SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

Angkor Wat, Cambodia: A Transcultural History of Heritage?

Angkor Wat Replica
Michael Falser (Heidelberg University/Technical University of Munich)

Date: 17 March 2021Time: 11:00 AM

Finishes: 17 March 2021Time: 1:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Webinar

Discussant: Joanna Wolfarth (SOAS University of London)


The 12th century temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia is without a doubt one of the world’s most impressive religious stone monuments and a milestone in the architectural history of Southeast Asia. While in 1992 the temple became the centerpiece in the UNESCO World Heritage of the Archaeological Park of Angkor, today threatened by mass tourism, it is astonishing that the temple’s modern history of becoming such a global heritage icon was never mapped out systematically. But how can such a task be approached methodologically? In this talk, I will argue for a conceptual, connected history of Angkor Wat that unfolded within the transcultural interstices of European and Asian projects, spanning the colonial, postcolonial-nationalist and global era. I will take you on a journey, one that will give you the chance to see some of the results of my recent monograph Angkor Wat. A Transcultural History of Heritage (DeGruyter, Berlin 2020), which traced the multiple lives of Angkor Wat over a 150-year-long period from the 1860s to the 2010s, and presented for the first time a kind of visual anthology of the temple with more than 1,400 historic photographs, architectural plans and samples of public media.

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Angkor Wat, Cambodia: A Transcultural History of Heritage?

Michael Falser

Speaker Biography

Michael Falser studied architecture and art history at the universities of Vienna, Paris and Berlin. Between 2009 and 2017 he worked in the Cluster of Excellence ‘Asia and Europe in a Global Context. The Dynamics of Transculturality’ at Heidelberg University in Germany where his research project about Angkor Wat was undertaken as his Habilitation (professorial qualification). Besides his activities as preservation architect and World heritage consultant for UNESCO and ICOMOS International, his current research and teaching focus on the combined field of global architectural history and cultural heritage studies. After visiting professorships at the universities of Vienna, Kyoto, Bordeaux-Montaigne and Paris-Sorbonne, he is now teaching as associate professor at the Institute of Art History at Heidelberg University. At the Institute of Architectural History at the Technical University of Munich, he just started his new German Research Foundation-funded research project investigating German-colonial architecture as a global building project around 1900 and as a transcultural heritage today.

Suggested Reading (open access)

Michael Falser: Cultural heritage and architectural history between appropriation, substitution and translation. In: Engaging Transculturality. Concepts, Key Terms, Case Studies. Routledge, London and New York 2019, 247-263.

Organiser: SOAS Centre of South East Asian Studies and SOAS Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme

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