Copenhagen ADI Conference 2016
8th annual international ADI conference
Asian Dynamics Initiative
University of Copenhagen 20-22 June 2016

Heritagizing Asia: The politics of time and space in Asian cities

Convener: Oscar Salemink, Dept. of Anthropology,  University of Copenhagen

Contemporary Asian cities have often been associated with economic success and concomitant visions of modernity. Political authorities, private companies as well as many citizens promote modern lifestyles, which in many cities have been internalized and integrated into urban planning to such a degree that the embrace of success in the guise of modern cityscapes has entailed wholesale destruction of historical rural and urban landscapes, as distinctly un-modern. At the same time, the transformation of urban and rural landscapes evokes nostalgia and even protest among various groups (intellectuals, artists, elderly and youths) as lived environments disappear. When and where neighborhoods are retained it is often under the banner of heritage. The notion of heritage explicitly links particular spatial environments to temporal notions of past through the connection with history and identity; oftentimes this spatio-temporal axis is compounded by class or ethnic attributes, if neighborhoods are considered to have been the historical abode of particular socio-cultural groups. The loss of such neighborhoods and related experiences of spatial familiarity may lead to a sense of nostalgia for what is lost among segments of the population. Ironically, heritagization usually involves gentrification, leading to eviction of the groups historically populating such neighborhoods and their transformation into sites of (ethnic) consumption. Heritagization at once cleanses such neighborhoods of their prior attributes as poor and rundown, unhygienic and dangerous; and purifies these same neighborhoods from much of their previous population through processes of gentrification.

Urban visions of modernity and nostalgia constitute two competing visions of the good life, which are both materialized in urban neighborhoods. We invite papers that explore the multiple experiences with lived environments in terms of modernity and heritage, and especially how different visions of modernity and nostalgia are materialized through the label of heritage.