Robert J. Shepherd of the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University in the USA has a new article at JCA titled UNESCO’s Tangled Web of Preservation: Community, Heritage and Development in China (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1296174).
In this contribution, Shepherd takes up questions about the utilisation of heritage tourism as a development tool and notions of community participation in designating and developing these sites. The abstract states:
In the past two decades the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has broadened its focus on heritage from tangible sites to intangible cultural practices. It has also, according to supporters, advocated for the inclusion of local residents at heritage sites in management plans, emphasised the need to promote and protect human rights, and sought to balance preservation and conservation with what it terms “social and economic” needs. This article examines these claims via a case study on world heritage in China. It is suggested that UNESCO’s embrace of community involvement in heritage management is underpinned by a reliance on two fictive categories: an “international community” that agrees on heritage policies and a fictive homogeneous “local community” assumed to share the institutional values of UNESCO. This in turn reflects assumptions found at the centre of UNESCO’s cosmopolitan project going back to its establishment in 1948.