International Conference on Heritage and Sustainable Development

Photo courtesy of Heritage 2014.

HERITAGE 2014 – 4th International Conference on Heritage and Sustainable Development follows the path of the previous editions: it aims at establishing a state of the art event regarding the relationships between forms and kinds of heritage and the framework of sustainable development concepts.

Once again the four dimensions of sustainable development (environment, economics, society and culture) are the pillars of this event, defining a singular approach on how to deal with the specific subject of heritage sustainability. Furthermore, beyond the traditional aspects of heritage preservation and safeguarding, the relevance and significance of the sustainable development concept is to be discussed and scrutinized by some of the most eminent worldwide experts.

Heritage 2014 – 4th International Conference on Heritage and Sustainable Development proposes a global view on how heritage is being contextualized in relation with the four dimensions of sustainable development. What is being done in terms of research, future directions, methodologies, working tools and other significant aspects of both theoretical and field approaches will be the aims of this International Conference. Furthermore, heritage governance, and education are brought into discussion as the key factors for enlightenment of future global strategies for heritage preservation and safeguarding.

A special chapter on Heritage and Cultural Tourism was included in this edition, as cultural tourism became a major theme and a major area of research. Applied field research as well as theoretical approaches are welcome in this special chapter that is meant to be a wide and meaningful forum of debate on this topic.

HERITAGE 2014 is a peer reviewed conference. Abstract submissions are accepted until January 15th.

Visit the conference website for full details about the conference scope, topics and submission procedures here.


·         Heritage and governance for sustainability

·         Heritage and society

·         Heritage and environment

·         Heritage and economics

·         Heritage and culture

·         Heritage and education for the future

·         Preservation of historic buildings and structures

·         Special Chapter: Heritage and cultural tourism

Secretariat HERITAGE 2014
Green Lines Institute for Sustainable Development
Av. Alcaides de Faria, 377 S12
4750-106 Barcelos, PORTUGAL
Telephone: + 351 253 815 037

From the field: Reflections of a Yangon intern

Guest post by Julia Collins

The pounding rain muffles the sounds coming from the neighboring construction site. It is the rainy season in Southeast Asia and development season in Myanmar. With Myanmar’s recent debut on the global scene, it is the place to be for members of the development community.

World Economic Forum on East Asia 2013
Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Myanmar, 6/7/13. Photo: Sikarin Thanachaiary
In a recent edition of the Bangkok Post, Myanmar was mentioned more than three times in the business section alone. The articles reported on Japanese investment, Thai cement factories, and Norwegian sustainable tourism in Myanmar. Aid workers, foreign investors, economists, human rights activists, education specialists, you name it, everyone has caught Myanmar-fever.

The international spotlight is firmly fixed on this resource-rich, relatively untouched Southeast Asian country.

I intern at an independent policy research organization dedicated to the economic and social transformation of Myanmar. Led by Burmese economists, the think-tank recommends policies related to economic reform, poverty-reduction, and good governance. Professor Christina Fink, was instrumental in helping me find my internship. Her assistance along with the generosity of the Freeman Foundation Fellowship, enabled interning to become a reality, and for that I am deeply grateful.

I arrived in early June and am one of seven interns — four are also master’s candidates studying at Columbia’s SIPA, one is a law student from Yale and one a Burmese-American from Michigan State. We are fortunate to work alongside incredibly hardworking and intelligent Burmese research assistants, former political exiles, professors as well as a few foreign economists and lawyers. We often have internal trainings ranging from tax reform in Myanmar to media laws and hate speech to Myanmar’s role in the WTO to inform our research and endow us with a more comprehensive understanding of Myanmar’s reform process.
Continue reading “From the field: Reflections of a Yangon intern”

Journal issue on applied anthropology of tourism

The latest issue of Anthropology in Action includes the uses of tourism development projects in solving the problems of inter-communal violence, the politics of representation as well as understandings of audiences and media-based constructions of “‘the toured;” and the ways in which the state and capital intersect in the development of tourism policy. This journal is not open access.

Digital detox holidays

By contributor Sean Carey

“I hope you have a good rest,” I said to a friend, who works as an administrator at London University, a few days before her departure for a week’s holiday in Portugal last summer. She had been working hard on a project using an online survey to monitor the health and welfare of undergraduate students.

“So do I,” she replied. “But I’ll do bit of work while I’m at the hotel as the project needs to be finished on time.” She paused and added: “I’m taking my laptop.”

A young lady on the beach with a laptop. Flickr/IQ computer services

I was horrified on two counts. First, I could see that my friend was not going to get the peace and quiet she so obviously needed. Secondly, she was contributing to the steady erosion of the concept of “taking a holiday.” Put simply, an electronic form of communication — the Internet — was infiltrating and squeezing the life out of a traditional and highly valued leisure form.

Most social scientists agree that the post-industrial world is significantly different from anything that has gone before it. The big questions are: how different, and in what ways? Spanish sociologist and urbanist Manuel Castells, for example, thinks that the move towards information processing — economic activity based on the manipulation of signs, symbols, metaphors and metonyms in the service sector — is in many ways equivalent to the jump from an agrarian mode of production to the industrial one in 18th and 19th century Europe and North America.

Castells refers to the type of economic activity on display in the advanced economies as the “informational mode of production.” Unlike some of his colleagues, however, he prefers the term “Network Society” (PDF) to “Information Society” or “Post-industrial Society.”

Why? Castells reckons that the concept of Network Society captures the reality of the way the modern world is increasingly organized around “electronically processed information networks,” where individuals are connected to one another in novel and innovative ways. He thinks (and recommends) that citizens now have the capacity to challenge the power of the state as well as the inequalities generated by global capitalism.

Whatever label you choose, it is clear that electronic communications are changing the way people perceive and experience time — and not always for the better. As Oslo-based social anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen pointed out in his 2001 book Tyranny of the Moment:

The last couple of decades have witnessed a formidable growth of various time-saving technologies, ranging from advanced multi-level time managers to e-mail, voice mail, mobile telephones and word processors; and yet millions of us have never had so little time to spare as now. It may seem as if we are unwittingly being enslaved by the very technology that promised liberation. (2001:vii)

Continue reading “Digital detox holidays”

Maldives and open society

By contributor Sean Carey

Mention the Maldives to many Europeans and most of them will think of a string of paradise islands. Along with other countries in the Indian Ocean like Mauritius and the Seychelles, the Maldives is renowned as a honeymoon destination replete with 5-star hotels and luxury spas. In fact, like Mauritius and the Seychelles the country derives most of its foreign currency from tourism.

Unlike secular Mauritius and the Seychelles, however, Islam is the official religion of the Maldives and public practice of other religions is forbidden. In order to exercise social and cultural control over relationships between the indigenous population and foreign visitors, authorities in the Maldives permit the development of tourist resorts on unpopulated parts of the territory, which consists of 1192 islands stretching 230 miles from south-west India. So far, this strategy has worked very well.

View of the Maldives. Flickr/nicadlr

After 30 years of autocratic rule, the Republic of Maldives became a multi-party democracy in 2008, headed by President Mohamed Nasheed. The newly-elected leader has been praised by other members of the international community for his achievements, especially in creatively publicising the effects of climate change and rising sea levels on low-lying island states in the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. He has also indicated that he intends to open up the inhabited islands of the Maldives to tourists in order to attract more visitors from the new growth economies of China and elsewhere. “We’ve segregated ourselves in these little islands for too long,” President Nasheed told foreign journalists last year. “The tourists don’t get to see the real Maldives and Maldivian culture. In the past there was a desire to segregate the Maldives from certain influences, but it also kept us from ideas and knowledge. Maldivians are Muslims but modern. The time has come to end the segregation from the outside world.”

Now comes the news that Reporters Without Borders new press freedom index 2011-2012 ranks the country at 73 compared with its previous position of 51 in 2010. The reason for the drop? The NGO claims that the “rising climate of religious intolerance” in the country has had a significant impact on freedom of expression.

Like many other relatively closed Islamic societies that are opening up, the Maldives government, which is attempting to steer a middle course and maintain community cohesion, has found it hard to come to terms both with moderate and fundamentalist Islamic critics. Last September, in an attempt to wrong-foot opposition groups the Government issued new “religious unity” regulations, which prevents the media from producing programmes or disseminating unlicensed information that might be designed to “humiliate Allah or his prophets or the holy Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet (Mohamed) or the Islamic faith.”

While this policy is relatively easy to enforce with traditional media like television, radio and newspapers the Maldives, like all governments, has found new media platforms much harder to control. Nevertheless, in November, the Islamic Ministry ordered that the website of Ismail “Hilath” Rasheed, a moderate Sufi Muslim, was being blocked on the grounds that it was a threat to the “Maldives’ young democracy.” On December 14, Rasheed was arrested and detained before being released on January 6 without charge after his involvement in a “silent protest” in the capital Male when he called for religious tolerance. The protest designed to coincide with Human Rights Day on December 10 was deemed by the country’s police as “unconstitutional,” although Amnesty International was quick to make Rasheed a “prisoner of conscience.”

On January 20, the Maldives police arrested Sheik Imran, a prominent Muslim cleric and leader of the opposition conservative Adhaalath Party (Justice Party). He had accused President Nasheed of encouraging “anti-Islamic waves” and to the “shores” of the Maldives called for the implementation of full Shari’a law. Interestingly, two days previously, the Maldives government issued a statement and warned foreign embassies that it was extremely concerned that “Islamic fundamentalism” could threaten the social fabric of the Sunni-dominated society, as well as the visitor economy, which contributes around 30 per cent or $1.5 billion to GDP.

On the page devoted to “culture” on the Maldives Tourism Board website –- the country’s tagline is “Always Natural” — the final paragraph reads: “Maldivians are quite open to adaptation and are generally welcoming to outside inspiration. The culture has always continued to evolve with the times… Most Maldivians still want to believe in upholding unity and oneness in faith, but recent waves of reform in the country have created a whole new culture of new ideas and attitudes. The effects of the modern world are now embraced, while still striving to uphold the people’s identity, traditions and beliefs.”

The Maldives, like many societies organized on the basis of kinship and religious faith, is attempting to solve the conundrum of how to allow measured social and cultural change that maintains community cohesion and generates economic growth when many of the drivers for those changes — secular and religious ideologies — lie outside its borders and therefore beyond its control.

It’s a hard one to pull off.

Ecotourism trumped by ethical tourism?

By contributor Sean Carey

One of the great success stories of the travel sector in recent decades has been the development and growth in ecotourism, which is currently estimated to be worth around $60 billion annually. Companies, which operate in diverse environments, including cities, villages, religious sites and wildlife sanctuaries, have realized that to be perceived by consumers as “eco-friendly” bestows considerable status, especially where it has become the dominant benchmark of the new visitor economies in countries like Costa Rica, Ecuador, Kenya, Madagascar and Nepal. In these nations ecotourism contributes a significant amount to GDP, at the same time as it brings in much-needed foreign currency.

However, ecotourism is not always a progressive force. For example, the sector has sometimes been accused of profiteering at the expense of environmental degradation and hiding its sins behind “greenwashing.” Ecotourism has also been accused of the violation of human rights by colluding with the displacement of indigenous peoples — the shocking fate of the Maasai when the Masai Mara National Reserve in south-west Kenya was established in 1948 being a prime example.

The Developing World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations. Source: Ethical Traveler

Some cultural anthropologists have added to the criticisms. For example, Carrier and Macleod claim that the distinction between ecotourism and mass tourism is difficult to sustain when “the destinations and experiences sold to tourists are abstracted from their contexts, thus inducing a distorted image of them and of ecotourism itself” (p. 315).


So, the purity of the “ecotourism” brand image has been damaged to some extent: it is no longer self-explanatory (and self-justifying), and many consumers are now uncertain about whether to trust the claims being made. Is there now a gap in the marketplace? The people behind Ethical Traveler, a small, non-profit organization that is part of the San Francisco-based Earth Island Institute, certainly think so. It has the tagline “Empowering Travelers to Change the World.”

Ethical Traveler has just issued its fifth annual “top ten” list of the developing world’s best ethical destinations for 2012. They are Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Latvia, Serbia and Uruguay and four island states, Bahamas, Dominica, Mauritius and Palau. All except the Bahamas, Mauritius and Serbia appeared on the 2011 list.

Using data from institutions like Freedom House, Millennium Challenge Corporation and the World Bank, three initial criteria — “environmental protection”, “social welfare” and “human rights” –- were used to draw up a shortlist of 30 countries. Then a more in-depth study was carried out to identify the actions of governments over the previous 12 months, in particular to find out whether policies implemented have improved or degraded the welfare of the population and the environment. This makes the Ethical Traveler list of approved ethical destinations broader in scope than many mainstream eco-tourism locations, which tend to have a much narrower remit focused on environmentalism.

Continue reading “Ecotourism trumped by ethical tourism?”