Dellios, A., 2015. Marginal or mainstream? Migrant centres as grassroots and official heritage’


Migrant heritage, as a grassroots practice seeking to commemorate pre- and post-war migrant communities and their contributions, emerged in Australia from the 1980s. Since that time, its appeal has continued to grow. It now receives, in some form, state sanction and is policed by the same state and national legislation as other cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. This article seeks to complicate understandings of migrant heritage as a marginal practice, specifically by interrogating the use-value of particular narratives in the Australian context – that is, how do individuals, communities and other groups (the grassroots) draw on sanctioned and publicly circulating narratives to mark their site as heritage-worthy? Ideas of what constitutes official and unofficial heritage can be mutually inclusive – a dialectical process. I analyse this in relation to the commemoration of former post-war migrant reception centres in Australia.


Built Heritage and Exclusivity

And another stab

option 1:

  • Problem: urban villages cannot be controlled
  • Cause: urban-rural divide
  • Solution: built heritage as a way of inserting control into the urban village
    • Other solutions out there: redevelopment
  • How: currently it is done through a canonical model
  • Implication: exclusivity
  • Alternative: do it through a continuous model
  • Consequences: inclusivity

option 2:

  • a canonical model of heritage
    • why is that
      • modernity
      • control
    • what is that
      • creation of self-referential value/power
      • identification, categorisation, definition
      • risk
  • consequences of a canonical model
    • exclusivity
      • what manners of exclusivity
      • negative consequences of exclusivity
  • built heritage needs the continuous model
    • inclusivity

What I am doing:

  • there are two models of heritage, canonical and continuous
  • the canonical model is inappropriate because it is exclusive
  • the continuous model is better
    • criteria to judge this:
      • exclusive/inclusive

What I want to talk about:

  • heritage is a technique of power
  • canonical model of heritage creates exclusivity
  • continuous model of heritage creates inclusivity

Heritage and Power

Another stab at thesis outline/abstract

Built Heritage as an Enabler of Urban Power (change title)

A Study into Defining Heritage in Materiality

A Study into the Causal Relationship between Built Heritage and Power, Using Urban Villages in Southern Chinese Cities as Examples.

  • Built heritage is increasingly being identified and listed in Chinese cities.
  • However, the direct consequences of this identification process are often commercial redevelopments following a theme park-like model and the exclusion and ultimately displacement of existing communities. (assumption here is that these are seen as consequences, what if in some situations, they are actually used as methods to get rid of people?). These consequences are well documented in Chinese urban literature and can be understood (situations where urban heritage areas are redeveloped) from three scales of exclusion: city-scale (lack of representation), neighbourhood-scale (lack of community), individual scale (lack of identity).
  • The reasons given for these consequences vary from Chinese people generally having a different take on authenticity (think of Cheng Huang Miao) to unregulated heritage management practices in China. However, these reasons give little indication as to how to avoid the problem.
  • This thesis argues that the underlying problem lies with the definition of built heritage as material objects, which results in the creation of concentrated and exclusive political and social power within large corporations and governments (but this is not to say that there is an intention to centralise power, or is there proof for that? in that case, doesn’t that intention drive the definition of built heritage as material objects?). The thesis uses the example of Xiaozhou Village in Guangzhou, an urban area that only recently entered into the category of ‘heritage’, to analyse three characteristics of materiality used to define built heritage and hence create concentrated power: objectivity (product-oriented, scientific), permanence (creating value in the past) and exclusivity (boundaries and ownership).
  • The thesis suggests that built heritage need to be redefined as cultural processes, to enable a decentralised power structure inclusive of urban communities. The difference between materiality and process is analysed using three corresponding characteristics of the latter: subjectivity (human capital-oriented, expressive), changing (creating value in the present) and inclusivity (passing down knowledge and apprenticeship). This is analysed using the example of building craft guilds in medieval Italy.
  • The appropriateness of this method is then analysed in relation to the contemporary Chinese context, in three aspects: political, social/cultural and economical. (shouldn’t this be part of essay 4?)
  • The thesis combines theoretical research from critical heritage studies and (what is the category for power) and draws a causal link between heritage and power. It uses a period of ethnographic research in Xiaozhou Village in Guangzhou as a case study.


  • What about the common desire to save heritage?

Exclusivity of Heritage

A Study into the Consequences of Defining Heritage in Materiality, Using Xiaozhou Village in China as an Example


  • Introduction
  • Literature review
    • Critical heritage studies in Western context
    • Heritage studies in China
    • Heritage studies surrounding urban villages
    • Discussion on relevance of discussing built heritage
  • Methodology
    • Ethnographic
  • Background
    • Xiaozhou Village
  • Basis: heritage creates power
    • Self-referential
    • Are we going to be critical about this too? 
  • Situation: Built heritage is defined through materiality
    • Reactionary return to the past amidst urbanisation
    • Ownership is centralised, identity is uniform
    • Material is objective
  • Problem:
    • Exclusivity
      • Time, rhetoric of the past, reactionary (past vs. present)
      • Power is concentrated, heterogeneity disregarded
      • Materiality is non-constant and subjective
  • Solution: redefined as cultural process
    • Inclusivity: creates power in the people
  • Alternative argument
    • Use changes and are not tracked
    • Materiality is

Rural Urban Framework and the Architect’s Vernacular

Rural Urban Framework was awarded with the RIBA Emerging Architect of the Year award. Jonathan Bolchover and John Lin gave a talk at the RIBA today to talk about the projects that brought attention to the research/practice.

The talk raised several issues in my head.

  • The role of the architect in the particular context – involvement, power and responsibility
  • The longevity of projects and their rippling effect
  • The emulation of the Vernacular and its romantic preservation
  • Participation in the form of project implementation
  • The attitude of the architect in relations to the Vernacular villager.
  • The replicability of the project and the protection of the projects from the outer world
  • The limits of architecture as a valuable form, unable to provide solutions. It can only respond.

Will expand on these issues further when there’s time.

School: education in the Urban Village

Xiaozhou Village has a kindergarten right outside of the historic core. The kindergarten accepts migrant’s children but charges 1200 RMB per month (privately run), which is more than half of some migrants’ pay. Opposite the kindergarten is a primary school (government-run), which accepts migrants’ children on the basis that they satisfy certain requirements. There is then a specific percentage allocated for migrants’ children who do not have their hukou in the city. There are privately-run primary schools in nearby neighbourhoods and they do not have a percentage restriction. However, they do cost more.

The result of this is that many migrant families struggle with their children education. Young couples either leave their young children to their grandparents back in the rural village where they came from or have the female in the family not work to take care of the children. There is a need for a school for second-generation migrants to be together with their core family in the urban village.

But what kind of school should it be?

Baishizhou and Handshake


Baishizhou is one of the biggest urban villages in Shenzhen. Some have said that all migrants entering into Shenzhen has at one time or another lived in Baishizhou before.

Handshake 302 is an arts initiative started by a group of artists calling themselves the ‘Urban Village Team’, organized to ‘engage Shenzhen’s urban villages through art, theater, and social media documentary projects’. Baishizhou to them is an artspace and Handshake 302 is a 15 square metre apartment in Baishizhou where artists can live in. These artists can then create interventions either in the room or anywhere in the urban village.