Accepted Paper:

Making noble World Heritage in Tana Toraja, Indonesia   


Karin Klenke (University of Goettingen)

Paper short abstract:

In stratified Toraja society, the nomination of selected sites for World Heritage is highly charged, as their meanings are contested by competing noble headmen. The state institutions engaged in the nomination process and UNESCO have even differing ideas about what may why count as whose heritage.

Paper long abstract:

In the region of Toraja in the highlands of Sulawesi, Indonesia, a process for nomination as World Heritage as Cultural Landscape has been going on - and off - for more than 15 years. With Toraja's history of fierce inter-village competition, status rivalries among noble headmen and a very weak tradition of political unity, the nomination of only a few selected sites is a culturally, politically and economically highly charged process. The nomination was initiated by the powerful and high-ranking noble family of the hamlet Kete Ke'su', which had excellent connections to the Indonesian Department of Tourism. They hoped to use the 'outstanding universal value to all humanity' certified by UNESCO in the local status economy. Noble headman from all over Toraja put forward different histories, memories and meanings of 'their' sites in order to argue for them to be included and others to be taken off the list.

The local nobility, however, is not the only actor in the nomination process: regional and national administrative units of the Indonesian state and the UNESCO representatives have their say as well. Economic considerations, hopes for a revival of tourism, archaeological investigations, scientific claims and a quest for authenticity come also into play.

This paper explores the competing and contesting ways of constructing knowledge of what can legitimately count as heritage, why is may do so - and whose heritage it is supposed to be. It is based on 8 months of fieldwork in Toraja and the administrative institutions engaged in the nomination process.

Panel P312
Making heritage, making knowledge