Cultivating Civic Practices in Yangon Through Heritage Conservation

Encina Commons archway
Fri April 29th 2022, 10:00 - 11:00am
Event Sponsor
Stanford Global Studies

Neoliberal Heritagescapes: Culture and Urbanism in Post Conflict Cities

Kecia Fong, Lecturer in Historic Preservation, Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania in conversation with Shubhangni Gupta, PhD Candidate in Anthropology, Stanford University

About the Event

Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar, is once again ground for violent civil conflict following the February 202 1 military coup d'état. The city, long a site of political protest, cultural exchange, and religious pilgrimage is marked by extended periods of British colonialism and autocratic military rule interceded by episodes of civilian and quasi- civilian government. Between 2010 and 2021 Yangon was the center of a brief experiment in heritage conservation and civil society formation. The Yangon heritage movement led by Dr. Thant Myint-U, founder of the Yangon Heritage Trust, (a local, non-governmental organization), emerged against a backdrop of aggressive ethno-nationalism, inherited colonial antiquities policies, and a constant threat of political censure. In identifying the secular, pluralistic, and colonial era attributes of Yangon's urban heritage Myint-U has spatialized a counter historical narrative to state-sanctioned Burmese identity. Furthermore, beyond physical restoration and in an unprecedented gesture, the Trust's conservation efforts have focused on the elicitation of public participation in heritage conservation debates and in envisioning a future for Yangon urban development. Through skillful navigation of what were uncertain political reforms, the Trust has engaged in a multi-faceted project of civil society, urban regeneration, and heritage conservation. This discussion examines how the proposal of Yangon heritage and the careful orchestration of its associated conservation activities were marshaled in the cultivation of civic practices and new publics. What at first appeared a seemingly innocuous physical restoration initiative focused on individual buildings has been, in fact, a more radical proposal of urban and societal regeneration.

About the Speaker

Kecia Fong, Lecturer in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, Stuart Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania

Kecia Fong is a heritage conservation educator and professional of the built environment who specializes in heritage conservation theory, history, and practice. Her current research focuses on the technical and socio-political dimensions of conservation work in Asia and postcolonial societies particularly as they intersect issues of civil society, governance, and development. She is a Lecturer in the Graduate Program of Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design and the Editor of Change Over Time: An International Journal of Conservation and the Built Environment.

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