Historic landscapes in rapidly transforming Asian cities

Contestations, commodification, and learning from grounded observations

Authored by: Nihal Perera

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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Asian societies claim histories that stretch thousands of years. Yet Asia’s take on history, conservation, and the way historic landscapes are incorporated into present-day urban environments is somewhat unsettling. Almost all societies follow a Westernization development model in the name of modernization, increasingly following proxies from the region, such as Singapore and Shanghai, undervaluing their ‘own’ cultures, histories, landscapes, and potential futures. While much of the old is prominent in some countries, many others have erased much of their heritage in favour of a global modernity. By replacing culture with ‘tradition’, an abstraction that is no longer practised, the societies and experts overlook the complexity and the richness of present-day cultures. This chapter explores the urban landscapes of East, South, and Southeast Asia, posing the question: How do societies in Asia come to terms with history, change, and heritage in producing contemporary urban landscapes? This chapter delves into how history, tradition, and heritage is understood, adapted, and employed within organic and planned urban-transformations in Asia and their impacts on the sustenance of those cities’ urban heritage. Questioning the hegemonic heritage-discourses and their Eurocentric roots, and building on pertinent literature and fieldwork, the chapter aims to facilitate locally friendly ways of incorporating history and historic landscapes into the present.

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