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Burkhard Schnepel


This introduction addresses the key methodological and theoretical issues against which the contributions to this volume have been written. It basically argues that ‘her­itage’ is something which is produced, not simply given. This social construction (and selection) of ‘heritage’ out of a great reservoir of possible historical events, processes, persons and material remnants is not a straightforward matter. The heritagization of some elements of the past and not others is more often than not prone to contestations and negotiations between persons who have different, if not sometimes diametrically opposed interests and aims. What is at stake, then, is not heritage as such, but the politics of (cultural) heritage and an awareness that ‘heritage produces something new which has recourse to the past’ (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett). This introduction also addresses the ‘postcolonial situation’ in the Indian Ocean world, which, with its long history of the mobility of persons and things, has also meant that heritage beliefs, practices and discourses have become “travelling pasts” moving not only in time, but also in space.


Edited by Burkhard Schnepel and Tansen Sen

Travelling Pasts, edited by Burkhard Schnepel and Tansen Sen, offers an innovative exploration of the issue of heritage in the Indian Ocean world. This collection of essays demonstrates how the heritagization of the past has played a vital role in processes and strategies related to the making of socio-cultural identities, the establishing of political legitimacies, and the pursuit of economic and geopolitical gains. The contributions range from those dealing with the impact of UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention in the Indian Ocean world as a whole to those that address the politics of cultural heritage in various distinct maritime sites such as Zanzibar, Mayotte, Cape Town, the Maldives, Calcutta and Penang. Also examined are the Maritime Silk Road and the Project Mausam initiatives of the Chinese and Indian governments respectively. The volume is an important contribution to the transdisciplinary fields on Indian Ocean Studies.