Inaugural Conference of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies 2012

Activity: Participating in or organising an academic or articstic eventConferencesResearch

Anja Saretzki - Speaker

The Heterotopic Nature of World Heritage Sites: Hindrance or Link between Heritage Tourism and Local Culture?

Inscribing heritage sites on the world heritage list is often accompanied with fostering tourism development. Heritage sites do not only change their faces because of tourist use, but the influence of “other” readings leads to local reinterpretations and changed symbolic meanings. As a part of the world heritage and as a tourist sight they can be understand as heterotopias. Lefebvre talks about heterotopias as “ambiguous spaces”. They are “other spaces” and “spaces of the other” that is excluded and included at the same time. Looking at the traditional role in comparison with the role as world heritage and tourist sight explains the ambivalent nature of heritage sites as heterotopias. Two case studies from Spain and Madagascar should serve as examples.
Both case studies show the ambivalence of the UNESCO-labelled heritage sites in the interconnection of processes of heritagefication and touristification: As heterotopias on the one hand heritage sites will submit itself to a preservation order characterized by Western paradigms. And on the other hand heritage sites will be purified regarding the orientation to international heritage tourism. This kind of tourist purification means that heritage sites become disembedded from their ancient spatial and temporal context and become integrated into a new global and tourism-focussed frame. The world heritage status and so the heterotopic nature of heritage sites serves as a dissociative moment between tourists and local people. On the other hand the UNESCO-labelled valorization converts heritage sites into identity-generating symbols and includes them into local life. The world heritage label turns international attention to a part of local culture that is important for local identity and also the local population consider it as a key factor of economic development. In this process the touristification of heritage is not necessarily regarded as commodification: The authenticity of a heritage site is an important motive for tourists. Heritagefication and touristification don’t have to be equivalent to commodification. The positive influence on the preservation of cultural integrity of heritage sites affects local empowerment. The specific nature of heritage sites as heterotopias acts as a linking moment between the local and the different logic of heritage tourism.
Inaugural Conference of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies 2012


Inaugural Conference of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies 2012 : The Re/theorisation of Heritage Studies


Göteborg, Sweden

Event: Conference