Thesis Restructured, Abstract

Urban villages is an integral part of the city as they provide one of the only affordable housing options for migrants in the city. However, in Southern cities like Guangzhou, municipalities use heritage as a method to consolidate power over the use of urban village land with the agenda of creating an image of modernity in the cultured protection of the past.

Using Authorised Heritage Discourse as a theoretical basis, this thesis analyses the use of heritage as a technique of power, especially through the definition of heritage in a foreign concept of ‘materiality’ and the separation between expertise and communities in the urban village. In this context, this dominant heritage discourse creates a legitimisation of a disregard for communities’ needs and paths the way for their displacement in urban village redevelopments.

This thesis argues that the dominant heritage discourse needs to be resisted because it refutes communities’ rights to the city, especially that of the migrants’. To change the system, what is needed is a demonstration of the value of communities.

The thesis points to the emergence of a subaltern heritage discourse focusing on intangible cultural practices has the potential to form resistance to the dominant heritage discourse. This is a system where value exists in the transmission of traditions, skills and processes. The centre of this discourse lies with ‘inheritors’ who are members of specific communities and hold the keys to particular cultural knowledge. In other words, they enable an overlap between ‘community’ and ‘expertise’.

The thesis argues for the urgency for an alternative regeneration method that uses heritage, in the form of cultural transmission of knowledge, as a technique to empower communities and hence enables their sustainable and continuous right to the city.