World Heritage Subjects or Citizens? Geographical Immaginations and Displacements of Local Communities| Krupa Rajangam

World Heritage Subjects or Citizens? Geographical Immaginations and Displacements of Local Communities| Krupa Rajangam

The word “displacement” is typically not associated with cultural heritage sites, but in this paper I draw on ethnographic vignettes to foreground the process at the Hampi World Heritage Site, Karnataka, India. I further argue that displacement onsite is not merely a singular event of the past but an ongoing everyday reality for the site’s residents. I situate my critique within critical conservation studies scholarship and recognize two sociopolitical realities. One, heritage authorities, experts, and enthusiasts are for the most part caring and knowledgeable; and two, the relations of power among Hampi’s resident communities are unequal. Not all resident groups are equally powerless; some do manage to exert considerable agency. However, such recognition does not exclude the everyday reality that, in the name of site conservation-management, UNESCO’s World Heritage label has led to the constitution of a heritage regime that steadily (re)shapes the Hampi landscape and its residents as governable subjects through its everyday bureaucracy of care. Such an outcome is contrary to the conservation intent that residents as citizens would become part of UNESCO World Heritage Site conservation-management. I suggest this is partly due to the visual aesthetic gaze of expertise and partly due to how such landscapes are imagined by various social actors.

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