Burkhard Schnepel and Cornelia 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.