Transient heritage values, conflicting aspirations, and endangered urban heritage in the historic Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

Authored by: Amanda Rajapakse , Kapila D. Silva

The Routledge Handbook on Historic Urban Landscapes in the Asia-Pacific

Print publication date:  January  2020
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138598256
eBook ISBN: 9780429486470
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores the nature and consequences of an ongoing heritage discourse within the historic Galle Fort in Sri Lanka. It focuses on the transient nature of heritage values and the need for increased localization of heritage stewardship to establish a shared vision in order to safeguard its urban heritage. Established by European colonial powers in the mid-sixteenth century as a garrison town to control the southern maritime provinces of the island, local Sri Lankans gradually transformed the Fort into a closely knit community living in quaint houses. The combination of multiple global and local stakeholders vying to benefit from the Fort’s heritage assets, amidst efforts to mitigate the rampant commodification of its heritage, have produced contradictory discourses on the fate of this urban heritage. The dynamics at play in Galle Fort in fact urge us to rethink the accepted norms of heritage theories and practices. The chapter is based on a longitudinal qualitative study conducted between 2013–2017 to comprehend how the residents fathom their life within this place and how their heritage values have evolved drastically over time.

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