Reframing China’s heritage conservation discourse. Learning by testing civic engagement tools in a historic rural village

Giulio Verdini*, Francesca Frassoldati, Christian Nolf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Urban heritage conservation in China has been subject to severe criticism, although there is now a sense of paradigm shift. Charters, declarations and agendas had the merit of filtering down the international discourse on heritage, while more innovative approaches were arising. The UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape recommendation, offers a new angle from which to observe this process of change. The underlying argument of this article is that HUL can provide a platform to achieve greater sustainability in transforming historic sites in China, particularly in rural areas, overcoming, at the same time, the easy shortcut of the East–West discourse of difference in respect to heritage conservation. This is primarily due to the shifting focus from the materiality of heritage to its role in sustainable development with increasing attention on the role played by local communities. By presenting the proposal for the protection of the historic rural village of Shuang Wan in the Jiangsu Province, this paper aims to reflect on this shift showing its advantages but also some of the risks. These are inherent in a discourse of heritage in danger of legitimising mere pro-growth development approaches, if not accompanied by participatory practices considerate of the specific social reality of China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-334
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Heritage Studies
Volume23
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Chinese villages
  • civic engagement
  • historic urban landscape
  • local development
  • Urban conservation

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