The Geocultural Heritage of the Silk Roads

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Today the Silk Road is proclaimed to be a history and heritage shared by more than four-billion people, incorporating oceans and continents. Governments, museums, authors, filmmakers and heritage agencies have become adept at telling a story of pre-modern globalisation that weaves together a multitude of locations and events stretched across dozens of countries. As one of the most compelling geocultural imagin- aries of the modern era, the Silk Road has become a remarkably elastic and seductive concept for heritage making; a paradigm to which a plethora of landscapes and cultural forms are being recovered and preserved, dis- played and curated to tell stories of trade, exchange, friendship and cosmopolitan cultures. Through China’s Belt and Road Initiative, media projects and festivals now celebrate Silk Road cuisine, dress, craft, music, dance, or loftier ambitions of civilisational dialogue. Little attention has been paid to how this fast proliferating narrative of history is emerging as a vast platform for heritage making, museology and cultural policy. This paper takes up such themes, tracing how the concept has evolved since its invention in the late nineteenth century. This provides the foundations for more critical readings of the Silk Road as a unifying concept of heritage and history.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Heritage Studies
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


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