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Open Access Conserving the past, mobilizing the Indonesian future: Archaeological sites, regime change and heritage politics in Indonesia in the 1950s

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Conserving the past, mobilizing the Indonesian future: Archaeological sites, regime change and heritage politics in Indonesia in the 1950s

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The archaeological sites that the Indonesian Republic inherited from the past were not neutral. In this article we investigate the multilayered processes of signification connected to these sites – scattered all over Indonesia, and selected, uncovered, investigated, conserved and partly put on display by state archaeologists under Dutch and Japanese colonial regimes – and their meanings for the young Indonesian Republic in the 1950s. Taking a site-centred approach we focus on what we call ‘archaeological interventions’, and in particular on the reconstruction and conservation history of the ninth-century Śiwa temple at Prambanan (1910s-1950s), in the broader context of archaeological research (state supported as well as inter-Asian and internationally based) and colonial and postcolonial conservation politics. How did the Archaeological Services in successive colonial and post-colonial regimes in Indonesia contribute to the transmission of archaeological knowledge and to the skills and ethics of restoration politics over time? What was the effect of regime change on the development of archaeological sites into national sites? And how did post-independence national heritage politics relate to other, ongoing identifications with these sites – colonial/international, inter-Asian and local – that were stimulated by archaeological interventions taking place at these sites?

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