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.
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.