with research interest primarily in the area of architectural conservation. He was involved in the restoration of some of Singapore’s religious and institutional buildings and awarded the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2010 and 2014. He is currently an Associate Professor at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.