Chapter 13 Okinoshima, Universal Heritage and Borders of Memory

In: Heritage, Contested Sites, and Borders of Memory in the Asia Pacific
Edward Boyle
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This chapter will examine the inscription of the Sacred Island of Okinoshima as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017 in order to demonstrate the importance of borders of memory for understanding the contested politics of heritage. Although relatively uncontroversial, the Okinoshima inscription process still gave rise to instances of contestation.

The chapter uses one particular instance, an objection by South Korea’s UNESCO representative, to analyse contests over the spatial and temporal boundaries of the Okinoahima heritage site, contests which reflect disputes between different scales of heritage governance. A comparison with two other recent heritage nominations reveals how these contests reflect the variety of actors involved in the nomination process. Japan’s ultimate insistence on the integrity of the site demonstrates how efforts to fix the meanings associated with particular sites results in the institutionalization of various borders of memory at and through them.

Studying the production of heritage necessitates attention to borders of memory operating at heritage sites and the ways in which they channel the meanings granted these sites in the present. Examining the UNESCO recognition process is a particularly effective means of highlighting these borders as the discrepancies visible in the narratives about sites produced for distinct audiences—local, national, and international—bring the borders of memory that enable heritage site’s to operate at various, distinct, scales into focus. The chapter emphasizes the political significance of borders of memory for understanding contestation over heritage today.

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