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|Contested Meanings of Urban Heritage in Hong Kong
Lam-Knott S. Contested Meanings of Urban Heritage in Hong Kong,City and Society 34 1
|China; Hong Kong; civil society; cultural heritage; cultural landscape; ethnography; governance approach; post-colonialism; redevelopment; urban geography; urban society
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|Confrontations between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government and civil society regarding the demolition of historical sites across the city have been occurring since the mid-2000s. These clashes have been interpreted as the consequence of exclusionary heritage governance practices; postcolonial identity anxieties; and popular dissatisfaction toward economic injustices in the city. This essay argues that heritage mobilizations also arise from the competing meanings and expectations the SAR government and civil society have attached to notions of “urban heritage,” especially in relation to urban liveability discourses. Using documentary and ethnographic data, this essay provides an overview of Hong Kong’s heritage landscape before examining approaches by both government and civil society toward heritage conservation—reflecting their respective understandings as to what urban heritage entails for urban life. This essay finds the SAR government position heritage as being secondary to urban redevelopment, a means of establishing urban liveability in economic terms. In contrast, civil society actors frame heritage as integral to redevelopment, producing a liveable city through enriching social conviviality. By delineating the disparate ways urban heritage is valued in Hong Kong, this essay offers broader insights on the conflict regarding how present and future urban life is envisioned in Asian cities. © (2022) by the American Anthropological Association. All rights reserved.