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14.15  Fighting Marginalization with Heritage: The Impact of Empathy—A Case Study of Castles in Japan

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9:00, Monday 6 Jun 2016 (15 minutes)

With the acceleration of modernization and globalization came urban crowding in big cities as well as devitalization and social marginalization in rural areas and small-sized cities. This condition is extremely severe in Japan, where the size and age composition of the population have been amplified and imbalanced for a long time. In order to deal with this situation, authorities—from the central government to local communities—have been trying hard to encourage individuals to integrate into communities by participating in history related events, in which heritage acts as a venue and as a key element. My study will investigate how empathy could be engendered though these “heritage events” and its ensuing impact through an intensive case study of Japanese castles.  

As military defenses or centres of governance, most Japanese castles were built in the centre of a city, and they have gained a powerful emblematic quality. Every year, many history-related events are held there; one such exemplary event is Shiromatsuri (castle ritual), in which local residents of different age, gender, communities compose parades that reproduce historical scenes. Beyond the analysis of how heritage could be elaborately used to create subtle atmospheres of the past that evoke empathy to local history and culture, my study will investigate how empathy and emotion can help to build mutual identity and create city images. I also intend to address how heritage helps to strengthen the association between participants, local residents, and non-local tourists and finally contribute to reducing the marginalization of minority cultures and marginalized groups. Finally, I will also analyze the impact of empathy from opposite points of view. Through observing and interviewing local residents and tourists, I want to explore whether the influence of empathy (which may have a short-term effect) on local residents, especially youths, has been overestimated and whether these heritage activities contrarily contribute to the maintenance of indifference in the society by providing brief bursts of empathy.  

Hopefully, some insights can be drawn form this case study on the impacts of empathy and the utilization of heritage.

Mi Li


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