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From Universal to Regional: Theoretical Perspectives on Regeneration and Heritage

London Journal of Canadian Studies


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      Regeneration comprises a set of processes designed to take a specific place from obsolescence to a projected future. It embraces the past, the present and the future. Inevitably, for some place is the principal focus while for others people come to the fore. Central to any discussion about regeneration is the concept of heritage, including both its tangible and intangible components. Influential individuals, groups and communities often bring divergent views to any plans for environmental and social preservation, conservation, construction and regeneration. An analysis of values lies at the heart of this and this analysis requires a multi-disciplinary approach in which specialists from many disciplines have a part to play. To focus our discussion we examine heritage as a social construction highlighting the importance of defining cultural benefits in any regeneration strategy. Referring to UNESCO Conventions we discuss tangible and intangible cultural heritage with particular reference to universality and individuality. Within this there is a concern to confront issues related to geographical marginalisation, language conservation, political devolution and decentralisation and the continuities in cultural expressions in music, text and the creative arts. The significance of these is evident in debates about the criteria used for the designation of UNESCO World Heritage sites and European Cities of Culture. We conclude with a discussion about the nation-state and cultural identity. It is essential in debates about the intrinsic and instrumental values of heritage to recognise the fundamental importance of national identity constructed from, or alongside, a multiplicity of cultural identities and heritages.

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