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Politics of Scale: A New Approach to Heritage Studies II

Regular session
9:00, Monday 6 Jun 2016 (3 hours 30 minutes)
In recent decades, the growth of the World Heritage industry has necessitated the reconsideration of scale. Formerly dominated by nation-states, some influential international organizations such as UNESCO and its advisory bodies (ICOMOS and IUCN) are now taking a strong role in decision-making through policy-making and implementation. Despite the power of the transnational organization and its relation with states parties, there is a growth of regionalism and “localism” in the heritage industry. The 2003 Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention has strong support from several Asian countries and, to some extent, reflects their wills and interests. Regional organizations have sprung up in South Asia, Africa and Caribbean, promoting regional heritage identities against the hegemonic value stemming from European heritage discourse. These phenomena indicate that the power structure of the heritage industry is not fixed; rather, it refers to a process of reconfiguration and contestation along different scales.
We believe the concept of “politics of scale” is crucial in critical heritage studies by tracing the “power geometries” (Massey 1996) of how heritage works. We also criticize how the European-dominant language of heritage affects local traditions, cultural practices and daily life in the form of authorized heritage discourse (Smith 2006). Although the seminal work “A Geography of Heritage” (Graham, Ashworth and Tunbridge 2000) brings the concept of “scale” to heritage studies, the concept of “politics of scale” is not yet well developed to analyze the social construction of heritage scales through socio-political contestation. Recently, David Harvey encouraged heritage studies to take the understanding of scale into account for further theorization of heritage. As he stated, “to understand how heritage works, we must examine what scale does, and how heritage and scale interact” (2015:3).
In this session we echo Harvey’s call, and seek to investigate the interrelation between the re-theorization of scale and heritage. This session will not only examine scale as a fixed unit and exiting category with certain spatial boundary such as “local, regional, national and international,” but also explore how scale works as a process of “hierarchization and re-hierarchization.” We will also deploy the pluralistic meanings of “politics of scale” (Brenner 2001) to analyze the power struggle during the process of production, reconfiguration and contestation within and among heritage scales.
With these issues in mind, we invite papers looking into the following themes:
• How scale is used by heritage institutions to legitimate their authority and produce hierarchies among scales;
• How heritage discourse is reinforced and affects other scales based on the power structure and uneven development between scales;
• How local struggles emerge to negotiate with the discourse through moving between and along scales.
We encourage papers from different approaches or disciplines, since we believe the plural form of “heritage studies” makes it a multi- inter-disciplinary area that benefits from communication, collaboration or even contestation. Each discipline is embedded in one scale or many (such as individual, local, regional, national and global), and we hope the critical interaction of these approaches will generate new insights into heritage studies.

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