EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

Urban revitalization through heritagization: collaboration, resistance and the right to the city
Location U6-23
Date and Start Time 22 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Emanuela Guano (Georgia State University) email
  • Paula Mota Santos (Universidade Fernando Pessoa and Universidade de Lisboa, Centro de Administração de Politicas Públicas) email

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Discussant David Picard & Naomi Leite

Short Abstract

Over the last several decades, the aestheticization of cities has become an industry in its own right, and heritagization is a core element in this process. This panel explores the top-down but also grassroots social dynamics underlying the establishment of urban cultural industries.

Long Abstract

Over the last several decades, the aestheticization of cities has become an industry in its own right. Faced with the decline of their traditional economy basis, many cities have turned to tourism and cultural consumption as a way of re-energizing and avoiding a full economic downturn. Hence, cities become sites of delectation through, among others, re-developed waterfronts, mega events, and dazzling new cultural venues. A core strategy in this urban management trend is heritagization as a process that generates revenues while inserting the city in wider, and often globalized, symbolic economy networks. While much ink has been poured on the analysis of the top-down (and often corporate) strategy of turning cities into hubs for the consumption of "culture" it is only relatively recently that anthropologists have started devoting closer attention to how urban residents participate in heritagization processes through practices that go beyond sheer consumption. This panel seeks to address the social element in urban revitalization strategies. As such, the panel welcomes papers related to city dwellers' involvement (either by collaboration or resistance) in such urban regeneration strategies and related social impacts. Topics to be addressed include--but are not limited to—the corporate "spatial fix" and the production of urban visitability; the emergence of cottage-sized heritage industries; precariousness in the urban tourist service sector; gentrification and displacement, and the role of tourist economies in the commodification of collective selves.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Tourism and the critical cosmopolitanism imagination : tuk-tuk tours and 'worst tours' in a European old city

Author: Paula Mota Santos (Universidade Fernando Pessoa and Universidade de Lisboa, Centro de Administração de Politicas Públicas)  email

Short Abstract

UNESCO’s classification of old Porto centralized heritage tourism as main economic engine. Having as background Portugal’s present economic crisis and Porto’s tourism boom, this paper analyses how middle-class tourism entrepreneurs’ ventures can be framed within a critical cosmopolitanism framework

Long Abstract

With its old core classified as a World Heritage Site since 1996, Porto has been experiencing a tourism boom in the last five years. Voted 'Best European Destination of 2014', this mid-size city's old core and downtown areas are experiencing an economic renewal after decades of neglect. Many of the new commercial ventures are tourism-orientated: hostels, short stay apartments, restaurants, bars and specialized crafts shops, are populating previously derelict 18th and 19th century buildings, bringing new life to previously depopulated and economically depressed streets. Most of these ventures are fronted by individuals with high cultural capital, part of a middle class that saw its traditional economic outlets wither during the Portuguese economic crisis. This paper will look at two particular tourism ventures, the tuk-tuk tours of old Porto and the 'Porto's Worst Tours'. Both tours are the offspring of middle-class individuals, but while the tuk-tuk tours align themselves within an hegemonic model of tourism by centralizing the built heritage of the UNESCO classification and producing a mostly historical discourse on the city, the 'worst tours' centralize a more politically engaged discourse in which the urban and social impacts provoked by Portugal's economic downturn are highlighted and actively discussed with the tour participants. The opposing tourism heritage dynamics represented by each one of these tours will be approached through the lens of critical cosmopolitanism in which the cosmopolitan imagination occurs when and wherever new relations between self, other and world develop in moments of openness.

Creative urbanity: an Italian middle class in the shade of revitalization

Author: Emanuela Guano (Georgia State University)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in Genoa, this paper explores how, in the face of high unemployment rates, creative members of the middle class contribute to urban revitalization through forms of symbolic labor that foster consumption not just in but also and most importantly of the city.

Long Abstract

Consistent with dynamics unfolding in many of Europe's postindustrial cities, since the late 1980s Genoa has undergone a revitalization process meant to transform it into a city of culture. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted since 2002, this paper explores how, against the backdrop of consistently high unemployment rates, creative members of Genoa's middle class have contributed to urban revitalization processes through the production of symbolic goods and cultural services that foster consumption not just in, but also and most importantly of, the city. Through an analysis of the professional trajectories and the experiences of the festival organizers, artisans, and walking tour guides who contribute to transforming Genoa into a city of culture, I argue for an approach to middle-class urbanity that goes beyond the traditional focus on this class' propensity for docile consumption to explore its agentive participation in the process of worlding a city through immaterial labor practices.

In the footsteps of pilgrims: examples of displacement, resistance and creativity from the practice of local urban pilgrimage in heritagizing Varanasi

Author: Vera Lazzaretti (Università degli Studi di Milano)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores diverse reactions of some of the actors involved in the practice of local urban pilgrimage to processes of securitization and heritagization of a multiply controversial area in the city of Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh, India).

Long Abstract

In this paper I document ways of resistance and adaptation adopted by actors involved in the performance of local pilgrimage to face ongoing dynamics of securitization and heritage making at the center of Varanasi' s old town. This reknown pilgrimage city has up to now failed to appear in the WHL, but nontheless engages with heritage discourses at various levels.

The area under investigation comprises the famous Hindu temple of Kashi Vishvanath, the Gyan Vapi mosque and a sacred well. The latter have represented for long the center of urban pilgrimages, being the place in which to perform initial and final rituals for any local circumambulation. However, due to a variety of reasons, it represents today a multiply contested area, which is no more easily accessible. The whole space is as well traversed by multiple claims and views supported by diverse kinds of authorities. These try to define and project in this space various versions of the city's heritage, while producing urban boundaries and affecting in many ways the compound's daily life, as well as the practice of local urban pilgrimages.

On the one hand, the paper analyses the views and ways of resistance of the main past pilgrimage specialist against the takeover of new authorities and their projects for the area. On the other hand, it highlights the reactions of other performers, who face and engage with the new spatial situation in diverse ways. The paper ultimately interrogates the position of local pilgrimage in urban revitalisation.

Making heritage, producing people: the heritagization of Yangon

Author: Felix Girke (Universität Konstanz)  email

Short Abstract

The heritagezation of Yangon’s downtown is intensifying. Heritage actors increasingly work on persuading the residents that the city’s “urban heritage” is valuable - specifically its colonial architecture. This communicative process produces not only “heritage”, but also a new kind of residents.

Long Abstract

Yangon has become known as an unmatched repository of colonial architecture. Long isolation delayed wholesale modernization, and the government's move to Naypyidaw has removed functionality from the state-owned, most spectacular of the "heritage" buildings, reminders of an ambivalent past.

Tourists and investors required little convincing, but efforts to persuade the inhabitants of Yangon to appreciate the cityscape for its aesthetics, historicity, liveability, economic potential, and "heritage value" are only now intensifying. The military government considered colonial architecture symbolically problematic, unfit for a modern and independent state; residents saw little worth preserving in privately owned colonial buildings. Without popular support, much will be lost soon.

This presentation discusses interventions that stimulate an understanding and appreciation of "heritage" in a context where the very idea is not yet well-established: the global notion of "urban heritage" remains underdetermined, little understood, and foreign. The focus on such persuasive activities bridges the divide between top-down declarations and bottom-up resistance by highlighting the necessary conditions for true participation by the residents.

The case of Yangon will provide both the test case and eventually the blue print for similar processes in other Myanmar cities: to firmly establish "urban heritage" as desirable, valuable, and unproblematic there will have a significant effect on many other sites.

For Yangon's residents this means that they are not only subject to the translations of a global discourse into local terms: they themselves are to be the products of the intensifying heritageization - a new kind of resident, with a new set of sensibilities.

The city reconstituted: historicized landscapes, architectural legacies, and urban revitalization in post-revolution Cairo

Author: Claire Panetta (CUNY Graduate Center)  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at urban revitalization initiatives in central Cairo after January 25th, 2011. It explores how and why, in a moment of protracted political turmoil, specific urban spaces and historicized structures have become canvases for the articulation of new sociopolitical values and ideas.

Long Abstract

In post-Revolution Egypt, Cairo has emerged as the object of countless urban revitalization initiatives by local and non-local actors intent on staking a claim to some corner of the city. These efforts have been dizzying in both scope and scale, ranging from government-sponsored redevelopment plans to locally organized conservation projects to mapping and documentation initiatives intended to generate reliable urban data. In the aggregate, this work suggests that the entire urban landscape is being reconstituted.

My paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork conducted from 2014-2016 to explore this shifting politics of urban revitalization, with particular emphasis on the preservation of architectural heritage in an area known as wust al-balad or "Downtown Cairo." This centrally located neighborhood, which abuts the now iconic Midan al-Tahrir, has a rich architectural legacy dating back to the mid-19th century. It has therefore played an important symbolic and material role in the urban and national landscapes; however, in the five years since Egyptians took to the streets demanding the "fall of the regime," Downtown Cairo appears to have seized popular consciousness, generating unprecedented interest and activity among Egyptians.

After tracing the history of the neighborhood and its relation to the broader urban fabric, this paper narrows in on current revitalization projects born of this interest. Through my discussion of this work, I engage the question of how and why, in a moment of protracted political turmoil, specific urban spaces and historicized structures have become canvases for the articulation of changing social and political values and ideas.

Heritagization from below: local forms of participation in Istanbul's revitalization

Author: Vivienne Marquart  email

Short Abstract

Recent heritagization processes in Istanbul create various reactions from city dwellers, ranging from severe protests to unhesitant collaboration. The paper will explore the diverse forms of residents’ participation in the city’s revitalization through heritage.

Long Abstract

In the last decade, the Turkish government has actively used the heritagization of cities for tourism and cultural consumption. As the country's cultural and economic center, Istanbul is a special focus in the approach to revitalize the city through heritage. The heritagization of certain areas stimulates fundamental changes in the urban fabric, including the demolition of vernacular architecture and the displacement of former residents. With historical reconstructions, such as the Ottoman military barracks in Gezi Park or gated community projects in historical appearance, heritage tourism and urban development are combined to promote Istanbul as a global metropolis. However, city dwellers challenge this approach in several ways. The Gezi Protests in summer 2013 are only one example of how citizens confront the government's plans to reconstruct 'heritage'. Already before (and after) these internationally recognized protests, city dwellers actively engaged in discourses on the heritagization of historic neighbourhoods. While some criticized the processes, others were collaborating in the hope of participating in the heritage tourism service sector.

In the paper I will reflect on the diverse forms of city dwellers' participation in Istanbul's heritagization processes. Focusing on the Gezi Protests, but also on the reconstructions of historic neighbourhoods, the presentation will shed light on the dwellers' motivations to challenge and/or support the government's regeneration strategies.

Other Africas: gentrification and black heritage in Rio de Janeiro

Author: André Cicalo (King's College London)  email

Short Abstract

My presentation discusses the process slavery heritage making in the port region of Rio de Janeiro. The material presented shows how memorialisation interweaves with processes of urban regeneration and the present scenario of racial politics in Brazil.

Long Abstract

My presentation discusses the process of slavery heritage making in the port region of Rio de Janeiro, after the prolonged institutional forgetting of the city's slave past. Since 2011the city council of Rio has created a Circuit of African Heritage, whose pillar is the archaeological remains of old slave-trade docks, which came to surface in the same year during works on the local pipeline system. The material presented shows how memorialisation interweaves with processes of urban regeneration of Rio's waterfront in view of the 2016 Olympics and with the present scenario of racial politics in Brazil. In spite of its inclusive aims, I discuss that the making of slavery heritage in Rio also exposes old and new social imbalances. Some imbalances are revealed, for example, by the racialised power that certain actors (i.e. white governors and heritage expert) retain in the making of heritage policy in comparison to other (black social movements and favela residents). For the presentation I will also use excerpts of my brand-new documentary "Other Africas: unearthing Afro memories in Rio de Janeiro".

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.