Important Characteristics Of Built Heritage Cultural Studies Essay


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Partially for these reasons, the term 'historic environment' is increasingly finding favour with practitioners in some countries as it implies a more inclusive approach than 'heritage' with its strong associations with official heritage lists and registers graded according to the application of professional criteria. Historic environment is therefore used to refer to both the natural and cultural material remains of the past. Unlike traditional heritage approaches, this approach does not ascribe to chronological limits, has no thematic limits, knows no geographic limits, knows no limits to its scale and knows no limits of culture or ethnicity (communiqué issued by English Heritage 2000). 'Historic built environment' in turn limits its focus to architectural and urban history and is therefore principally concerned with the physical presence of the built environment.

The primary concern of this research is with the historic built environment and the objects and places associated with it. It is also accepted here that cultural identity, and heritage through which cultural identity most readily finds expression, includes a wide range of meanings, values, attitudes, customs and more. As such the call by Deacon for a holistic definition of heritage that includes the tangible and intangible is acknowledged, "[t]here is little reason to perpetuate the distinction between intangible heritage per se and intangible values associated with objects and places" (Deacon et al. 2003:34).

A secondary concern is that culture and heritage have a spatial dimension. As Teresa Dirsuiwit points out "political, ethical, environmental and aesthetic negotiations around historical memory - and associated meaning - continue to involve negotiations around landscape and its representations" (Dirsuiwit, unpublished, n.d). The urban landscape is therefore not only a space in which the contestations around public memory play out but at the same time also become visibly representative of such conflicting meanings. The built form is therefore more than just architectural styles or physical forms. It also carry associations and meanings that are often rooted in urban struggles - struggles that unfold in specific places.

Social discomfort is unavoidable when using the term 'slum'. Farouk (unpublished PowerPoint presentation; Farouk, 2006a) correctly argues that this term is particularly fraught in the South African context given its associations with apartheid-era social engineering and the legacy of modernist planning practices in upholding racial segregation through 'slum clearances'. According to UN-Habitat, the term denotes "a heavily populated urban area characterised by substandard housing and squalor" (UN-Habitat 2007:1). All these elements can well be applied to Bertrams but which, as Farouk cautions, can also detract from the socio-political dimensions of how slums are formed and why they persist (PowerPoint presentation; Farouk, 2006a). According to the editors of Wikipedia the term has early 19th century origins and used to refer to a "back slum" - a back room or back alley (

As 'gentrification' is a key research problem, I accept Slater's useful definition that "gentrification is a process directly linked to the injustice of community upheaval and working-class displacement" (Slater as quoted by Winkler 2009:370).

Lastly, it must be noted that, when I use the name 'Bertrams' unless specified I am referring to the study area as identified in the Bertrams Neighbourhood Regeneration Strategy (Urban Skywalkers 2006) which incorporates the residential areas of Highlands, Bertrams, Lorenzville and Judith Paarl. There may also be some overlap with New Doornfontein, Bezuidenhout and Bezuidenhout Valley. The focus area therefore extends beyond the 'heritage precinct' as proposed in the BNRS. When reference is made to the Greater Ellis Park Development area, the above areas are included in addition to Troyeville and Doornfontein. Where reference is made to the Johannesburg Inner City, I refer to the area containing the CBD which comprises the core retail, commercial and financial districts as well as the larger surrounding area. This is made up of high-density residential suburbs (such as Hillbrow and Berea), light industrial areas (mostly located in the southern and eastern parts), related office nodes (principally Braamfontein) and associated low-rise historic suburbs located in the east and west of the CBD. The Inner City is located in the administrative region, Region F, of the City of Johannesburg. While the 'City of Johannesburg' suggests a coherent institutional structure, this is decidedly not the case (Wafer et al 2008:55). City administration operates in a decentralised and fragmented manner with various agencies, entities and departments operating at different levels and scales. These bodies are responsible for a wide range of functions and services.

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