(un)Global Heritage Sites


(un)Global Heritage Sites

Al Lim, Yale-NUS College ‘18

(Initially published in YNUJ Volume 3, 2018)


Global cities literature and UNESCO heritage sites often promote a hierarchical view of cities, which fuels city-to-city competition for status and prestige. Cities can attain prestige by promoting their cultural heritage in an instrumental way. This is undergirded by the theoretical and economic construct of the dominant global city model and its application to heritage preservation. My paper explores this phenomenon, illuminating practical problems for heritage sites because of the combination of global cities logic and UNESCO practices. Importantly, the hierarchical logic poses problems to global heritage sites even beyond the global city itself, suspended between the nexus of international institutions, state and city governments, and local actors. I argue that moving beyond this hierarchical conception will better preserve global cultural heritage, emphasizing cities’ mutual interconnections and the local embeddedness of sites.

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