Joint Declaration – Decolonizing Southeast Asian Sound Archives  

We, the members of the consortium for the research project Decolonizing Southeast Asian Sound Archives (DeCoSeas) composed of stakeholders from Southeast Asia and Europe, propose the decolonization of heritage curation in general and sound archives in particular. 

Decolonization refers to the process of undoing the effects of the colonial systems on various regions of the world enforced during the era of imperialism. These systems persist today in new and different forms, posing threats to life, cultural diversity and biodiversity. 

Throughout the period of imperialism numerous cultural artifacts of Southeast Asia, including sound recordings, were collected and many are still stored in archives, libraries, and museums of the colonial powers. These collections of artifacts form an integral part of the heritage of communities from where they originated, yet they remain largely inaccessible to these source communities, who are their rightful custodians. 

DeCoSEAS is committed to the decolonization of sound archives through three constitutive objectives: 

  1. The improvement of access to heritage: we recognize the critical role of access to the archives in constructing fact-based histories of sound practices in the context of colonization and decolonization. 
  1. The transfer of agency to source communities: we believe that to be ultimately sustainable and relevant to the communities, decolonization of archives must support the decolonization of the peoples themselves.  
  1. The diversification of the dialogue on heritage curation: we hold that giving voices to the communities enriches discourses on sound collections, leading to a deeper understanding of these cultural artifacts.  

We commit ourselves to the realization of these goals, recognizing the essential role of sound archives in raising public awareness and appreciation of cultural heritage worldwide. We believe that such awareness can transform people from being passive spectators of the loss of heritage to becoming agents of conservation, management, and sustainability. 

This Joint Declaration was drafted in Cavite, the Philippines on 12 August 2022 by the Decolonization of Southeast Asian Sound Archives consortium, ratified in Bandar Sunway, Malaysia on 24 August 2023, and published in Sanur, Bali, Indonesia on 6 July 2024.