What is Cultural Resources Studies?

Cultural Resources Studies

Cultural Resources StudiesCultural resources studies is a new academic field aiming to break away from the terminology (“cultural heritage”, “cultural property”) used thus far to define the national and local culture of the world, as well as the values and judgments that this conventional terminology implies. Instead, this field seeks to re-orient culture through the introduction of a value-creating term, “cultural resources”. The field aims to conduct comprehensive and multifaceted research on human culture and to develop new methods for the protection and utilization of these shared cultural resources.

The acceleration of globalization has not caused the disappearance of cultural differences. Rather, it has brought the friction that can exist between cultures to increasing prominence. The possibility of realizing societies in which differing cultures can exist side by side rests not just on encouraging mutual respect of those differences; it also requires a shared understanding of the value of each party’s culture as resources. The utilization of cultural value can already been seen: for example, the use of world heritage sites as tourist attractions, the inclusion of folk medicine ingredients in modern pharmaceutical products, and the application of traditional craft methods to state-of-the-art technology. Unilateral use of cultural resources, however, has the potential to stir up problems, not least parochial nationalism and the deprivation of the economic interests of certain groups. There is a pressing need to cultivate, in today’s global society, the view that cultural differences are, in fact, simply another form of resource to be shared by all humankind and deserve therefore to be evaluated for their value and usability as such a resource.

photoUnder these circumstances, the need for cultural resources studies become clear, as a new academic discipline able to evaluate from a neutral standing how the knowledge and skills accumulated locally in each region and country of the world can be made use of effectively in a global context, and more specifically, how they can be used without impacting the claims and profits of certain countries, certain ethnic groups or even certain companies. Cultural resources studies will be tasked with tackling the issues outlined above, and also faces the future-oriented question of how to achieve the “shared cultural society”, the next necessary step after the multicultural society.

Practice of Cultural Resources Studies

photoThe practice of cultural resources studies will be of clear benefit to modern society as it undergoes continued globalization. For example, cultural resources studies will focus on issues related to the protection, transmission and utilization of those cultural resources in regions and countries around the world that are under clear threat of disappearance as a result of economic development and advancing globalization. As research progresses, the field can also be expected to make valuable contributions to the resolution of associated issues, such as incidents of parochial nationalism and the deprivation of the economic interests of certain groups in relation to cultural resources. Cultural resources studies will also function as a platform from which evidence-based advice can be given to national governments and private companies on the global utilization of local cultural resources, as well as on the framing of resource management and operation policies that adequately take into account the rights of local citizens.

This commitment to the real world is a defining characteristic of cultural resources studies.