Throughout millennia there has been a divide of cultures across the world labelled in numerous ways: East and West, Occidental and Oriental, Western/European and Asian. One clear manifestation of this divide is in the built heritage that has been produced from these cultures. The beginnings of conservation in a Eurocentric sense lies in the awareness of the heritage of Greek and Roman culture parallel to the enthusiasm for the protection, research, studies and writings of many people. Philosophers such as Kant, Heidegger, Nietzche have influenced the theories and ideas developed by some of the leading intellectuals of conservation in the west such as Ruskin, Morris, Riegl, Brandi, and Argan. While there have been recent trends toward inclusiveness of other cultures and views (Nara Documents 1994, Burra Charter 1999, Principles for the Conservation of Sites in China 2002) the current pervasive view of conservation and restoration has been driven by Eurocentric forces and now forms the basis of global heritage protection enshrined in the clauses of international charters and guidelines. The cultures of the sub-continent, south and southeast Asia and their cultural built heritage has its roots in the cultural traditions of the sub-continent and have developed independently of the those in Europe. As a result the traditional view is that the cultural systems of the sub-continent have been based on spiritual values, norms and beliefs, communalism, and holism while western culture has evolved towards the development of values founded on the reality of the material world or materialism, rationalism and empiricism. In this art and architecture have had a distinctive role in presenting the differences between the western mode of thinking and that of the Asia. Through a review of literature and an exploration of the cultural and philosophical traditions this paper proposes that any theories of conservation in the sub-continent, south and Southeast Asia must be based on the cultural and philosophical traditions that have underpinned the formation of the cultural built heritage. The paper concludes by arguing for a systems approach as the appropriate foundation for conservation in the sub-continent, south and Southeast Asia. Such an approach highlights the uniqueness of the cultural traditions, place-making and spatial relationships particularly of nonsecular monuments.
Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities 2007. Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities 2007, Conference Proceedings (Honolulu, Hawaii 12-15 January, 2007) p. 3201-3213