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Book Chapter: Envisioning Urban Past: Heritage and Emergent Activism in Postcolonial Macau and Hong Kong

TitleEnvisioning Urban Past: Heritage and Emergent Activism in Postcolonial Macau and Hong Kong
Authors
Issue Date2016
PublisherJovis
Citation
Envisioning Urban Past: Heritage and Emergent Activism in Postcolonial Macau and Hong Kong. In Tim Bunnell & Daniel P.S. Goh (Eds.), Urban Asias: Essays on Futurity Past and Present. Berlin: Jovis How to Cite?
AbstractThis study aims to contribute to the discussion of urban futures in Asia by examining heritage conservation as a specific kind of future-oriented urban intervention through which different social actors contest to reshape the forms of cities. More specifically, it explores these dynamics in Macau and Hong Kong, two postcolonial city-states that have seen a rapid rise of social activism centering on heritage protection in recent years. While many commentators have already explained that these phenomena are effects of historical ruptures that drive citizens to search for a postcolonial identity, less attention has been paid to how particular moral claims about heritage have been mobilised in ongoing conservation campaigns. I argue that these activities can be interpreted as what Aihwa Ong called “worlding practices,” which refer to the ways in which different social actors seek to reinvent the urban future by drawing on local and global discourses. The concept of worlding is useful because it directs attention not only to the roles of multiple constituencies in urban remaking, but also to the divergent motivations and affect of belonging that were shaped by specific historical experiences. The challenge is to elucidate how existing discourses about the city and its people are being reworked in conservation projects as they interact with the postcolonial politics of identities and ongoing urban development. This chapter, which belongs to a more extensive study of conservation practices in East Asia, posits three main arguments. The first is that despite concerted calls to protect local heritage and cultures in face of accelerating globalisation, people with different social backgrounds do not support heritage campaigns for the same reason. These are reflected in the many conversations I had with local residents in Hong Kong and Macau that are keen to underscore their possessive relationship to the city against those of others. Second, a closer examination of the narratives in conservation projects suggests that the presumed divide between “official” and “unofficial heritage” is far from clear, as not only do government officials and heritage activists tend to deploy similar rationalities in their causes, some also tend to maintain a close relationship with each other. This is especially apparent in Macau, where many activist organisations rely on government sponsorship under a colonial-era patronage governing system. Third, the comparison of Macau and Hong Kong shows that their very different forms of “colonial heritage” have continued to serve as key references for the construction of cultural imaginaries of the past. At the same time, the growing desire for building a more open and democratic society amidst economic and political integration with China has helped galvanised alternate visions of the future that are increasingly shared by citizenries in both territories.
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/233332

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorChu, CL-
dc.date.accessioned2016-09-20T05:36:08Z-
dc.date.available2016-09-20T05:36:08Z-
dc.date.issued2016-
dc.identifier.citationEnvisioning Urban Past: Heritage and Emergent Activism in Postcolonial Macau and Hong Kong. In Tim Bunnell & Daniel P.S. Goh (Eds.), Urban Asias: Essays on Futurity Past and Present. Berlin: Jovis-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/233332-
dc.description.abstractThis study aims to contribute to the discussion of urban futures in Asia by examining heritage conservation as a specific kind of future-oriented urban intervention through which different social actors contest to reshape the forms of cities. More specifically, it explores these dynamics in Macau and Hong Kong, two postcolonial city-states that have seen a rapid rise of social activism centering on heritage protection in recent years. While many commentators have already explained that these phenomena are effects of historical ruptures that drive citizens to search for a postcolonial identity, less attention has been paid to how particular moral claims about heritage have been mobilised in ongoing conservation campaigns. I argue that these activities can be interpreted as what Aihwa Ong called “worlding practices,” which refer to the ways in which different social actors seek to reinvent the urban future by drawing on local and global discourses. The concept of worlding is useful because it directs attention not only to the roles of multiple constituencies in urban remaking, but also to the divergent motivations and affect of belonging that were shaped by specific historical experiences. The challenge is to elucidate how existing discourses about the city and its people are being reworked in conservation projects as they interact with the postcolonial politics of identities and ongoing urban development. This chapter, which belongs to a more extensive study of conservation practices in East Asia, posits three main arguments. The first is that despite concerted calls to protect local heritage and cultures in face of accelerating globalisation, people with different social backgrounds do not support heritage campaigns for the same reason. These are reflected in the many conversations I had with local residents in Hong Kong and Macau that are keen to underscore their possessive relationship to the city against those of others. Second, a closer examination of the narratives in conservation projects suggests that the presumed divide between “official” and “unofficial heritage” is far from clear, as not only do government officials and heritage activists tend to deploy similar rationalities in their causes, some also tend to maintain a close relationship with each other. This is especially apparent in Macau, where many activist organisations rely on government sponsorship under a colonial-era patronage governing system. Third, the comparison of Macau and Hong Kong shows that their very different forms of “colonial heritage” have continued to serve as key references for the construction of cultural imaginaries of the past. At the same time, the growing desire for building a more open and democratic society amidst economic and political integration with China has helped galvanised alternate visions of the future that are increasingly shared by citizenries in both territories.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherJovis-
dc.relation.ispartofUrban Asias: Essays on Futurity Past and Present-
dc.titleEnvisioning Urban Past: Heritage and Emergent Activism in Postcolonial Macau and Hong Kong-
dc.typeBook_Chapter-
dc.identifier.emailChu, CL: clchu@hku.hk-
dc.identifier.authorityChu, CL=rp01708-
dc.identifier.hkuros263976-
dc.publisher.placeBerlin-

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