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Heritage Assemblages. The Heritage Site of Borobudur (Indonesia) as a Cultural Landscape

La patrimonialisation comme processus d’agencement. La désignation du site de Borobudur (Indonésie) en tant que paysage culturel
Adèle Esposito Andujar
p. 125-161


Cet article examine la récente désignation du site patrimonial de Borobudur (Java centrale, Indonésie), en tant que saujana budaya, par un réseau d’activistes et chercheurs indonésiens. Saujana budaya est un nouveau terme qui traduit « paysage culturel », un concept patrimonial international inclus dans les guides opérationnels de l’UNESCO depuis 1992. Cet article démontre que la traduction, loin d’être un processus linéaire qui aboutit dans une correspondance parfaite entre termes, implique l’agencement d’un concept localisé du paysage culturel qui prend en compte un ensemble de spécificités indonésiennes. Dans le contexte de la Reformasi, qui a contribué à l’émergence de nouvelles formes de localisme culturel en Indonésie, les activistes et les chercheurs présument que le pouvoir de traduire, étroitement associé à celui de produire des concepts, est susceptible d’augmenter leur pouvoir d’agir dans les arènes patrimoniales. Dans ce sens, la traduction est vue comme un act politique de défi : elle permet de critiquer l’étroitesse des approches gouvernementales du patrimoine. Elle a aussi l’objectif de transformer les pratiques de gestion, en les rendant plus inclusives et représentatives des héritages sacrés, spirituels et religieux issus de la tradition syncrétique hindou-bouddhiste, qui a guidé la construction de Borobudur et l’aménagement du territoire l’environnant.

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Texte intégral

I would like to extend special thanks to Vincent Négri and Dwita Hadi Rahmi for their valuable contributions to the ideas developed in this paper.

“What happens when a word, a category, or discourse ‘travels’ from one language to another? […] Who does the traveling? Does theory travel? If so, how? […] What is the means of transportation?” (Liu 1995: 20.)


1Heritage concepts are, far from being monolithic constructs that provide consensual definitions about the value of the cultural legacies of a given society, social and political constructs that evolve over time. Heritage does not exist per se, but depends on how actors, at specific historical moments, perceive and administer the legacies of the past. As perceptions of the past vary, heritage is plural and dissonant (Tunbridge & Ashworth 1994). The alternate paths of conservation, oblivion, or destruction are contingent upon whose vision prevails in the decision-making processes. Heritage is therefore inherently political, as heritage selection is subject to the struggles, negotiations and alliances between actors who hold or claim power in the heritage arena.

2Many heritage studies have analysed how heritage concepts and categories were involved in the construction of modern European nation states (e.g. Choay 1992; Harvey 2001; Smith 2006; Winter & Daly 2012; Harrison 2013, see also Introduction to this special volume). Colonial administrations later exported those concepts to Southeast Asia, along with the legal and administrative tools for the conservation of historic monuments (Mangin 2006; Edwards 2008). In postcolonial times, young Southeast Asian nation states followed the lines established by the European powers, nationalising the bodies in charge of conservation and enacting legislation that used historic monuments in the construction of visions of national identities that reinforced the State’s control over society (Askew 1996). Since the 1980s, influenced by the international heritage community led by UNESCO, the scope of conservation in Southeast Asia has expanded from monumental remains to historic cities, human and natural settlements, traditions, performances and crafts. Processes of democratisation and decentralisation in countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia facilitated the emergence of civil society organisations in different fields, including conservation (Blackburn 2014; Formoso 2016; Hsiao, Hui & Peycam 2017). In this context, representatives of local communities were given the opportunity to be heard, often through the mediation of “cultural brokers” (Esposito 2018). Local people have often considered themselves entitled to define (and embody) the essence of national identity (Herzfeld 2016). However, the rise of these organisations also revived local particularism, thereby fostering social fragmentation, religious conservatism and even violent forms of political contestation (Beittinger-Lee 2010).

  • 1 The term assemblage has previously been used as the translation of Deleuze and Guattaris’s ([1980] (...)

3Building on this body of knowledge, this paper develops a novel analytical lens to investigate the manufactured nature of heritage concepts. Drawing on the conceptual tools offered by critical discourse analysis (Fairclough 2013), I see heritage concepts as “assemblages”1 (Deleuze & Guattari [1980] 2002) that bring together a wide range of meanings, values and reference systems and serve as “nodal points” (Laclau & Mouffe 1985 [2001]) in the construction of discourses. Assembled heritage concepts are always contextual (they depend on how specific actors perceive the heritage forms involved) and time-specific (they can evolve over time, in line with national politics and international doctrines). They can be produced by powerful actors (such as government bodies or international experts) who construct “authorized heritage discourses” (Smith 2006). As we shall see, they can also be produced by intellectuals and local experts seeking to play the part of cultural brokers and to increase their power in the heritage arena. In these cases, the newly assembled concepts challenge the “authorized” heritage discourses and engender new discourses that define innovative conservation standards and aspire to high levels of legitimacy at the national and international scale.

4In line with Blommaert (2005: 2), I see heritage discourses as “language-in-action” which are able to influence “meaningful symbolic behaviour”. These discourses aim to foster feelings of belonging, but also to serve as iconic representations of national culture and identity. Hence, heritage concepts have performative power, in that they contribute to the shaping of practices. Management plans and maps for heritage sites, often established by administrative bodies with the help of technical experts, can be seen as integral parts of heritage discourses, utilising networked sets of tools (laws, regulations, enforcement measures) and actors (administrative bodies, companies, communities) to ensure the conservation of valuable remains, but also to achieve certain development goals. As Livingstone (1992: 304) argued, “to have the command on definition is to have control of discourse […] Therefore, success in managing vocabulary—and thereby solidifying conceptual slipperiness—brings considerable advantages in attempts to map the conceptual territory”. Mapping is a powerful device to make particular ideas of heritage visible in space, thus reinforcing the discourses that support them.

5While much research has dealt with controversies surrounding the construction of heritage concepts in European languages and their relation to States’ “authorized heritage discourses” (Smith 2006), little attention has been paid to issues of translation in non-Western languages (Dean-Olmsted 2012). This is attributable at least in part to the fact that academic communication nowadays mainly takes place in English. In this paper, I consider translation as a key tool in the local assemblage of international heritage concepts. I examine how networks of actors take heterogeneous components (drawing on international conservation doctrines, local traditions and practices, national heritage definitions, the etymological backgrounds of heritage-related words and so on) and combine them in assemblages that are rendered coherent through the construction of a heritage discourse surrounding local heritage objects, sites and forms.

6I argue that, when international heritage concepts are translated into a national language, a twofold process of resemantisation takes place. On the one hand, layers of meaning can be added to a word that incorporates the specialised language of heritage, by drawing, for instance, on its contemporary usage and/or etymological background. Conversely, the translation of concepts from national languages into English can render invisible aspects of the “cultural intimacy” of a community or nation (Herzfeld 1996) or obliterate shades of meaning that local actors do not wish to elevate to the level of the international heritage community. As such, translation can be a strategic choice to resolve the tensions between local and international systems of cultural reference. It can also contribute to strategies of legitimation by which actors from civil society claim the authority to establish heritage definitions and draw the conceptual boundaries of heritage territories. When different translations of key concepts are possible, the choice of one term over another, and its legitimation as “the” correct translation, reveals the conflicts between different networks of actors who aspire to play a leading role in the conservation arena.

The Case Study

7This paper explores the construction of heritage concepts and discourses for Borobudur, a Buddhist sanctuary built by the Saliendra dynasty in Central Java (Indonesia) between the eighth and ninth centuries. Previous research on Borobudur has examined its architectural history and spiritual meanings (e.g. Gifford 2011; Mus 1978; Dumarçay 1973; Soekmono, Dumarçay & de Casparis 1990), its iconic role in the construction of national heritage in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia (Black & Wall 2001; Bloembergen & Eickoff 2011, 2015, 2020; Salazar 2014, 2016), the challenges posed by the UNESCO World Heritage Listing in 1992, and subsequent management problems related to the growth in domestic and international tourists (some 3.2 million in 2016, The Jakarta Post 2016) (e.g. Fatimah 2015; Hampton 2005; Salazar 2010). Here, I focus on the shift that took place in the heritage politics surrounding Borobudur during the Reformasi era.

8The Reformasi was ushered in by the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998 and introduced a range of democratisation and decentralisation reforms. After three decades of centralised and uniform cultural policy (Pemberton 1994), popular pressure arose for reforms to be implemented beyond the scope of the State (Jones 2013). This allowed for the formation of a “language of ethnic and religious identity” which “offered ample possibilities of refuge from and even resistance” to the State (Schulte Nordholt & Kinken 2007: 23) and could be deployed as a “‘repertoire’ of action” at the appropriate moment (McAdam et al. 2001, cited in Schulte Nordholt & Kinken 2007: 23). Decentralisation and regional autonomy, along with rapid economic and social change, encouraged urban, middle-class intellectuals educated during the New Order to conceptualise and politicise regional identities (Jones 2013) and their relationship with Indonesia as a whole (Davidson & Henley 2007). In this context, regional authenticity was “often emphasized in a very ‘Indonesian’ way”; that is, differences and singularities were expressed in similar ways across the country (Schulte Nordholt & Kinken 2007: 28). This “new localism” has been a double-edged sword, at the same time giving voice to local communities and revealing social and political conflicts long silenced by the authoritarian regime (Silver 2007).

9Heritage has become an important component of identity discourses. In numerous Indonesian cities, local heritage societies based on the Anglo-Saxon model emerged (Njoto 2016: 435). They criticised the narrow scope of heritage concepts as shaped at the State level, as well as the frequent destruction of urban legacies under the guise of modernisation and development. The Badan Pelestarian Pusaka Indonesia (Indonesian Heritage Trust, BPPI) is the country’s leading non-governmental organisation. It was founded in 2000, following the Symposium on Conserving Cultural Heritage for Sustainable Social Economy and Tourism Development, as the heritage advocacy network Jaringan Pelestarian Pusaka Indonesia (Indonesia Heritage Conservation Network, JPPI) (Wijayanto 2016). It was later transformed into a heritage trust after being formally recognised by the Indonesian Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the International Council on Monuments and Sites. Since 2003, the BPPI has used the site of Borobudur as a pilot case study to assemble localised heritage concepts with two goals: contributing to the geographic extension of protection boundaries and recognising the value of cultural expressions and identity markers that tie communities to localities.

  • 2 In the field of translation, a loan translation (calque) is a word or phrase that has been translat (...)
  • 3 The director’s representative of the UNESCO Office in Jakarta, Shahbaz Khan, declared during a spee (...)

10To achieve these goals, the BPPI has produced a localised version of the international heritage concept of cultural landscape bearing Indonesian characteristics. In Indonesia, this concept had already been translated as lanskap (or landskap) budaya, which draws on a loan translation2 from the Dutch landschap, used in the specialised language of geography. The Indonesian Government uses this term in official discourses and regulations referring to the concept of cultural landscape.3 In the early 2000s, the BPPI proposed, based on research conducted at Borobudur, the alternative translation saujana budaya. Here, the translation seeks not to provide a local term that is lacking in the Indonesian language (as a translation had already been made available by the Government), but to produce a new, local assemblage of the international concept. In this paper, I pay close attention to the process of assemblage, showing how the assemblage of saujana budaya strategically combines various meanings, fragments of discourses, and ancient popular knowledge to construct a specific conceptual territory for the cultural landscape in Indonesian settings. On this basis, I argue that saujana budaya gives rise to a new conceptual territory of heritage which aims to have a profound impact on territorial management. At the same time, the BPPI uses the translation of saujana budaya as a strategic tool to obtain greater power in national heritage politics, as well as greater visibility vis-à-vis the international heritage community. To this end, the BPPI members assume that greater power over practices and politics can be achieved by wielding power over words and concepts. I scrutinise this assumption by questioning how the concept of saujana budaya and related discourses are further applied to other heritage sites and influence the evolution of heritage interpretations, laws and regulations by international experts and the national government, but also the forms of resistance that prevent these actors from fully embracing the concept of cultural landscape as projected by the BPPI. The dissonant multivocality of Indonesian heritage politics (Tunbridge & Ashworth 1994) comes to the fore in the dialectic interplay of the assimilation and obliteration of meanings, values and objectives in these coexisting but competing assemblages of the Indonesian cultural landscape.

11This paper is based on the analysis of a corpus of documentary sources, including conservation management plans for the heritage site of Borobudur, expert reports on cultural landscapes, and academic heritage literature written in English and bahasa by Indonesian scholars and professionals, who also (aim to) play the role of cultural brokers in Indonesian heritage politics. Furthermore, I draw on my involvement in a series of seminars organised in Chiang Mai and Yogyakarta in the framework of the research programme “Patrimots. Les mots du patrimoine dans le projet architectural et urbain en Asie du Sud-Est: circulation, réception, creation” in 2015 (see Introduction), during which I had the opportunity to engage in formal and informal conversations with members of the BPPI and other Southeast Asian heritage advocates.

The Secularisation of a Religious and Spiritual Heritage

12Since the beginning of the 20th century, several monumental religious sites across Southeast Asia have been recognised as national heritage. In colonial and early postcolonial times, conservation practices focused on the materiality of the monuments, while marginalising the magical and supernatural beliefs that local villagers used to attach to them. Centuries-long practices of spiritual veneration and renewal were ignored, as was the sentimental identification of local people with their everyday environment (Karlström 2005; Byrne 2009). Conservation measures weakened the ties between the local populations and the sites, not least because relocation programmes moved villages away from the newly established heritage sites. This situation began to change in the 1990s. In the wake of the “participatory turn”, which has had a major impact on international heritage doctrines (see Introduction), Southeast Asian civil society organisations and representatives of local communities sought to reconnect local people with heritage sites. Reconnection implied the revival of the sacred power of heritage sites through rituals, cults and festivities (Denes & Sirisrisak 2013), as well as the exploitation of heritage sites for the purposes tourism, with the benefits going directly to local people.

13The case of Borobudur, an ancient Buddhist shrine in a contemporary Islamic country, introduces further shades of complexity in this regional trajectory from the secularisation of heritage to its reconnection with ordinary people. When the centre of political power shifted towards the east of the island around 930 CE, Borobudur was buried and abandoned, although the local villagers remained aware of its existence. In the 13th and 14th centuries, coastal Javanese populations began converting to Sufi Islam, under the influence of traders. Islam progressively spread into inland Java and in the 15th century became the official religious order of the Javanese Kingdom (Kusno 2003).

14In the 19th century, the temple began to attract the interest of the Europeans. During his term as the temporary British Resident in Java, Thomas Raffles had 200 workers clear the earth and vegetation and presented the temple to a Western public (Chapman 2013). It was not uncommon for colonial residents to carry off sculptures for personal use, villagers to use the foundation stones as construction materials, and trophy hunters to steal and sell fragments of the monument (Salazar, 2014). Since 1885, the Archaeological Society based in Yogyakarta has considered Borobudur its main site of investigation, documenting and exhibiting as many remains as possible. The first official restoration campaign was undertaken in 1907 by the Dutch colonial power. Subsequently, the Dutch authorities founded the Oudheidkundige Dienst (Archaeological Service), which led several restoration campaigns between 1913 and 1942 (Bloembergen & Eickoff 2011). In 1931, the Monument Ordonnantie was enacted, as the first legal text in the conservation field. The Ordonnantie introduced to the Indonesian context the concept of the “historic monument”, shaped by the European nation states as a key component in the construction of nationalistic visions of identity. Despite this, local villagers enjoyed free access to the temple. As in other colonial contexts (Edwards 2008), the colonisers’ interest in local material heritage facilitated the emergence of a sense of national awareness. Villagers in the surroundings of Borobudur began to take pride in the temple. Over time, they came to consider themselves the guardians of the temple and the descendants of its builders (Tanudirjo 2013).

  • 4 Indonesia declared its independence on 17 August 1945. The Dutch Government resisted, however, and (...)
  • 5 The management plan was based on the Regional Master Plan Study (1973-1974) and the Project Feasibi (...)
  • 6 “Zone 1 for protection and prevention of destruction of the physical environment” (44.8 ha); “zone  (...)

15The ties between the local people and the temple were nonetheless further weakened in postcolonial times,4 when the young Indonesian State mobilised Borobudur in the construction of national identity. UNESCO experts had been advising local conservation professionals since the 1950s, but it was not until 1967 that the Indonesian Government officially requested UNESCO assistance. An international fundraising campaign for the conservation of Borobudur was launched in 1972, the second of its kind after the relocation of Abu Simbel in Egypt undertaken in the 1960s. From 1973, upon Indonesian request, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) prepared a master plan to incorporate not only the temple but also its surrounding environment into a broad “archaeological park” (1979)5. The plan included a zoning system of five concentric circles emanating from the temple, covering an overall surface area of 114.6 km26 (Nagaoka 2016) (see fig. 1). At that time, the plan was revolutionary. Although it did not refer to the concept of cultural landscape—which had yet to gain the status of an international heritage category—some of its key components, such as the involvement of local communities in tourism management, shaped the conservation approach for a broad region. The plan and its accompanying discourse also took into account religious values: by defining Borobudur as a monument of transcendent value, the Japanese experts claimed to share a spiritual heritage with pre-Islamic Indonesia (JICA 1979) that legitimised their involvement in conservation planning for the site.

  • 7 Translation from the Indonesian by the author. Italics added. Original text: “Walapun pembangunanny (...)

16Since the 1980s, however, the Indonesian Government rid the definition of heritage value of its spiritual and religious aspects: Borobudur and the other temples of Java came to be defined as “monuments” (Salazar 2014), in line with Western-based definitions that privileged secular, artistic, historic and scientific values. Significantly, a promotional booklet which paved the way for the listing of Borobudur as a World Heritage Site (warisan budaya manusia) stated that “although the building is not free from religious influences of Mahayana Buddhism […] Borobudur’s structure and decorations reveal the specificities which reflect the culture of the Indonesian nation” (PNPBPCB 1983: 16, italics added).7 This formulation implies that Buddhist religious values were seen as obstacles to the national recognition of Borobudur as heritage, a view that reflected escalating religious conservatism in Indonesia that saw the conservation of Buddhist remains as a barrier to the establishment of an Islamic country. In this context, collective ceremonies were forbidden at Borobudur from 1983 (Salazar 2014). After the 1984 terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslim fundamentalists, a Muslim prayer hall (musholla) was built next to Borobudur’s entrance gate as a sign of the Government’s will to reconcile the conservation of the monument with religious beliefs (ibid.). These measures extended to the establishment of a protected area of only 0.9 km2 around the monument, despite the recommendation in the JICA master plan to incorporate a broader territory (see fig. 1).

17The focus of conservation policies on monumental remains is not exclusive to Borobudur. The other young postcolonial states in Southeast Asia, too, have tended to narrow the scope of heritage protection to those monuments that embodied the essence of their vision of national identity anchored in ideas of a glorious artistic past. When the archaeological park of Angkor, Cambodia, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992, a team of 25 international consultants drew on the JICA Master Plan for Borobudur to establish a management plan composed of five conservation zones, covering the entire province of Siem Reap (10,000 km2). However, national decrees restrained conservation to zones 1, which covered the major monumental remains, and a “buffer zone” (zone 2), which separated those remains from newly developed areas (Esposito 2018).

  • 8 Zone 1 includes Borobudur temple and the minor sanctuaries of Mendut and Pawon, to be managed by th (...)

18The Indonesian Government also neglected to implement the community-based approach to the surrounding villages proposed by the JICA plan. Instead, between 1979 and 1983 the Government resettled 381 families from the nearby villages of Ngaran, Kenayan and Krajan, in zone 2 of the JICA plan (Adhishakti 2015: 10). The villagers’ complaints to the Head of the Regional Parliament of Central Java in 1981 were ignored (Nagaoka 2016). Clearing heritage sites of local populations was not uncommon in postcolonial Southeast Asian States. The practice was legitimised by the value attached in colonial times to picturesque historical landscapes unmarred by the signs of ordinary, everyday life. Under the oppressive political regime of the New Order (1966–1998), the practice took a particularly violent form, as villagers lost their land, homes and places of worship and received little compensation in exchange (Tanudirjo 2013). Because the Government delegated the management of tourism facilities in zone 2 to the state-owned firm PT Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur dan Prambanan, the villagers gained little economic benefit from tourism-related activities, and their access to the park was restricted still further. The listing of Borobudur as a World Heritage Site in 1991 and the ensuing Presidential Decree in 1992 covered only three of the five zones in the JICA master plan, and did not improve conditions for local villagers.8

Fig. 1. Location of Borobudur Temple in Java and protective perimeters established around the temple

Fig. 1. Location of Borobudur Temple in Java and protective perimeters established around the temple

Map: Adèle Esposito Andujar and Ariel Shepherd, 2020.

Reconnecting Heritage to Local People and Beliefs: The Cultural landscape as Saujana Budaya

19When the Reformasi movement overthrew the New Order regime in 1998, popular pressure for reform to be undertaken beyond the State gained momentum. The decentralisation of various government sectors, including culture and tourism, initiated during the Habibie presidency, fostered the politicisation of local ethnic identities (Jones 2013). The revival of local identities encouraged communities to demand the right to implement elements of customary law (adat) in their home territories (Davidson & Henley 2007). More specifically, the Reformasi movement challenged the exclusionary heritage policies pursued by the Indonesian State. Communities and heritage advocates sought to redefine heritage according to localised value systems, even if the specificities of local heritage and traditions at the scale of one village or city often found analogues in other parts of Java or Indonesia. This localist attitude was particularly strong in Java, having taken root in the context of a longstanding struggle to enhance the values of Javanese syncretic culture against the hegemonic tendencies of orthodox Islam (Ricklefs 2012).

20Debates that pit the universalistic ideas of heritage drawing on the concept of the “historic monument” against localist ideas rooted in the revival (or invention) of traditions echo the purported dichotomy in Indonesian society between “pan-Islamic modernists”, who discredit the non-Islamic components of Javanese culture, and “traditionalists”, who wish to see “the discourses and practices of Islam […] embedded in the heterodoxy of Javanese culture” (Kusno 2003: 58). In the field of mosque architecture, this debate is tied up with, and contributes to, the problematic definition of Indonesian culture and heritage, which pits the advocates of an internationalised architectural style, drawing on the design of Middle Eastern mosques (Moser 2012), against the advocates of a religious architecture based on local construction techniques and styles (Fawaid, Zamroni & Baharun 2019). In the latter view, ideas of modern architecture shall be “comprehended or absorbed within the larger framework of local culture” (Kusno 2003: 64). Similarly, heritage advocates have more recently claimed that international heritage doctrines shall be reinterpreted in line with local cultural systems and beliefs.

21In the new context brought about by the Reformasi, the villagers living in the vicinity of Borobudur were able to express their resentment:

[The local people] acted as if the Government had no control of management anymore and that the extant regulations had been relinquished. They held several public meetings and rallies to protest the Government “ownership” of Borobudur. Vendors and hawkers behaved uncontrollably. They freely entered and offered their merchandise in Zone II, even up to the top of the monuments. PT Taman Wisata Borobudur and Prambanan lacked the courage to stop them as this was an expression of the people’s euphoria after more than 30 years under the New Order authoritarian Government. But, this lapse in Government control was only temporary. Through mediation, gradually Government agencies regained their control of Borobudur. (Tanudirjo 2013: 73.)

22Local contestations flared up again in 2003, following the drafting of a provincial plan to build an art mall called Java World near the monument, which would have further reduced the economic gains from which hawkers could benefit by selling tourists souvenirs (Salazar 2014).

  • 9 JAKER is a non-governmental organisation founded in 2003. It was dissolved and then re-established (...)

23In the following years, BPPI heritage advocates developed strategies that helped to channel the villagers’ sense of disfranchisement and campaigned for greater agency for the villagers in the arenas of heritage and tourism. Some BPPI members, including Dwita Hadi Rahmi and Punto Wijayanto, are professors at Indonesian universities; others, such as Laretna Adhishakti, work as architects, heritage specialists and urban planners with ample international experience. The BPPI also attracts local activists and community organisers, including Jack Priyana (2015), leader of the non-profit agency Jaringan Kerja Kepariwisataan (Borobudur Tourism Network, JAKER)9. The BPPI leaders have carved out an ambivalent position as “cultural brokers” (Lewis & Mosse 2006), mastering the cultural codes of the international heritage community while harbouring in-depth knowledge of local cultural and political idiosyncrasies. This enables them “to mediate between different cultural and professional systems who ought to be able to import international knowledge in the field of heritage and urban planning into the local context” (Esposito 2018: 26).

24The dual role of some of the BPPI’s leaders as both researchers and heritage activists mirrors national ideas about the scope of the social sciences in Indonesian society. Following Koentjaraningrat, regarded as the pioneer of “Indonesian” anthropology and sociology, the social sciences were not aimed at the study of “vanishing cultures, but must focus on such problems as national integration, population pressure, sociocultural change, and the organisation of educational and administrative systems” (Bruner 1977: 691). In other words, researchers have a social responsibility, and research ought to generate practical benefits that contribute to the improvement of life conditions and the betterment of the society. Concomitantly, the participatory turn in international heritage politics has fostered similar approaches by social scientists based in Southeast Asia, who aim to produce knowledge while simultaneously influencing conservation practices (see Introduction and Pumketkao-Lecourt & Peyronnie, this issue).

25One component of the BPPI’s strategy was the creation of a new, inclusive heritage lexicon to be used in a more representative Indonesian heritage legislation, which is yet to come to fruition. According to Njoto (2016: 442), the law on cultural properties enacted by the Indonesian Government in 1992 (undang-undang nomor 5 Tahun 1992 tentang Benda Cagar Budaya) relied on “archaic formulations” of heritage values inherited from Dutch law. In 2003, the first Indonesian Heritage Year (Tahun Pusaka Indonesia), the BPPI, in collaboration with the Indonesian Ministry of Culture, authored the Charter for the Conservation of Indonesian Heritage (Piagam Pelesterian Pusaka Indonesia). The synoptic layout of this charter, with two columns of text in Indonesian and in English, reflects its intended readership. On the one hand, the charter aims to disseminate new heritage concepts and approaches in governmental circles, in the hope that a comprehensive heritage policy will soon be enacted. On the other hand, the charter targets the international heritage community in an effort to raise awareness of the specifics of Indonesian heritage.

26The point of departure for the charter was, according to Wijayanto (2016: 6),

a problem of translation and a lack of clarity in definition of heritage by the Indonesian government. The [1992] law used the word cagar budaya for “registered cultural heritage” and warisan budaya for “cultural heritage”. Furthermore, referring to the official international heritage charter, the network saw that heritage in Indonesia was missing notions of natural, tangible-intangible and cultural landscape heritage.

27The BPPI leaders believe that gaps in the heritage lexicon imply a lack of awareness of the plural and holistic nature of Indonesian heritage. The translation of international heritage concepts into corresponding Indonesian terms is therefore necessary to arrive at comprehensive representation of heritage. In the ensuing years, BPPI heritage discourse focused on two translated terms. The first is the word “heritage” itself, which is rendered by the ancient Javanese word pusaka. The second is the phrase “cultural landscape”, for which the BPPI provides the new translation saujana budaya.

  • 10 Translation from the French by the author. Original text: “Selon le comité, pusaka serait en effet (...)

28Njoto (2016) explains that pusaka is an ancient term of Malay or Minangkabau (West Sumatra) origin. It denotes a special category of powerful objects that can be inherited through the matrilineal line. These objects are imbued with a vital force which can take diverse forms; handmade objects and buildings, for instance, can be suffused with power through traditional craftsmanship and rituals. Replicas of objects that respect those traditions receive the power of pusaka. Natural elements such as mountains and forests can also be pusaka. The BPPI suggests that the term cagar budaya (“cultural properties”), used in the 1992 Indonesian law to define those objects worthy of protection, should be replaced by pusaka, “the only term that would be able to account for the diversity of heritage meanings in Indonesia, and in particular its twofold tangible and intangible value in Indonesian mindsets” (Njoto 2016: 442).10

29The international concept of cultural landscape emerged in the work of Western scientists, theoreticians and experts (including John Ruskin and Hugo Conwentz) in the early 20th century. As Cosgrove (2006: 51) explains, “the meaning of the English word landscape both encompasses framed views of specific sites and the scenic character of whole regions; it applies equally to graphic and textual images as to physical locations” (Daniels & Cosgrove 1989, quoted by Cosgrove 2006). According to Berque (1993), landscapes are defined by the extension of the human gaze from its point of origin to the horizon; however, different societies have used different criteria to determine the scope of a landscape. Throughout modern history, the concept of cultural landscape was closely associated with ideas of patriotism and attachment to the homeland, with nations using pictorial representations of characteristic regional scenes as emblematic of the nation as a whole. As these scenes (e.g. archeological or historic sites) were considered to embody the essential qualities of the nation’s territory and people, States classified them as national heritage in order to protect them from the changes brought about by modernisation. The term landscape, which initially had different connotations in different parts of Europe, gradually came to be associated with the idea of a “mapped territorialized space” that combined aesthetic connotations with an ‘affective, quotidian relationship of land and social life’ (ibid.: 55). In this sense, the concept of landscape allows for the inclusion of a wide range of symbols and sentimental and sensorial evocations in the definition of local cultures (Berque 1993).

30Nonetheless, the pictorial meaning of the word and its focus on visual perception played an important role in the construction of the international notion of cultural landscape by UNESCO, which emphasises the “representational approach” (Allerton 2009: 236). In 1925, human geographer Carl Sauer was the first to propose the compound term cultural landscape, which stressed the relationship between human beings and the natural environment. The first measures for the protection of landscape were established in the United States in the 1940s. In 1962, UNESCO adopted the Recommendation Concerning the Safeguarding of Beauty and Character of Landscapes and Sites that emphasised their moral, affective and spiritual components. Thirty years later, cultural landscapes were included as a new heritage category in the World Heritage Committee’s Operational Guidelines, stressing—in the wake of Sauer’s theories—the relationship between human groups and everyday environments. This contributed to the participatory turn in global heritage politics (see Introduction), which enhanced the positive role of local communities in heritage and environmental management (Négri 2016). In a similar vein, the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of 2003 identified local communities as key players in conservation. Two years later, in 2005, the Council of Europe’s Faro Convention put forth the notion of “heritage community”, defined as a group of people who are the bearers a particular form of heritage and are also directly involved in its transmission (Adell, Bendix, Bortolotto & Tanschek 2015; see Introduction). Against this backdrop of internationally and historically layered meanings and implications, the concept of cultural landscape allows for the inclusion of spiritual and sentimental aspects in the definition of heritage values, at the same time regarding ordinary people—villagers and city dwellers—as active players in the heritage arena in terms of both the definition of heritage and its management (see Introduction).

  • 11 The Borobudur Field Schools (BFS) are jointly organised by the Center for Heritage Conservation in (...)

31In the years following the publication of the Charter for the Conservation of Indonesian Heritage, Borobudur and its surrounds served as the main site of the BPPI’s efforts to develop the concept of saujana budaya; that is, cultural landscape with Indonesian characteristics. In 2004 the BPPI began organising the Borobudur Field Schools (BFS) (Kanki 2016), an annual gathering of students, researchers and professionals who examine the site and propose new conservation and tourist-management measures associated with the notion of saujana budaya.11 Budaya is the conventional translation of “culture”. Saujana is an ancient word of Sanskrit origin that is no longer used in contemporary Indonesian, although it is common in Malaysia, where it is usually interpreted as “the distance to the horizon” (Shaharir bin Mohamad Zain 2015, drawing on Young 2003 and 2008). Etymologically, saujana harks back to a pre-Islamic unit of measure that captures the distance that the human eye is capable of seeing, estimated at approximately 500 meters. The word derives from the Sanskrit yojana, which was originally used to measure the layers of the worlds that comprise Buddhist cosmology. Later, it was later given various definitions as a unit of measure in Hindu and Buddhist sources (Shaharir bin Mohamad Zain 2015: 102).

32In its choice of this word, the BPPI is implicitly critiquing the State translation of “cultural landscape” as landskap budaya. Contrary to the loan translation landskap, which draws on the Dutch landschap, the BPPI proposes a word to which a local sense of belonging and cultural roots can be attached. The translation is made possible by the contiguity of meaning between the concepts of cultural landscape and saujana budaya, with their shared focus on the notion of a panoramic view. The site of Borobudur is particularly well-suited to this purpose: standing atop the temple, the visitor or worshipper can take in a spectacular view of the plain encircled by five mountains (see fig. 1).

33Having thus incorporated the specialised language of heritage, pusaka and saujana budaya become “untranslatable words” (intraduisibles), in the sense defined by Cassin (2014: 26):

  • 12 Translation by the author from French: “D’où la définition que je propose pour les ‘intraduisibles’ (...)

Untranslatable words are not those that we do not translate, but those that we are always translating. They are the symptoms of the difference between languages that we immediately have to use in the plural form and that are beyond any attempt at sacralisation.12

34What makes pusaka and saujana untranslatable is the mobilisation of several layers of meaning, drawing on international heritage discourses, local cultural and religious reference systems, and the etymological backgrounds of the words.

35The etymology of the Malay word saujana ties in with this representational sense of cultural landscape. Furthermore, saujana is implicated in a two-way process of semantic addition and subtraction that gives rise to the localised concept of cultural landscape. On the one hand, its Sanskrit etymology and meaning as a unit of measure go unmentioned in the heritage discourse, in which the linguistic background of the word is reduced to the expression “as far as you can see” (sejauh mata memadang).13 On the other hand, saujana is ascribed new layers of meaning that construct the conceptual territory of the Indonesian cultural landscape. This conceptual territory reproduces fragments of discourse based on the UNESCO operational guidelines in the numerous texts written by BPPI leaders in both English and Indonesian. To give an example from the website of the Borobudur Field School:14

According to UNESCO, the meaning of Cultural Heritage is the legacy of physical artefacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future. Moreover, based on Indonesia Charter for Heritage Conservation, the heritage of Indonesia consists of the legacy of nature, culture, and saujana […] Saujana Heritage is a brand new knowledge studied about interaction between humankinds along their culture and nature (landscape) where they live. Therefore, it can be said that the legacy of nature and cultural heritage are part of Saujana Heritage.

36Moreover, the word saujana is imbued with a sacred conception of place, encompassing

how people imagine spirit forces and energies to emerge from or be connected to places, and to the attitudes that people may have to the “hidden” or mysterious realms lying beyond, behind or immanent within the visible earth. (Allerton 2009: 237.)

37The use of saujana in the heritage lexicon reflects broader tendencies during the Reformasi, which revitalised premodern sources of identity and order (Davidson & Henley 2007). Communities and local authorities asserted that local traditions that had survived through the centuries were not optimised for local and foreign audiences (Ricklefs 2012). In this context, saujana allows for the revival of both a forgotten term and Javanese conceptions of place and philosophies of life (filosofi hidup). As saujana, the cultural landscape combines the multifarious and occasionally contradictory elements of nature and culture, process and form, land and life, with the purpose of creating balanced and harmonious communities. Harmony (guyub), a key element in the philosophy of life based on the community’s sense of togetherness (kebersamaan), is achieved when its members enjoy a high level of mutual agreement and cooperation (gotong-royong), tolerance and solidarity in managing their communal space (Hadi Rahmi 2012; Prayitno 2017). When implemented in contexts faced with urgent environmental challenges, the local conception of social harmony is coupled with strategies of sustainable development which bolster the resilience of the community (Cho, Won & Kim 2016). In the BPPI discourse concerning Borobudur, the ideal of harmony is linked with the sacred philosophy of the mandala. This philosophy draws, as we shall see, on sacred and energetic rationalities which determine spatial organisation at the architectural and territorial scales, and which need to be respected to achieve a balanced life system. The revitalisation of the mandala contributes to harmony in the local communities, and therefore to the successful implementation of policies for sustainable heritage conservation and tourism management.

The Dialectic between Visible and Invisible: Borobudur as Mandala

  • 15 Translation from the French by the author. Original text: “au cercle magique, dont le centre affect (...)

38In Hindu-Buddhist traditions, a mandala is a cosmogonic diagram that represents the organisation of the universe as well as the spiritual progression of the worshiper towards enlightenment. Sanctuaries and urban configurations such as the ancient Khmer capitals of Angkor were designed in the shape of the mandala to provide a physical manifestation of the celestial order on Earth (Esposito 2018). In Indonesia, the concept of the mandala has its roots in pre-Islamic religious syncretism. Zimmer (1926, cited in Mus 1932), W.F. Stutterheim (1927, cited in Mus 1932) and Chandra (1980) argued that the plan of Borobudur represented a mandala, in line with the Tantric Buddhist tradition. By contrast, Brown (1986) questioned whether the sanctuary’s physical shape represented the tantric mandala. Klokke (1995) argued that the Saliendra dynasty practised Mahayana Buddhism, not Tantric Buddhism, and that the form of the temple is inconsistent with the constitutive elements and organisation of the tantric mandala. Nonetheless, the mandala hypothesis has not been rejected entirely. Snellgrove (1996: 480) suggested that Borobudur conforms to a more general idea of the mandala, which has no direct connection with tantrism: a mandala is simply “a circle (its literal meaning) of celestial and human beings (the latter usually with some supernatural association) arranged symmetrically around a central ‘Lord’ or ‘Lady’.” According to Mus (1932: 303), Zimmer (1926) viewed Borobudur as a mandala in the sense of a “magic circle, whose centre recalls the shape of a flourishing lotus flower, inscribed within a square frame”;15 the Buddha statues on the terraces symbolise the invisible petals of the lotus, and, walking towards the central figure, the worshipper gradually enters a magic world. In contrast with Zimmer, Mus (1932) himself argued that the metaphor of the mandala is too simplistic to illustrate the complexity of meanings and symbols tied up with the design of Borobudur. Later, Dumarçay (1973) characterised scholarly debates on Borobudur as particularly spirited because the sanctuary underwent five phases of construction that involved major shifts in religious doctrines and the builders’ intentions. This likely explains why scholars have been unable to agree on an organising principle for Borobudur (Brown 1986), including the concept of the mandala.

39The JICA experts nonetheless drew on the concept of the mandala in their 1979 management plan. In their view, Borobudur represents a stupa as well as Mount Meru, the mythical mountain regarded in Hindu and Buddhist mythologies as the axis of the world. The sacralised territory extended as far the five mountains—Sumbing, Telomoyo, Andong, Merbabu and Merapi—that encircle the temple. The JICA experts argued that the Saliendra dynasty built their capital based on the pattern of a specific type of mandala, the Pursha Mandala. This mandala was formed when various parts of the crushed body of a primitive man called Pursha were inhabited by the gods to prevent him from causing a commotion on Earth (see fig. 2) (JICA 1979: 6).

Fig. 2. The Pursha Mandala according to JICA

Fig. 2. The Pursha Mandala according to JICA

JICA (1979: 7).

40The JICA management plan aimed to render this sacred Buddhist cosmography visible by linking the three inner zones of protection with the three spiritual steps of the worshipper, who moves along the path from desire (zone 3, the “scenic conservation zone”) to meditation (zone 2, park development area) and, finally, to formlessness (zone 1, the sanctuary itself) (see fig. 3).

Fig. 3. View from the top of Borobudur towards the mountains that encircle the cultural landscape

Fig. 3. View from the top of Borobudur towards the mountains that encircle the cultural landscape

Photo: Adèle Esposito Andujar (2015).

41BPPI activists acknowledge the debate among Western scholars, but in their own analyses draw more heavily on vernacular knowledge which imbues local practices. References to this embodied, spiritual knowledge enable them to emancipate themselves from the longstanding colonial influence of the West in the production of local histories and conceptions of heritage. The BPPI—and local academics and activists who support the organisation—refer to a conception of the mandala that they see as a constitutive component of the Indonesian cultural landscape as saujana budaya. In this view, the mandala is not only the legacy of a past religious tradition documented by Western scholars, but also a sacred conception of space that is deeply embedded in the practices and values of the contemporary local population (Tanudirjo 2013). According to Priyana (2015), the Borobudur mandala reflects the Javanese concept of the mancapat (or mancalima), a sacred, compass-shaped diagram with a dot at its centre. The sanctuary itself represents the centre, “a small universe, showing the journey of purifying the human soul” (Priyana 2015: 108). The mancapat merges an Islamic symbolic pattern called kiblat panipat with the Hindu-Javanese pattern of the mandala. Vertically, the mancapat relates to the macroscopic relationships between humans and God; horizontally, it governs the relationships between humans and their environment. Villages can be organised according to this sacred scheme, with the central village surrounded by four other villages like the points of a compass (Ciptandi & Sachari 2018). The local market rotates between the five locations, giving each village the opportunity to sell its own products and meet its own needs (pancawarna). In this way, the sacred layout ensures the vitality of the entire village system (Maulidi & Rukmi 2019). In the Borobudur region, the temple at the centre spreads its energy towards the five surrounding mountains. For this reason, the perimeter of the cultural landscape to be protected should extend as far as the mountains that border the Magelang Regency, covering 372 villages and amounting to a total surface area of 1,085.73 km2.

42Echoing the idea of a social balance with the surrounding communities (Cosgrove 2006), Priyana (2015: 109) argues that the landscape and the temple form an inseparable whole “that should be protected and kept in harmony”. However, social harmony can be ensured only if the geometry of the mandala is maintained and reproduced, allowing the spiritual energy to flow continuously to and from Borobudur (Taylor 2003). Furthermore, if the mandala is successfully maintained, local actors—including the council, the managing authorities, the villagers and visitors to the temple—will be able to develop synergies in their respective work, enjoying “position and power within a particular area” while simultaneously sharing in the “responsibility and rights to make the system balanced” (Tanudirjo 2013: 77). This is in line with the local conception of harmony (guyub), which places special value on cooperation and solidarity.

43The “assemblage” of the concept of saujana budaya is underpinned by the dialectics between the visible and invisible spatial qualities of the cultural landscape that rely on a sacred conception of space. However, even as one can take in the full expanse of the landscape stretching from the temple to the mountains by standing atop Borobudur on a sunny day, the mandala remains invisible to the inexperienced eye: the continuous back-and-forth flow of energy cannot be grasped unless one is familiar with Javanese philosophy. Yet the mandala is omnipresent in the structures and spatial organisation of the Borobudur Regency, and its maintenance or degradation has tangible effects on society. Furthermore, the term saujana itself expresses a similar dialectic between the visible and the invisible. Its etymological background relates both to the capacity of the human eye to take in the Borobudur cultural landscape and to the layers of the worlds that comprise Buddhist cosmology. These layers of dialectic meaning foil any attempt to separate tangible from intangible, past from present, and monumental from ordinary in the concept of cultural landscape as assembled by the BPPI.

Living Near the Temple: The Mandala as a Tool for Social and Economic Empowerment

  • 16 The territory of Indonesia is divided into provinces. Provinces are made up of regencies and cities (...)

44In the line of thinking that sees Borobudur as a mandala, the eviction of local villagers who had lived for centuries within the radius of the temple’s spiritual power disturbed the flow of energy in the mandala. This disruption was compounded by institutional fragmentation and, in particular, the outsourcing of the management of zone 2 to a state-owned firm. One consequence of this is the unequal distribution of the benefits of tourism among the local population: as at 2015, the sub-district (kecamatan) of Borobudur was still the poorest of the Magelang Regency16 (Wijayanto 2016: 101). The BPPI believes that restoring the integrity of the mandala will revitalise the disfranchised cultural landscape. As Adishakti (2015: 13) explained,

several proposals for development of Borobudur have been prepared by local people and non-government organizations and focus on revitalization of the villages around Borobudur rather than on the centralization of the crafts traders in one single building.

45However, before the BPPI began organising its field schools at Borobudur, the local people were said to be unaware of the existence of the mandala and its role in their daily life (Tanudirjo 2013: 74). This lack of awareness suggests that the Borobudur mandala as described by BPPI members and activists is in fact a newly developed assemblage which draws on ancient conceptions of space. Its legitimacy is based on the belief that these conceptions are—and shall remain—immanent, for the spiritual force of the temple and the natural elements will never cease to act on the cultural landscape. This view has a pedagogical element, too, in that local leaders and villagers should be initiated into the concept to aid them in constructing a shared identity. As Tanudirjo (2013: 74) writes:

It cannot be denied that the construction of a new, wider Borobudur landscape was partly influenced by the academics who carry out research, teach field schools, and encourage community empowerment in the Borobudur area. Most of them work closely with and build good relationships with the local people. It was through the academics that the notion of the original Borobudur cultural landscape was introduced. In fact, most prominent leaders within the local community who actively engaged in the construction of the new Borobudur cultural landscape were generally closely associated with the academics. It was from academics that the local people learned about the Mandala concept, the cosmology of interrelations between the Borobudur monuments and the surrounding mountains and hills, the existence of an extinct lake around Borobudur, and even a basic knowledge of Cultural Resource Management (CRM). What they learned from the academics played a vital role in triggering their understanding of the wider cultural landscape. It also created a kind of new outward looking mind-set in which they framed their activities.

46This excerpt shows how local activists and academics position themselves within a grounded professional tradition which sees experts as the authoritarian bearers of knowledge in which local people must be educated in order to actively engage in conservation (see Introduction). The dichotomy separates bearers and receivers, experts and ordinary people. It is complicated here by the academics’ positioning of themselves not as producers of knowledge based on the disciplines of archaeology, history, art, and epigraphy—as they have done since colonial times—but rather as the legitimate advocates and interpreters of the vernacular knowledge that local people are to perform unthinkingly. Echoing similar experiences in Thailand (Denes & Sirisrisak 2013) and Laos (Karlström 2005), the reactivation of the spiritual aspects of religious architecture, to which vernacular knowledge continually refers, implies the mobilisation of elitist Hindu-Buddhist syncretic culture that only academics can master, and from which the old word saujana is derived. The interplay between elitist and vernacular cultures draws attention to the ambiguous and shifting position of heritage experts, caught between the competing representations of their role in contemporary times (see Introduction). While the participatory turn in heritage politics has recast heritage experts as facilitators, rather than deus ex machina of heritage recognition and management, various commentators have challenged their legitimacy and utility at a time when every individual—especially non-expert communities—is encouraged to commit to the heritage cause (Schofield 2014). The BPPI discourse encapsulates the dilemma in that it shows deference to the authority of the expert while simultaneously depicting the expert as the mere advocate of local interests.

  • 17 See e.g. Yudha Manggala (2019), Warga Lereng Merapi Siapkan Festival Lima Gunung 2019, URL: https:/ (...)
  • 18 Council of Europe Treaty Series, no. 199. Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cu (...)

47In practical terms, BPPI members and local scholars portrayed this ambivalent role as a two-way process of cultural exchange. The experts disseminated historical and academic knowledge as well as heritage awareness, while the villagers and local leaders were inspired by their teachings and increased their own agency through self-managed projects. By 2010, for example, nine tour routes had been developed involving ten villages located around Borobudur (Fatimah & Kanki 2012). Another example is the annual Five Mountains Festival, organised annually since 2001, which has fostered the construction of a shared identity among the five communities living around the mountains.17 This two-way process reflects the working methods of the BPPI on the ground, simultaneously promoting heritage awareness and emphasising existing legacies and sources of local attachment and pride. Although the members of the BPPI and the scholars who endorse their interpretations (such as Tanudirjo 2013) genuinely seem to believe that the mandala has a tangible existence on the ground, they also freely admit that the mandala is also a new strategic construct which they mobilise to foster a local sense of belonging and heritage awareness. The notion that communities have to be “built” through heritage echoes the ideas the Faro Conference (2005), which defines a “heritage community” as any relevant social group made “of people who value specific aspects of cultural heritage which they wish, within the framework of public action, to sustain and transmit to future generations” (art. 2).18 It also reflects the philosophy of the international concept of cultural landscape, according to which

landscapes are made by the people that engage with them, and in making landscapes, the people themselves are made: their sense of place, belonging, and their social identity is constructed alongside the construction of the landscape. (Smith & Gazin 2008: 14.)

48These two sides of the Borobudur mandala as viewed by the BPPI—at once ancient and new, tangible and intangible, existent and yet to be established—reveal the complexity of the heritage assemblage, which is ever negotiable and, indeed, always being renegotiated for specific situations and audiences.

49The social construction of heritage awareness goes beyond the value of the temple itself. The Borobudur Field Schools, academic works (inter al. Soeroso 2007), online articles and other texts of heritage propaganda19 bring scenic views together with contemporary crafts and practices as diverse as pottery, bamboo crafts, and tofu, honey and glass noodle production (Hadi Rami 2015; Priyana 2015) under the label saujana budaya Borobudur (“Borobudur heritage”). The existence of Borobudur heritage is supported by spatial discourses referring to “Borobudur land” and the “Borobudur area”, loosely defined by maps with concentric circles marking the varying degrees of potency of the temple within the mandala (Hadi Rahmi 2012, 2015). Both the texts and the maps render the conceptual territory of the cultural landscape visible in a spatial sense, with the aim of normalising this interpretation of the local heritage and helping the local population to become a cohesive community.

50BPPI members believe that stronger community ties in the Borobudur area will increase the power of the local people vis-à-vis the Government. Community building is thus a strategic process that increases the capacity of local inhabitants to manage heritage according to their own values and needs. In this view, the cultural landscape draws on existing legacies but also forms a new territorial and social creation: “The relation between natural and village cultural potencies creates a unique and qualified cultural landscape of the villages and all the Borobudur area” (Hadi Rahmi 2015: 39; italics added). In a similar vein, Tanudirjo (2013: 78) wrote that

this changing perspective [of the Borobudur cultural landscape] generates greater solidarity and stronger ties among the local people that significantly increases their bargaining power with the Government. Hence, the Borobudur cultural landscape has become a negotiating arena for a range of stakeholders.

51However, if the notion of the mandala as a tangible spatial force is integral to the concept of cultural landscape at the local scale, its boundaries are drawn to fit with a focused economic strategy that selects only nine or twelve villages (depending on the source) surrounding the temple for the tourism-related promotion of crafts and performances (Hadi Rahmi 2015; Priyana 2015). This incorporation of the mandala concept into a tourist-development programme reveals how cultural landscape management can mobilise and integrate various rationalities with sometimes competing purposes, thus creating new “forgotten” spaces; in this case, at the margins of the Borobudur sub-district.

Convergence and Divergence: The Inter-Normativity of Saujana Budaya

52Although the BPPI aims to involve the local population in delimiting and managing the heritage site, its preferred translation for the term “landscape”—saujana—is generally understood in Indonesia only by the cultural elite. The word has not (yet) gained currency among ordinary speakers of Indonesian, despite the BPPI’s efforts to disseminate the concept. The choice of this term legitimises the BPPI leaders as members of the Indonesian cultural elite, whose high social and cultural status lends them the authority to provide new heritage definitions that grasp the nature and scope of Indonesian legacies (unlike the Government’s failed attempts to do so). The BPPI aims to shape a new form of nationalism in which the democratic State shares the power to define national heritage, culture and identity with a plurality of actors from academics and heritage experts to villagers. In this sense, saujana budaya can be understood as an act of political defiance.

53The power to define concepts corresponds to the power to produce performative discourses (Livingstone 1992; Blommaert 2005). Heritage discourses revolve around concepts, and together they help to shape new norms and conservation practices. The 2003 Charter is emblematic in this respect. An example of soft power, the Charter sets out a series of non-binding regulations and new norms with the objective of making them socially acceptable. The influence of “soft law” on legal systems and official policies is known as inter-normativity (Chevallier 2013). In recent times, inter-normativity has increased hand in hand with the growth of civil-society associations. International and non-governmental organisations foster mutual relationships between different normative systems, and collective representations are constantly being reshaped as they shift from one level to another. The 2003 Charter and knowledge production surrounding saujana budaya contributed to foreign experts’ understanding of the value of Borobudur. They also played a part in expanding the scope of heritage law and regulations in Indonesia.

54As early as 2003, Richard Engelhardt (the then UNESCO Regional Advisor for Culture in Asia and the Pacific) and colleagues were asked by the World Heritage Committee to undertake a “reactive monitoring mission” to assess the state of conservation of Borobudur. At that time, UNESCO was focused on projects involving the construction of new roads, shopping centres and retail precincts near Borobudur. In their report, the experts explained that Borobudur forms the core of a broad mandala extending over the Kedu Plain. Between Borobudur itself and Mount Merapi, they added, are more than forty temples or ritual shrines:

These temples are located along water courses in a pattern that is reminiscent of the area around Mt. Besaki in Bali, suggesting that the ritual pattern of a cultural landscape centered on Borobudur has even more ancient pre-Buddhist roots based on indigenous philosophical traditions based on a mountain-water. (Engelhardt et al. 2003: 39.)

55In response, the World Heritage Committee suggested that the boundaries of the protected site should include the wider area surrounding the temple. Three years later, Giovanni Boccardi, Graham Brooks and Himalchuli Gurung were given the same monitoring mission. They endorsed the work of foreign scholars whose arguments were based on ancient material evidence, called for more research on the mandala hypothesis, and asserted that the development of “tourism products and attractions in the surrounding cultural landscape, based loosely on the concept of the mandala […] will provide opportunities for local community members to gain direct economic benefits from tourism from the main site” (Boccardi, Brooks & Gurung 2016: 10). Following a similar line of thought, AusAID, the Australian agency for international development, funded a project entitled Local Community Livelihood in Cultural Industries and Heritage Tourism (UNESCO 2014), whose main objective was to develop the potential of twenty villages in the Borobudur sub-district. To this end, valuable natural sites, handicrafts and traditional rituals to be promoted for the purposes of tourism were identified by means of cultural mapping.

56Cultural mapping is an international planning tool that aims to involve local communities in the identification and exploitation of assets, including heritage, commemorative sites and local products. Cultural mapping draws on two existing strategies of cartographic representation: indigenous mapping, which was developed in Canada, Australia, Central America and the Philippines from the 1960s, and counter-mapping, which allows communities to draw their own maps as a way of challenging official ones produced by the State. Following its endorsement by the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity in 2005, cultural mapping has gained in popularity and reach. Local and foreign experts based in the West, but also in Asia (see e.g. Pillai 2013), have written manuals and operational toolkits to assist local actors in the implementation of cultural mapping approaches. The aim is to raise heritage awareness among community members and provide them with the technical knowledge and tools to draw their own maps (or to have the experts draw maps on their behalf). Broadly, cultural mapping challenges official representations and policies and gives a voice to the marginalised: by revealing obliterated legacies and practices, the new maps contribute to community empowerment (Crawhall 2009; Duxbury, Garret-Petts & MacLennan 2018).

57At Borobudur, a network of experts was developed under the auspices of the Australian fund to pursue cultural mapping in the twenty selected villages. AusAID delegated the inventorying work to Yayasan Trisakti Arum Lestari (YTAL), a Yogyakarta-based non-governmental organisation in the fields of “culture, non formal & community education and small scale business in Yogyakarta-Borobudur "surrounding area" [sic].20 This transnational network of experts, which worked under the guidance of Joseph Lo (an international specialist in cultural industries) and collaborated with the Indonesian Ministry of Culture, managed to bypass the self-proclaimed authority of the BPPI in defining the conceptual territory of the cultural landscape by providing a new inventory of the local assets to be promoted for the purposes of tourism. Nevertheless, the cultural mapping approach shares some common ground with the concept of saujana budaya. First, the mapping process is intended to contribute to the construction of a shared community identity and is linked with economic growth, to be achieved through the exploitation of local cultural industries (in this case, mainly food production and local handicrafts). Second, as in the tourism strategy proposed by the BPPI, the spatial boundaries of the project correspond to the borders of the Borobudur sub-district. The distance of each village from the temple is carefully measured to evaluate its tourism potential for short-stay visitors. However, the YTAL did not take into account the territorial dimension of the concept of saujana. Unlike the BPPI, which sees economic development as the result and the proof of the balance produced and reproduced by the mandala over time, the AusAID project locates its legitimacy in the economic pillar of the sustainable development doctrine, with the objective of improving villagers’ living conditions. In this framework, an inventory of cultural industries is the first step in a linear development process that will bear fruit in the near future. These divergent approaches show that cultural landscape and community involvement are flexible phenomena that can be assembled in various ways, with reference to international doctrines as well as local understandings of space and place. At the same time, the common ground between the AusAID project and the BPPI discourse shows how international concepts take root at the local scale through a process of assemblage that sustains diverse interpretations and mirrors the competition between networks of actors fighting for primacy in the control of words, definitions and discourses.

  • 21 Translation of the French text by the author: Original text: “la perméabilisation croissante des sy (...)

58In this context, local and foreign experts were able to exert pressure on the Indonesian Government in various ways. On the one hand, if the BPPI’s local ascendency was strong enough to federate communities, it may also foster political opposition to the Government. On the other hand, foreign experts may recommend that the World Heritage Committee remove Borobudur from the UNESCO “magic list of global status” (Askew 2010) if development projects and tourism management were to compromise the universal value of the site as defined by UNESCO. As a result, governmental conservation approaches incorporated, albeit in a selective and partial way, some of the BPPI’s suggestions. In 2010, the Government enacted a new law concerning cultural properties (Undang-undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 11 Tahun 2010 tentang Cagar Budaya) that addressed some of the experts’ criticisms. This law assimilated fragments of concepts and discourses on cultural landscape as assembled by local and foreign experts, while neglecting or substantially reshaping others. Such selective appropriation is symptomatic of the inter-normativity between soft and hard law, and more precisely of the “increasing ‘permeability of legal systems’ that have to accept the intrusion of norms that they have not produced themselves, sometimes deploying ‘immunity defences’ to be able to assimilate them” (Chevallier 2013: 2, drawing on Delmas-Marty 1994: 132).21

  • 22 Translation of the Indonesian text by the author. Original text: “Revitalisasi potensi situs cagar (...)
  • 23 Translation of the Indonesian text by the author. Original text: “bahwa undang-undang nommer 5 Tahu (...)

59The new law translates the phrase “cultural landscape” as landskap budaya. Brief definitions of the concept draw on UNESCO’s operational guidelines, but not on the BPPI discourse. The law does, however, incorporate the idea that a heritage site has a “potency” that derives from its formal shape, location and social function and that should be “revitalized” (art. 80).22 Acknowledging that the ancient law does not fully take into account the communities’ “development level, demands and needs”23, the law further states that cultural properties are to be used for the purpose of increasing the quality of life of the community (masyarakat) (art. 82), and that community should be involved in managing any projects relating to cultural conservation (art. 99). Finally, and somewhat paternalistically, the law declares that national and regional governmental authorities are responsible for raising community awareness of the value of cultural properties; a responsibility that local experts had claimed as their own.

  • 24 Quote taken from the English version of the text. The Indonesian text is as follows: “Kebudayaan In (...)
  • 25 Pancasila is the philosophy of the Indonesian State, comprising five principles: belief in the one (...)

60The text of the law reveals a certain interplay between integration and omission, assimilation and reinterpretation, which mirrors the limits of the Government’s ability to broaden the scope of national heritage policy. The “immunity defences” against parts of the BPPI discourse—and against the translation of the term “cultural landscape” as saujana budaya—are vital to allowing the Government to (appear to) maintain control over heritage concepts and discourse, thus retaining the power to define national values and identity. Significantly, the law is followed by a text entitled “elucidation to the law of the Republic of Indonesia no. 11 of 2010 concerning cultural properties” (penjelasan atas undang-undang n° 11/2010), which underlines the Government’s role in defending the “noble values” of the Indonesian nation which “should strengthen the bond of unity and sense of unity for the realization of the nation ideal in the future” (art. 1).24 The ambivalence of the word masyarakat in Indonesian, which in English can mean either “community” or “society”, allows the Government to refer nebulously to processes of identity construction at the local and the national level using a single term, in a manner that is consistent with the slogan of the Pancasila regime25 “unity in diversity”.

  • 26 Peraturan Presiden Republik Indonesia Nomor 58 Tahun 2014 tentang rencana tata ruang kawasan Borobu (...)

61The broadening of the Government’s conservation approach is ultimately reflected at the local scale in the Presidential Regulation of the Spatial Plan of the Borobudur Temple,26 which follows up on preliminary works for establishing a spatial plan for the temple area begun in 2007. The regulation defines Borobudur as a ‘national strategic area’ (kawasan strategi nasional); that is,

  • 27 Translation of the Indonesian text by the author. Original text: “wilayah yang penataan ruangnya di (...)

a region that is given priority in the field of territorial planning because of the important part it plays in the field of national sovereignty, the defence and security of the state, the economy, social culture and/or the environment, including those regions listed as World Heritage.27

62In defining the Borobudur area as such, the presidential regulation sets up a new protective boundary with a five-kilometre radius around Borobudur temple. The protected area now encompasses a broad range of meticulously enumerated assets, including villages, infrastructure, natural resources and communities. The regulation does not refer to “cultural landscape”, instead using the more neutral and abstract kawasan (area, region) from the administrative jargon of territorial planning. Nonetheless, the plan gives the local communities a role in the preservation and development of the Borobudur region. The issue of community involvement is the common thread running through the inter-normative circulation of collective representations of heritage and regulations at the national and transnational scale.


63This paper has argued that the translation of the international heritage lexicon into national languages can play a fundamental role in the local “assemblage” of heritage concepts. In non-Western contexts, translation draws on local words that encapsulate multiple layers of ancient and contemporary meaning. The assemblage of heritage concepts with local characteristics can also involve sacred beliefs and traditional value systems which local actors wish to bring to the attention of the international community. Translation into national languages can have a strong political dimension: different translations are possible based on similarity or contiguity of meaning as well as loan translations. The case of the “cultural landscape with Indonesian characteristics” shows how experts and national authorities use translation as a tool to claim power in the national heritage arena. The power to define words and concepts is closely associated with the power to define (or impose) representations, norms and practices.

64The assemblage produced by the BPPI deliberately and selectively draws on both international discourses and local culture. It contributes to the emergent reflection on the specificities of Javanese heritage, which places value on the spiritual, energetic and religious power of the territorial legacies associated with the Borobudur sanctuary. Through an implicit synecdoche, the specificities of this heritage are considered representative of Indonesia as a whole and thus as constitutive of its national heritage. In his reflection on landscapes, Berque (1993) argues that that the validity of a reference system can be assessed by questioning its relevance outside of the reference system itself. In recent years, the BPPI’s representatives, supported by numerous Indonesian scholars and graduate students, have collectively performed such an “assessment” by experimentally evaluating the applicability of the concept of saujana budaya to other heritage sites in Indonesia, including historic urban landscapes (saujana kota) (e.g. Utami 2013; Soeroso & Susilo 2017) and rural and natural landscapes (e.g. Budianta 211), such as the traditional agrarian system of subak practised in Bali (e.g. Kubontubuh 2015).

65On the other hand, the increasing visibility of Indonesian heritage advocates in the international heritage arena (through publications, involvement in regional and international heritage networks, education and training, etc.) means that saujana budaya has also been tested beyond national borders. Along with other heritage concepts, such as pusaka, the notion of saujana budaya contributes to the ongoing dialectical reflection on the specificities of “Asian heritages” that sustain the construction of regional identities, while challenging the longstanding Western monopoly on determining the value of human heritage. In contrast, the lack of widespread adoption of saujana budaya at the national scale, both in everyday usage and in governmental discourses, warrants investigation by means of further fieldwork-based research. It remains unclear whether broader appropriation of the concept is just a matter of time, or whether other internal and external factors—including governmental resistance, but also the potential lack of utility of the concept as a tactical tool to help ordinary people increase their heritage agency—will impede its dissemination within Indonesian heritage politics.

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Note de fin

1 The term assemblage has previously been used as the translation of Deleuze and Guattaris’s ([1980] 2002) philosophical concept of agencement. This translation has been criticised for failing to grasp the full content and complexity of the concept (Phillips 2015), and other translations have been proposed, such as arrangement (e.g. Dosse [2007] 2010). Nonetheless, I have opted for assemblage because it is broadly used in the Anglo-Saxon literature on architecture (Frichot & Loo 2013), urban space and place-making (Farías & Bender 2010).

2 In the field of translation, a loan translation (calque) is a word or phrase that has been translated from the source language word-by-word or root-for-root, and that creates a new word in the target language.

3 The director’s representative of the UNESCO Office in Jakarta, Shahbaz Khan, declared during a speech at an exhibition organised under the auspices of UNESCO to promote cultural dialogue between World Heritage Sites in Afghanistan and Indonesia (Atrium Galeria Mall, Yogyakarta, 10 January 2017): “The cultural landscapes and the archaeological ruins of the Bamiyan Valley and the Borobudur Complex illustrate the diversity of the culture and religion in the two countries. We hope that this exhibition will raise awareness and increase the respect that we have for these two masterpieces, legacies of Buddhism, and encourage the ongoing works of preservation and promotion.” Translated from the Indonesian by the author. Original text: “Landskap budaya dan reruntuhan arkeologis Lembah Bamiyan dan Kompleks Candi Borobudur menggambarkan keragaman budaya dan agama di kedua negara. Diharapkan pameran ini mampu meningkatkan kesadaran serta rasa hormat terhadap kedua mahakarya peninggalan Budha ini dan mendorong upaya perlindungan dan promosi yang berkelanjutan.” . Source: UNESCO Selenggarakan Pameran Simpang Budaya, URL:, last accessed 13th of August 2019.

4 Indonesia declared its independence on 17 August 1945. The Dutch Government resisted, however, and did not acknowledge the country’s independence until 1949.

5 The management plan was based on the Regional Master Plan Study (1973-1974) and the Project Feasibility Study (1975-1976), commissioned by JICA and conducted by Pacific Consultants International and Japan City Planning under the supervision of the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation, Communication and Tourism, the Ministry of Culture, the regional government and the University of Gadjah Mada.

6 “Zone 1 for protection and prevention of destruction of the physical environment” (44.8 ha); “zone 2 for provision of park facilities for the convenience of visitors and preservation of the historical environment” (87.1 ha); “zone 3 for regulation of land use around the parks and preservation of the environment while controlling development in areas surrounding the parks” (10.1 km2); “zone 4 for maintenance of the historical scenery and prevention of destruction of the scenery” (26 km2); “zone 5 for undertaking archeological surveys over a wide area and prevention of destruction of undiscovered archeological monuments” (78.5 km2) (JICA 1979: 19).

7 Translation from the Indonesian by the author. Italics added. Original text: “Walapun pembangunannya tidak bebas dari pengaruh agama Budha Mahayana [...]. Struktur dan ragam hias Candi Borobudur menunjukkan kekhususan yang mencerminkan kebudayaan bangsa Indonesia.

8 Zone 1 includes Borobudur temple and the minor sanctuaries of Mendut and Pawon, to be managed by the central government; zone 2 surrounds the archaeological park and is managed by the State-run firm; zone 3 is aimed at restraining negative development around zone 2 and is managed by local authorities.

9 JAKER is a non-governmental organisation founded in 2003. It was dissolved and then re-established in 2005. It brings together farmers, tour guides, vendors, village chiefs and local tourism entrepreneurs in opposition of Government projects for commercial development of Borobudur’s surroundings. The organisation promotes sustainable tourism through the conservation of the Borobudur cultural landscape.

10 Translation from the French by the author. Original text: “Selon le comité, pusaka serait en effet le seul terme capable de signifier la diversité de l’acception du patrimoine en Indonésie et en particulier la double valeur matérielle et immatérielle des héritages dans les mentalités indonésiennes.

11 The Borobudur Field Schools (BFS) are jointly organised by the Center for Heritage Conservation in the Department of Architecture and Planning at Gadjah Mada University in collaboration with the Takada-Kanki Laboratory in the Department of Housing and Environmental Design, Graduate School of Urban and Environmental Engineering, Kyoto University, Japan, as well as the Jogja Heritage Society. The participants come from numerous countries, including Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Egypt, China, Thailand, Korea, Indonesia and France. For this reason, the organisers regard the field schools as major tools for the circulation of heritage knowledge and models of conservation practice.

12 Translation by the author from French: “D’où la définition que je propose pour les ‘intraduisibles’: non pas ce qu’on ne traduit pas, mais ce qu’on ne cesse pas de (ne pas) traduire. Symptômes de la différence des langues, à mettre aussitôt au pluriel, au plus loin de toute sacralisation”.

13 “This charter also highlighted the use of saujana in a translated cultural landscape—the Indonesian word saujana means ‘as far as the eye can see’” (Adishakti 2015: 1).

14 URL:, last accessed the 2nd of August 2019.

15 Translation from the French by the author. Original text: “au cercle magique, dont le centre affecte justement la forme d’un lotus épanoui, inscrit dans un encadrement carré”.

16 The territory of Indonesia is divided into provinces. Provinces are made up of regencies and cities that are further subdivided into kecamatan (sub-districts). Kecamatan are made up of desa (villages, rural communities) and/or kelurahan (urban areas/communities).

17 See e.g. Yudha Manggala (2019), Warga Lereng Merapi Siapkan Festival Lima Gunung 2019, URL:, last accessed the 3rd of August 2019.

18 Council of Europe Treaty Series, no. 199. Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, URL:, last accessed the 4th of August 2019.

19 See e.g. the web blog “Saujana heritage”, URL:, last accessed the 13th of August 2019.

20 YTAL website:, last accessed the 10th of August 2019.

21 Translation of the French text by the author: Original text: “la perméabilisation croissante des systèmes juridiques, qui sont amenés à accepter l’intrusion de normes qu’ils n’ont pas produites, quitte à déployer des ‘défenses immunitaires’ pour les assimiler”.

22 Translation of the Indonesian text by the author. Original text: “Revitalisasi potensi situs cagar budaya atau kawasan cagar budaya memperhatikan tata ruang, tata letak, fungsi sosial, dan/atau lanskap budaya asli berdasarkan kajian” (art. 80).

23 Translation of the Indonesian text by the author. Original text: “bahwa undang-undang nommer 5 Tahun 1992 tentang Benda Cagar Budaya sudan tidak sesuai dengan perkembangan, tuntutan, dan kebutuhan hukum dalam masyarakat sehingga perlu diganti”(p. 2).

24 Quote taken from the English version of the text. The Indonesian text is as follows: “Kebudayaan Indonesia yang memiliki nilai-nilai luhur harus dilestarikan guna memperkuat pengamalan Pancasila, meningkatkan kualitas hidup, memperkuat kepribadian bangsa dan kebanggan nasional, memperkukuh persatuan bangsa, serta meningkatkan kesejahteraan masyarakat sebagai arah kehidupan bangsa” (p. 55).

25 Pancasila is the philosophy of the Indonesian State, comprising five principles: belief in the one and only God, a just and civilised humanity, a unified Indonesia, democracy and social justice.

26 Peraturan Presiden Republik Indonesia Nomor 58 Tahun 2014 tentang rencana tata ruang kawasan Borobudur dan sekitarnya.

27 Translation of the Indonesian text by the author. Original text: “wilayah yang penataan ruangnya diprioritaskan karena mempunyai pengaruh sangat penting secara nasional terhadap kedaulatan negara, pertahanan dan keamanan negara, ekonomi, sosial budaya, dan/ atau lingkungan, termasuk wilayah yang telah ditetapkan sebagai warisan dunia (art. 1).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. Location of Borobudur Temple in Java and protective perimeters established around the temple
Crédits Map: Adèle Esposito Andujar and Ariel Shepherd, 2020.
Fichier image/jpeg, 288k
Titre Fig. 2. The Pursha Mandala according to JICA
Crédits JICA (1979: 7).
Fichier image/jpeg, 207k
Titre Fig. 3. View from the top of Borobudur towards the mountains that encircle the cultural landscape
Crédits Photo: Adèle Esposito Andujar (2015).
Fichier image/jpeg, 622k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Adèle Esposito Andujar, « Heritage Assemblages. The Heritage Site of Borobudur (Indonesia) as a Cultural Landscape »Moussons, 36 | 2020, 125-161.

Référence électronique

Adèle Esposito Andujar, « Heritage Assemblages. The Heritage Site of Borobudur (Indonesia) as a Cultural Landscape »Moussons [En ligne], 36 | 2020, mis en ligne le 19 novembre 2020, consulté le 03 mars 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Adèle Esposito Andujar

Adèle Esposito Andujar is CNRS researcher, currently affiliated to the IRASEC (Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia, based in Bangkok). She was trained as an architect and urban planner at the Polytechnic School of Turin (Italy), with a specialization in cultural heritage conservation. Her research works interrogate the interplay between heritage-making processes and urban development in Southeast Asian secondary cities and metropolises. Adèle Esposito Andujar served as a lecturer at Leiden University Faculty of Humanities, SciencesPo Paris, and the Doctoral School « Ville, Transports et Territoires » of the University of Paris Est. She co-edits the book series « Asian Heritages » published by Amsterdam University Press. Her most recent research works deal with the rise of Chinese transnational actors in the urban development of Southeast Asian cities, namely in the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Since January 2020, she is the main investigator of the research program « The Cities of the New Silk Road in Southeast Asia » funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR).

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