In the shadow of Chang’an: the space transformation of villages within a cultural heritage site

Ji, Jiahui (2023) In the shadow of Chang’an: the space transformation of villages within a cultural heritage site. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Excluded from heritage recognition but in the proximity of cultural heritage, the villages within a Cultural Heritage Site (CHS), after being influenced by long-term restrictive conservation policies for protecting the heritage integrity, have gained more freedom than was allowed before and become a space involving multifaced stakeholders to alleviate the tension between cultural heritage conservation and village development. As a result, the villages within a CHS have been faced with much more complex situations as more stakeholders participate in and invoke the profound space transformation here. The perceptions of villages within a CHS can become polarised around a number of positions: the local government controls the administrative power on the management of villages by coordinating the utilization of cultural resources and the conservation of cultural heritage integrity; the capital demands the maximum economic benefits; and the local people’s complex and immediate interests related to the everyday life. All of these positions entangle and compete with each other, leading to increasingly intense conflicts and pushing the villages within a CHS into a more complex state.

Confronted with a more complex state, the space of the villages cannot be limited to a mere “container” but need to take a more inclusive stance because space is part of social relations involving the various stakeholders. To address the problem between cultural heritage conservation and village development, the previous research has paid less attention to the space involving the stakeholders including the local government, capital, professionals, and local people who have an immediate interest in the village. This research argues that there is a gap in the analysis of how the space of villages within a CHS and the different stakeholders influence each other. Undoubtedly, these mutual interactions imply the time scale that needs to be incorporated. Inspired by Lefebvre’s “production of space”, this thesis constructs the framework, a trinity of space practice, top-down forces and bottom-up forces, to provide a way of thinking to explain the multi-dimensionality of space transformation of villages within a CHS. The theory holds that the village itself is a constantly changing entity and space transformation can be explained from the dialectical relations between the physical space and social relations, which further incorporates the space and different stakeholders into consideration and can respond to the research gap. By taking Chang’an CHS as the focus of this research, three case studies are selected and analysed: a relocation village, a heritage-led tourism village, and a cultural products industry village. These three cases exemplify the villages in which profound space transformation has taken place, in order to provide valuable references to seek an appropriate way to develop the villages in the future.

Since the villages are excluded from heritage recognition but in the close proximity to cultural heritage, the villages absorb the carryover effects of heritage and have experienced profound space transformation because of obtaining opportunities to develop and modernise. For the space practice, this research argues that, against the context of cultural exclusion and economic inclusion, specifically, space serves as flow and dynamic differentiation and reorganisation. This flow and dynamic advantage is fully played in multifunctional spaces, demonstrating that the space transformation in the villages within a CHS is not only a straightforward linear replacement of one thing with another. With the alternate impacts of tradition and modernity, in the interest arena of top-down and bottom-up forces, space will not come to an end but will become more diversified. Therefore, a pluralistic and hybrid perspective of space that is full of vitality has progressively replaced the binary dialogue of reciprocal resistance and compromise that exist between modernity and tradition, which further implies that cultural heritage conservation and village development may not either be this or that. Furthermore, for the top-down and bottom-up forces, in the process of space transformation, it can be seen how the top-down forces play an overwhelming role, and how the bottom-up forces take actions with limited power to adjust and change the space as China is an authoritarian society full of diverse hierarchical structures. In the end, after analysing the underlying mechanism, this research recommends that it is important to take an inclusive cultural heritage connotation rather than a heritage-villages dichotomy, to entail more entitlement to local people and pay more attention to their subject in the village, and to attempt to incorporate the CHS into a bigger urban context. Also, from a crucial analytic value, it is necessary to recognize the fact that when adopting the Western concept, like “the production of space”, indigenous contexts in China are worthy of being brought into the global sphere and arguably deserve special attention to develop a new paradigm currently in favour amongst the academic minds.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Heath, Tim
Tang, Yue
Keywords: village transformation; cultural heritage site; space transformation; production of space.
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Built Environment
Item ID: 74372
Depositing User: JI, JIAHUI
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2024 11:30
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2024 11:30

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