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Heritage in Authority-Making: Appropriating Interventions inThree Socio-Political Contexts

Doctoral thesis
Authors Feras Hammami
Date of public defense 2012-05-04
Opponent at public defense Professor Laurajane Smith
ISBN 978-91-7501-308-4
Publisher TRITA-SoM
Place of publication Royal Institute of Technology
Publication year 2012
Published at
Language en
Keywords heritage, meaning, authority, discourse, appropriation, historic environments
Subject categories Social Anthropology, Globalization Studies, Social Sciences Interdisciplinary, History and Archaeology, Architecture


The perpetual evolution of the value of heritage in urban development is producing newsocio-spatial realities, shaped by different relationships of power at multiple scales.Heritage has always played an important role in the construction of individual andgroup identities, but is now increasingly seen as a capital for the making of cityidentity. Although professional heritage practices have attempted to embrace a similaror parallel vision, they are likely to overlook how interventions in heritage challengeidentity, meaning and sense of place. This thesis employs methods of discursiveanalysis to investigate the evolution and the appropriation of heritage in three sociopoliticalcontexts: Botswana, a post-colonial society; Palestine, an occupied society;and Sweden, a developed Western society. It also uncovers the ways authority is put towork through the discursive field of heritage in historic environments.Heritage in Palestine under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, British Mandate, and theIsraeli Occupation has been engulfed by both armed and discursive struggles overhistory, identity, and superiority. Narratives of the ‘Holy Land’ in addition to thepressures of the occupation forces and international interventions have shaped currentheritage practices in the Historic City of Nablus. In Botswana, Western planning ideashave been promoted in both the colonial and post-colonial eras, with little attention tolocal culture. The socio-spatial realities this produces have divorced the Batswana fromthe familiar and played an authoritarian role in defining valuable heritage in thedevelopment of Shoshong village and Sowa town. Heritage in the town of Ystad,Sweden, has since the late nineteenth century been regulated and legitimized through aconsistent inscription of a medieval identity on the town landscape, overlooking socialand spatial consequences.These findings are presented in four papers that each addresses a specific aspect ofheritage in urban development. An introductory monograph links the articles,developing theoretical analyses on how heritage-authority relations. This discussiongoes beyond direct practices of authority in management of physical heritage. Instead,it uncovers how heritage is utilised to gain and reinforce authority over identity politicsin historic environments. It also sheds light on how discursive struggles over meaningin the three cases are influenced by a ‘universalized heritage discourse’. In thisdiscourse, heritage is perceived as physical things representing a specific version of thepast, framed by European values and controlled by professional expertise andconventional knowledge. This discourse is rooted in the ‘authorized heritage discourse’that emerged in Europe in the nineteenth century and disseminated globally throughinternational treaties on heritage. Situating site-specific interventions in their social,cultural, and political contexts would allow for productive dissonance, rather thannarrow mediations of competing views. The virtue of working with heritage in the faceof authority at different spatial scales is stressed as one way to build sufficient capacityin heritage practices, capacity that would allow individuals and social groups to freelynegotiate their identity against any intervention in their spaces of heritage.

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