Urban Areas Role In Heritage Activities Cultural Studies Essay

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According to the dictionary, heritage implies «what is or may be handed to a person from his ancestors». Heritage is regarded as the fastest and most significant growing sub-component of the tourism industry. The broader meaning of "Heritage" is link with the word "inheritance". Therefore, suggesting something that is transferred from one generation to another. If we refer to Christou (2005) "The role of heritage as a carrier of historical value from the past means that it is seen as part of the cultural tradition of society" (p 4). Law (2002) notes that increasing education leads to more awareness on the importance of heritage and culture. In today's world, people are more interested in historical, artistic or lifestyle heritage of a group, region or community (Silberberg, 1995).

The subject "Heritage" has gained increasing attention and generated a great deal of literature from a range of discipline: heritage tourism definition (Poria, Butler and Airey, 2001), managing visitor (Airey and Shackley, 1998; Muresan, 1998), tourism development in heritage destinations (Boyd, 2002; Carr, 1994; Garrod and Fyall, 2000), planning and managing heritage destination (Cheung, 1999; Frochot and Hughes, 2000), heritage attractions and interpretation (Dewar, 2000; Grimwade and Carter, 2000), pricing issues (Fyall and Garrod, 1998), community development and heritage sites (Dicks, 2000; Grimwade and Carter, 2000), marketing heritage sites (Nuryanti, 1996), perception of tourists towards heritage sites (Poria, Butler and Airey, 2003), motivation to visit (Poria, Reichel and Biran, 2006), and visitors classification at heritage attractions (Espelt and Benito, 2006).

The surge for museum development underlines the important role of culture and cultural attraction in modern world. Richards (1996) demonstrated that cultural attractions gained increasing importance in modern societies. The role of cultural monuments does not only pertain to managing museums and other monuments but it extends to urban development strategies and branding programmes. Cultural attractions have also helped in policy making and promoting their development. Adding to the economic importance of culture is its role in reinforcing and establishing identity.

Increasing literacy among local people renders culture more accessible. Accordingly, the effects of globalisation create an interest for national heritage (Richards, 1996). Globalisation has mostly concentrated on the economic impacts. But nowadays, increasing attention is given to "Cultural Globalisation". According to Nijman (1999) it is the "acceleration in the exchange of cultural symbols among people around the world, to such an extent that it leads to changes in local popular cultures and identities" (pp 148). This implies that local communities are more aware of the essence of their culture and work to establish their identities and claim back their heritage (Richards, 1999).

It is a fact that culture changes; it is not static. Research has demonstrated that developing countries are easily influenced by Western mode of living, lifestyles, traditions etc… The more the world becomes a global village, the more the surge to differentiate one culture with another. Resulting in revival of national cultural idioms, renewed interest in local and regional history, folklore, etc. Being proud of own history and erection of building for the memorial of cultures and past traditions show the move towards creating one own identity in our complex world. The shaping of our identity is reflected in Port-Louis where there is the "Musée de la photographie", the Post Museum and many other historical attractions that are unique. These all result in the creation of awareness towards local patrimonial history and past. Thus, helping in the dissemination of information to new generations. Port-Louis tries to build a different profile based on distinct atmosphere (celebration of Chinese Spring festival), people (a mixture of all cultures living near to each other), heritage (places of interest are unique in the island overall) and customs (people living in the capital are more used to out-doors events).

Natural Heritage:

Geographers have significantly played an essential role in understanding and contributing to the preservation of natural areas and resources. Legal protection and conservation of natural areas have long been driven by economic and political motives (Hall, 2000). Geographers' contributions in understanding the importance of landscape conservation are as follows:

Empirical studies conducted in the last decade showed that social scientists have developed a range of concepts describing people-place relations. The geographer Tuan (1974) and the environmental psychologist Steele (1981), presented the main feature of the concept people-place relations, "sense of place," which includes in its definition the meanings, attachment, and satisfaction an individual associates with a particular place (Stedman 2003). Literature understands this as an encompassing concept that place associations are as diverse as 'at homeness' (Seamon 1979), 'place attachment' (Altman and Low 1992), 'place dependence' (Williams et al 1992), 'place identity' (Twigger-Ross and Uzzel 1996), or 'regionalisation' (Backhaus and Müller 2006). These studies show that distinct socio-cultural groups produce components of the natural environment differently. Thus, people ascertain different relations to places, depending on their interests, cultural values and individual experiences (Kianicka et al 2006). In other words, man acts upon his environment and is consequently influenced by it.

Forests have since colonial times been cut out for settlers. Ebony trees were cut by the Dutch for their precious value and exported to Jakarta (now Indonesia). Then, the French came to occupy the territory and consequently brought development in the island. They open the way for agriculture and towns. Until now the vestiges of built elements of the past are still found across the island, starting from colonial houses or more important places like Parliament House.

Built heritage has long been associated with economic ends. Nowadays, built heritage also entails to deal with ecological, economic and social issues. Referring to Kibert (1999) ; " The creation, maintenance, renovation and exchange of elements of the built environment provide the economic element of the equation" (pp 2). If we consider this to the case of Mauritius, we will see that some of the budget income is allocated for the construction or renovation of heritage sites. Estimates for 2010, according to the official site of the Mauritian government, about Rs 91,460,000 has been allocated for the preservation and promotion of heritage over the island. However, built heritage is largely associated to cultural activities - from great monuments for religious purposes to evocative architectural monuments, according to Drost (1996).


As an integral component of culture, heritage is a fundamental element of national emblem with the potential to continuously remind residents about the symbolic representation upon which is based a sense of belonging. The sense of national belonging, rooted in the collective memories, representing a nation and its population, lies at the heart of maintaining the existence of a country and fortifying sovereignty of a nation. Consequently, Macdonald (2006) recognises heritage as a ''material testimony of identity'', which is primarily interpreted as a ''discourse and set of practices concerned with the continuity, persistence and substantiality of collective identity'' (p.11).

Heritage is a sign and a token of a nation's people ethnicities, identities and nationalities but subject to multiple interpretations and meanings. Thus, the socio-psychological dimensions of heritage are of fundamental importance in understanding how people's perceptions, individualised meanings and subjective feelings concerning collective social memories contribute to the long-standing appeal of heritage artefacts.

Papers further note that heritage artefacts play a crucial role in the promotion and maintenance of a nation (Palmer, 1998). Regarding heritage as symbolic cultural production is closely linked to understanding the core of national identity. Heritage can be viewed as a token of past for shared traditions and memories of the actual society rather than just representing mere elements of bygone times. Geertz (1973) and Meethan (2001) suggest that this ''symbolic system'' can help in promoting collective values in contemporary societies. In addition, heritage is also recognised to be a ''unifying sign'' (Bessière, 1998), which maintains and creates the shared memory of a social group. Leading to adding more value to the group's social and cultural identities. Bessière (1998, p. 26) asserts:

"Heritage, whether it be an object, monument, inherited skill or symbolic representation, must be considered as an identity marker and distinguishing feature of a social group. Heritage is often a subjective element because it is directly related to a collective social memory...social memory as a common legacy preserves the cultural and social identity of a given community, through more or less ritualized circumstances."

Nonetheless, it is crucial to recognise that the concept behind "nationalism" and trying to define national identity are quite difficult in real life because of the complexity of differing contexts. This is the reason why there is a general disagreement in defining the concept of "nationalism" (Hutchinson & Smith, 1994; Kedourie, 1994). Nevertheless, in order to understand this approach, attention is drawn to two concepts: the ''modernistic perspective'' and the ''primordial perspective''. The first approach (Anderson, 1983; Gellner, 1983; Nairn, 1997) recognises "nations as products of modern historical developments and processes". Emphasis is laid on the creation of a shared identity by residents.

In contrast, the second approach (Geertz, 1973; Smith, 1991, 1994) acts as a focal point on the antiquity and the socio-cultural involving ethnicities. The primordial approach lay emphasis on individual's perceptions and beliefs which imply the ''assumed givens of social existence'' (Geertz, 1973, p. 259). Thus, including a collective heritage and culture. Here, identities are believed to be innate cultural elements that are deeply rooted. As Smith (1994, p. 376) recapitulates:

"It was and is the members of ethnic communities and nations who feel their communities are primordial, existing almost 'out of time' and having an 'ineffable' binding and almost overpowering quality. It is no part of this approach to suggest that such communities are primordial, only that members feel they are (emphasis added)."

This statement shows the importance in understanding that people's culture and nation is sacred. Therefore, resulting in understanding the core of cultural primordialism. But existing papers mention the changing patterns which acts on contexts and situation. Literature adds that national identity and its main attributes should constantly be reviewed to reflect the varying norms and values of actual society's culture. Thus leading to the comprehension of population perception.

Internationally speaking, Mauritius is recognised for its unique flora and fauna but there remain only 1% of our endemic plant which used to cover the island. Many of the remaining species struggle to survive due to various factors like: introduction of new plants and devastation caused by introduced animals on the island. Forest was also cleared for sugar cane plantation and other agriculture-related purposes which worsen the situation.

"a long tour more specialised for those particularly interested in vernacular architecture, would be extended to old houses in the area between rue Saint Georges and Edith Cavell, area between Labourdonnais and Mère Barthélémy St, rue de La Poudrière, St James Cathedral area, Pasteur Street area, the area between St Louis Cathedral and the Champs de Mars, Canals of Le Pouce, Line Barracks and Victoria Station, the Chinese quarter for its atmosphere and as extension to Plaine verte with small historical houses."

Residents' perception is driven by the 'man-environment" interrelationship. Existing papers suggest that it is a dynamic factor whereby man acts upon his milieu according to his desires, activities and capabilities. Therefore, adapting to the prevailing environmental conditions in a milieu. The key variables in the link between man and environment result in perception and cognition - "The internal mental processes by which individual sense, perceive, interpret and make decision about their environment" (Gold, 1980).

The terms perception and cognition have been used primarily in the field of psychology. However the association vanished with time. Perception as well as cognition is widely used in other fields like environment psychology or tourism. As a matter of fact, cognition is the broader aspect of mental processes and includes perception. If we refer to Yadav (1980): "the frameworks of cognition include sensing, perceiving, remembering, imagining, judging, deciding and adopting or any other mental process". But perception is more specific. It refers to the "psychological function that enables the individual to convert sensory stimulation into organised and coherent experience" (Gold, 1980).

Approaches to perception in urban areas have received much attention by researchers during the past decades. Much research is conducted to enable scholars to understand the perception towards the city at large, but in our case towards heritage sites. Downs (1970) in his attempts has developed threefold fundamental reasoning to examine perception in an urban environment. His first approach was to urge towards the "structural approach which is concerned with the way in which the array of information about a place is perceived" (Downs & Stea, 1970). This implies that an individual cannot remember all elements that are seen in an environment. Man usually follows a process of selection and then structure what has been perceived. The process of selection suggests that unnecessary detail is left aside and useful data considered. The second step consists of an evaluation approach: "in which an individual after obtaining knowledge and experience of the environment, evaluates its distinct character so that he can make decisions and take action according to the image held about a particular environment" (Down & Stea, 1970). The last approach is about preference. It suggests that the individual develops a sense of much liking towards a particular site.

Urban classification is used here as a basis to develop a theoretical analysis. In order to achieve this, there is a need to examine two components that determine perception: place (in our case heritage sites) and individual (residents and visitors). Literature put emphasis on "stressors" that affect individual perception towards heritage sites. Stressors in some papers are referred as impacts: economic (Akis, Peristianis, & Warner, 1996; Davis, Allen, & Cosenza, 1988; Getz, 1986; Husband, 1989; Liu et al., 1987), environmental (Butler, 1980; Hillery, Nancarrow, Griffin, & Syme, 2001; Liu & Var, 1986; Liu, Sheldon, & Var, 1987), social (Ap, 1992; Belisle & Hoy, 1980; Brunt & Courtney, 1999) and cultural impacts (Besculides, Lee, & McCormick, 2002; Johnson, Snepenger, & A is, 1994; Keogh, 1990). These dimensions of the environment are related to behaviour which results in either favourable or unfavourable perception according to existing papers.

It is logical, however, to conclude that hosts' attitudes are driven by perceived impacts mentioned above and may influence residents' perception. The aim in measuring residents' perceptions is in an attempt to mitigate: "the frequency of unexpected changes, to moderate the unforeseen or undesired consequences of planned or ineluctable changes, and to facilitate sustainable planning aiming at the moderation (or compensation against) of the unavoidable negative impacts." (Nunkoo, R. & Ramkissoon, H., 2010).

The objective of the research is to understand perception of either host or visitors towards heritage sites and there behaviour within the theory of planned behaviour (Ajzen, 1988). Empirical studies show the link between perception and behaviour (Poria, Reichel & Biran, 2006). However, many theoretical bases for measuring perception used the Social Exchanged Theory (SET) (Ap, 1992). SET as described by the author: "a general sociological theory concerned with understanding the exchange of resources between individuals and groups in an interaction situation" (p.668). The Theory of Planned Behaviour, however, remains unpopular in measuring perception within heritage sites context. Moreover, it is a widely theoretical basis for 222 studies published in the Medline database and 610 studies published in the PsycINFO database, from 1985 to January 2004.

Previous scholars used the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980) to assess the link between attitudes and intention. The theory pays attention to impacts of the cognitive elements like attitudes, social norms and intentions that drive to behaviour. The model assumes that behaviour is influenced by intentions which in turn are influenced by society (subjective norms), attitude and belief. Later on Ajzen added to the variable of TRA the perceived behavioural control as an additional pre-action before intention. This led to the TPB (figure 1).

According to Ajzen (2006), these suggest that behavioural expectations are being altered due to important referent relatives such as spouses, friends and families. It implies that those normative values combine with self motivation factors to comply with the different referents exigencies, determine the actual subjective norms. In simple words, the subjective norms express how peer pressures or referent affect the way an individual behave in society. In our particular case, we are trying to see whether positive or negative perceptions toward heritage sites are driven by groups or community pressures.

This research is an attempt, therefore, to explain why Mauritian people are likely to visit heritage site and if they consider the importance of heritage site as being a significant feature of our identity. The research will also consider the perception that residents and visitors to Port-Louis have on particular sites and their intention to visit cultural, natural or built elements. Positive behaviour will lead to intention to visit whereas negative behaviour will result in ignorance of the importance of heritage areas.