Mapping Difficult Heritage as Frontiers of Memory in the Asia-Pacific

Public Lecture by Prof. Dr. Shu-Mei Huang (Taipei) on 24 November, 7pm and Workshop on 25 November, curated by I-Wei Wu.

Frontiers of Memory in the Asia-Pacific explores the making and consumption of conflict-related heritage throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Contributing to a growing literature on the notion of heritage, this collection advances our understanding of how places of pain, shame, oppression, and trauma have been appropriated and refashioned as “heritage” in a number of societies. We analyze how the repackaging of difficult pasts as heritage can serve either to reinforce borders, transcend them, or even achieve both simultaneously, depending on their political agenda. In the Asia-Pacific, the notion of difficult heritage is further complicated by escalating cross-border contestation and competition. Engaging with “frontiers” as political reality, Taiwan being a key part of it in the past few years, for example, and “frontiers” as historiographical metaphor, we conceptualize frontiers or borders as “multi-faceted social institution” rather than only legal, political marks of territorial sovereignty (Laine 2016). The book attended to how cross-border clashes over contested heritage are playing significant roles in the construction or reconstruction of memory, with the effect of reinforcing the borders dividing national narratives, rather than transcending them to forge transnational understanding with nine case studies. It suggests new directions for comparative research into “difficult heritage” across-borders and advocates for a transnational approach to difficult heritage in both theory and practice in a new year loomed over by the intensifying military talks and expanding geopolitics from Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific.

Shu-Mei Huang is Associate Professor at the Graduate Institute of Building and Planning, National Taiwan University. Her research area intersects Recovery Planning, Indigenous Studies, and Heritage Studies in East Asia. She has published with International of Heritage Studies, International Journal of Cultural Policy, Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, etc. More recently Huang worked with colleagues Hyun Kyung Lee and Edward Vickers on an edited volume titled Frontiers of Memory: Difficult Heritage and Cross-border Politics of Postcolonial Nationalism (eds. 2022, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press).

The public lecture by Prof. Shu-Mei Huang will take place in Zeichensaal, Lehrgebäude 2C at BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg. It can also be followed online via zoom. The link for online participation will be available on the homepage of RTG on the day of the lecture.

The lecture is the opening event of a workshop organized by PhD candidate I-Wei Wu. The workshop titled "Approaching Difficult Heritage. Representation, Interpretation and Preservation between Europe and East Asia" takes place on 25 January and aims at deconstructing the tasks involved in dealing with difficult heritage sites by bringing a variety of insights to approach the notion of difficult heritage. Threshold of changes revolves around these central questions: How is the difficult past interpreted and how are memory narratives re-shaped? What attempts have been formulated to respond to the temporal and complex layers of a difficult heritage site? How can we understand human interaction with these sites over different time periods that might challenge a linear understanding of the concept of time? The workshop welcomes knowledge exchange beyond the European context by gathering scholars who have conducted case studies in Europe and East Asia, including Prof. Shu-Mei Huang (Taipei), Prof. Ying Zhou (Hong Kong), Dr. Gustav Wollentz (Östersund), Carina Rother (Taipei), and Florian Rietmann (Cottbus). Together with the invited scholars, the workshop will facilitate discussions and commentaries on I-Wei Wu's research project entitled "From break to continuity: articulating the significance of change in conserving negative heritage" and bring in findings from different contexts.

Conceptual and Academic Coordination: I-Wei Wu (M.A., M.Sc.), PhD Candidate at the Heritage Studies programme and the DFG Research Training Group 1913, BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg

The workshop will take place in the seminar room on the 7th floor in IKMZ at BTU. Participation in the workshop is restricted to colleagues and fellow researchers by invitation.
Please contact I-Wei.Wu(at) for further information.


Albrecht Wiesener
T +49 (0) 355 69-4915