POPEI - Coll

ANR PROJECT 18 CE 27- 020

Cultural Policies, Local Heritage

and Collaborative Approaches in Eastern Insulindia

funded by


© D. Guillaud

The project is conducted by two research units: PALOC
(Local heritage, environment and globalization) and CASE (Centre South-East Asia), with MNHN (National Museum of Natural History) and University of Brasilia as partners.

Funded by the French ANR (Agence nationale de la recherche), POPEI-coll (2019-2021) aims at renewing cultural policies based on heritage, all too often “top-down” and western-inspired and whose objectives are far removed from the conceptions and concerns of source populations, although their cultures are supposed to be promoted by governments.

Coordination : Dominique Guillaud & Dana Rappoport

© D. Guillaud

In order to propose a new dialogue between policies, science and local heritage, the project will seek to reveal the social stakes of heritage in non-Western societies and, drawing inspiration from local categories and their mode of appropriation and management, will propose new practices for the vernacular enrichment of cultural policies.

The entire project will be based on collaborative principles stemming from ethical, legal and epistemological imperatives, and will imply a co-construction of the principles and methods of the project, as well as of its modes of restitution.

POPEI will be carried out in two countries with contrasting cultural policies. The comparative fields are represented by the Eastern tip of Flores Island in Indonesia and by the Island of Atauro in Timor-Leste, the small sizes of which offer well-defined study areas in a diversified cultural area recently the target of major tourism development plans.

The project, testing interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches, will be carried out by a team of researchers from IRD, MNHN, INALCO and CNRS who combine their fields of expertise for this comparative approach in association with Brazilian partners and backed by Timorese and Indonesian institutions (ATL-Asosiasi Tradisi Lisan, UNTL - National University of Timor Leste, SEAC - State Secretary for Art and Culture, etc).

After studying the functioning and principles of national cultural heritage policies, the project will consider how new cultural policies can be conceived, taking into account the so-called "emic" perspective on meaningful objects, places and knowledge to which local communities attribute different values.

Logo CASE.png
At governmental and administrative levels: Analysing and categorising objects and practices of cultural heritage policies

Coordination: Dana Rappoport and Dominique Guillaud

This Work package, which draws on approaches in anthropology of development (Olivier de Sardan 2008), focuses on the study of institutional cultural policies - knowing that local societies also have institutions, dealt with in WP2. An analytical grid will highlight, at different scales, the organization of the cultural policies field, their institutions, apparatus, stakeholders and the means implemented, as well as their ideological and political categories. In the target regions, the heritage policies will be questioned in several of their dimensions:

1 – organization and objects: This Work package will analyse the institutions by crossing national and local scales, by assessing the weight of international concepts and Western stereotypes. The aim is to describe the representation of local and non-local heritage and its trajectory at the level of governmental institutions, by analysing the functioning of the latter and their legal systems, and by identifying their various levels of authorities. Work package1 will identify the nature of objects listed as heritage by these institutions (generally sacred houses, textiles, dances and songs, but also natural parks).

2 – goals: As public policies, heritage policies serve the aims of international bodies or nations, which question the underlying ideologies (political, religious, social...), their intentions, their origin and their meaning. It will be necessary to compare the two areas selected and the issues (or lack of issues) that motivate the institutions' actions. The impact of international governance on national constructions will be studied.

3 - terms and effects: These policies, implemented with more or less consultation or coercion, should be compared with other types of authorities such as international institutions, NGOs, different levels of local administration, different collective (religious or customary) and private initiatives. Finally, we will draw up an initial assessment of the effects of these heritage policies, whether intended or not, negative or positive, on the construction of national identity and that of local communities.

At the village levels (customary territories): Documenting local categories of heritage

Coordination: Laure Emperaire and Nicolas Césard

This approach aims at understanding the elements and relationships that contribute to the cultural identity of local peoples, i.e. what they consider necessary for their perpetuation and what they consider essential to preserve, transmit, reconfigure or abandon. The analytical work will examine what is considered as heritage in local groups (and by whom), paying particular attention to certain elements on the verge of extinction
(orality, weaving, pottery...) and to the value attributed to these elements, and the reasons for their abandonment.
Our current studies discern local categories of heritage, different from those of cultural policies: sacred places, plant and animal resources the access to which is conditioned by ancestors and various “non-human agents”, history, narratives, knowledge, know-how and musical practices. They will be documented with their social, symbolic and technical values, bringing together local and scientific knowledge. The appropriation and management regimes of these heritage elements (at the level of the linguistic group, the customary territory, or the clan) as well as the local issues of their transmission, conservation and enhancement will be analysed, questioning their vulnerability or resilience. This section raises in particular the question of the commons and the scales and modalities of communal management. The study will focus on:

1 – Local categories and representations: What local social categories can fit into the notion of heritage?
This concept, Western-inspired, can prove to be inoperative or even contrary to the customary conception. If the Malay concepts of heritage (warisan, pusaka, pelestarian budaya, kearifan lokal, nilai-nilai Budaya…) are well known all over eastern Indonesia, what kind of representations and local categories do these words
correspond to within the local communities? This last point calls for a study, symmetrical to that of WP1, of elements that can be assimilated to it: organizations, objects, purposes, apparatus that people would like to preserve, transmit, promote. Specific elements can inspire an understanding of local cultures, for examples:

The concepts of lulik (tetun) and geraran (Lamaholot) refer to the universe of "underground" and ancestral forces that condition the functioning of the human and nonhuman worlds and permeate the whole territory. The "gradients of sacredness" need to be explored.

The local categories of orality in Flores and East Timor are at the very heart of ritual practices, many of which are on the verge of disappearing (such as for example riddle songs mobilizing knowledge about nature); the aim will be to question the populations about the urgency of their inventory and to identify endangered local heritage.
The research should identify the recognized bearers of such heritage and their wish (or absence thereof) to see it transmitted, disclosed and/or valued by heritage policies (see WP3). It will also be a question of understanding the positions of the various local groups, which generally are a heterogeneous community including various and dissymetrical relations (elder/younger clans, land masters, men/women, elderly/youth, dominant or nondominant lineages, traditional or administrative chiefs, etc.).

2 – Modes of operation, ownership and management of local assets: Some collective repositories of local culture, in particular specific resources (fishing systems, forest resources, groves etc.), obey a regime of commons, i.e. places and systems that are collectively managed, preserved and transmitted between generations. Their appropriation regimes are complex, interwoven with private appropriation elements, and need to be documented. On the one hand, they constitute mechanisms of social cohesion, often coupled with customary ritual systems (and sometimes seized upon by local churches); on the other hand, the way they operate is likely to inspire adapted cultural policies at the local scale (see WP3). The team should not ignore the political, identity or territorial issues raised by the heritage claims of local groups. It should attempt to clarify the intrinsic issues of local heritage or their equivalents, as well as issues that may arise from our work.

At the operational scale: Ensuring the recognition and sustainability of local heritage
articulating the two previous levels

Coordination: Amandine Péquignot and Kelly da Silva

Based on the achievements of the two previous WPs, this WP3, the most experimental, aims to formalize scientific and technical practices to make them operational in the framework of cultural policies. The entire approach opens up to several questions:

1 – The question of interculturality between cultural practitioners, local communities and researchers, and between the communities themselves, since several of them will be brought together in the construction of an encyclopedia of knowledge in each of the fields. These practices of interculturality (i.e. the conception and place given to other cultures and the posture adopted towards them) are a key element in changing the practices of the heritage policies. In particular, the collaborative approach involves researchers taking into account local communities as partners and not mere informants, modifying the human and social sciences approach and engages them with the communities.
2 – The collaborative field itself is a research object. Thus, POPEI-Coll will endeavour to monitor the changes induced by the project (participants or actors in heritage development / heritage trajectories / local or national impacts of enhancement), the biases it implies and the interests or limits of the approach.
3 – The operational nature of our work. One of the commitments to the communities consists of meeting, within the means and time available, their expectations in terms of the enhancement of their culture. These communities, composed of stakeholders with different objectives, position themselves in the arena of future tourism development by trying to preserve the references of their culture, but they also seek economic advantages. Researchers are called upon on these two occasions and must reflect on appropriate responses, in dialogue with local groups.

The main objective of WP3, based on the mapping of the various local and regional cultural leaders and the interplay of forces involved will be to put forward proposals that will improve social acceptability and community ownership, and thus the sustainability of policies. Several issues will be explored:
- Local approaches for the enhancement of local culture. For example, people show little interest in ethnographic collections, objects, which lose their meaning when they are taken out of the local society. On the other hand, some (but not all) may be in favour of mapping the sacred areas of their territory, which could be used in a dialogue with decision-makers, indicating both the elements to be protected (in the face of infrastructure developments) and the elements to be enhanced in a tourism logic.
- POPEI-Coll plans to draw inspiration from the local conception of heritage within the social systems (organization, management, transmission and reproduction) for their enhancement and for the development of cultural policies targeting communities. Local management practices for shared property, resources and knowledge can support conservation and management of planned developments.
- The analysis will determine the relevant levels to consider action in terms of cultural policies: local communities, prominent political leaders, traditional authorities, churches, NGOs, ministries...; and the scales where the impact of our work will be optimal: publicization in the capitals rather than in the hamlets, scientific events more at a national than a provincial level, etc.



© D. Rappoport


© L. Emperaire

The peninsula of Tanjung Bunga lies at the eastern most part of the island of Flores, and is a district of the kabupaten Flores Timur. It covers  234 km2 and had a population of 12 000 in 2015 (https://florestimurkab.bps.go.id/), distributed in approximately 15 villages. It is located 30 km north from the town of Larantuka, beyond the volcano Ilé Mandiri; the whole region is a combination of volcanic soils, sediments and coral formations on the sea-shore. In this particularly dry area, the Lamaholot-speaking populations live off the cultivation of rice and maize with slash and burn techniques, and off fishing. A few decades ago, cashew trees have been planted and nuts harvested once a year as a cash crop.

The island of Atauro covers 140 km2 and had a population of about 8,000 in 2015 (National Directorate of Statistics Timor-Leste). It is located approximately 25 km north of the capital of East Timor, Dili, and is part of the same district.

One of its characteristics is the diversity of ecosystems and the resources they contain. The alternation of volcanic and coral substrates, themselves characterized by the different episodes of their genesis, is further complexified by the altitude, which creates significant differences in temperature and rainfall, opposing the arid north to the south where most of the best lands and water sources are concentrated.

The island's population is divided into three linguistic zones (Rasua, Hresuk and Ratlungu) corresponding to three major political groups, which are more or less covered by the current administrative subdivisions (suco: villages) of Beloi, Makili and Macadade.

Both regions, displaying complex and differentiated local cultures, are located in the biogeographic and cultural area named "Wallacea". They are targeted by important tourism projects partly based on the display of culture and biodiversity.


* 11 December 2019 : presentation by members of the team at Assemblée nationale, Paris, " Patrimoine et développement à Timor Leste : 13 ans de recherche scientifique".

More information

* 24 October 2019 : Tradisi Lisan di Pulau Atauto (Timor Leste): Beberapa kunci untuk memahami pemukiman (by D. Guillaud). Asosiasi Tradisi Lisan, Makassar.

* 19-29 August 2019: Summer school in mapping with UNTL and University of Brasilia, Atauro-Dili, with Pr. Antero Benedito da Silva, E. Habert, A. Burgos, K. Silva, D. Simião.

More information

Dominique Guillaud




Dana Rappoport


Case • CNRS


Jean-Christophe Galipaud




Nicolas Césard




Daniel Simiao


Departamento de Antropologia• Universidade de Brasília


Laure Emperaire




Gabriel Facal

Social Anthropologist



Élisabeth Habert




Ariadna Burgos




Jérôme Samuel

Politiques linguistiques et patrimoniales



Kelly Silva


Departamento de Antropologia• Universidade de Brasília


Amandine Péquignot




Laurence Billault




Dominique Juhé-Beaulaton





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• MNHN •
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© D. Guillaud


© 2019 © POPEI - COLL             L. Billault IRD-MNHN

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