Living Heritage Versus Dead Relics? Place Meanings and Boundary-Making in the Politics of Heritage in Postcolonial Hong Kong

Lachlan B. Barber, Cecilia L. Chu

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The conservation of heritage has emerged as an important arena for public debates over urban development and cultural politics in Hong Kong following the retrocession to China in 1997. While there has been extensive scholarly reflection on the reasons behind such development, less attention has been paid to how particular meanings, values, and moral claims have been attributed to different types of heritage. Archaeological remains that were mostly accidentally discovered in major development projects have received less scrutiny than the “living” heritage of familiar buildings and landmarks.

By tracing unfolding debates over three case studies of archaeological findings, this chapter attempts to address several questions: how do people in Hong Kong relate to “ancient” relics which they know little about? What significance do they see in these relics and how are they different from and overlap with those of “living” heritage such the postwar “modernist” buildings that have often been portrayed as depositories of Hong Kong’s collective memories and become points of contention in ongoing development? How have these heritage forms been used as affective tools to project competing geopolitical imaginaries of the postcolonial city by different groups of people?

This chapter addresses the aforementioned questions by employing the concept of boundaries; material, symbolic, and affective boundaries are questioned and redrawn in the cases presented. The work is based on a larger research project on emerging practices and politics of conservation in Hong Kong. It includes interviews with built environment professionals, government officials, and community activists who have been involved in conservation projects in recent years.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPlace Meaning and Attachment
Subtitle of host publicationAuthenticity, Heritage and Preservation
EditorsDak Kopec, AnnaMarie Bliss
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780367232689
ISBN (Print)9780367232665, 9780367232658
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2020


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