Heritage Across Borders, 4th Biannual Conference, Association of Critical Heritage Studies – 1 et 6 Septembre 2018

Hybridization and Circulation of Models in Tianjin’s Former Concessions par Lu Yue, Sandra Guinand et Maria Gravari-Barbas

Photo: Tianjin, 2016 par Lu Yue

The Italian and the Wudado districts are former foreign concessions in Tianjin, China, dating from the 19th century located in the 14 millions megapolis of Tianjin which is a hundred and twenty kilometres south of Beijing on the Gulf of Bo Sea by the Yellow Sea.
Set in oblivion for some years and partly destroyed, these different quarters have recently regained interest among a set of different actors ranging from national experts’ teams at the origin of the concessions, private actors, to Chinese government-led agencies.
In the scope of this presentation, we intend to look at the Italian and British former concessions’ heritage trajectories in order to unfold the critical elements and forces that have shaped them. We intend to do so under the light of hybridization in order to inform on how heritage in former Western concessions is being produced in contemporary China and what the different cases tell us about heritage circulations, norms and uses and what types of hybridization are taking place?
We argue that the smooth conservation, rehabilitation and reconversion of this specific “semi-colonialism” heritage has been made possible not because of national values and discourses but precisely because of this hybrid characteristic. Recognizing this heritage as part of the Chinese history has been a mean for public but also private entities to claim their position and role on the international scene and the process of globalisation.
Produced under a period of occupation, identified as semi-colonialism context , related to what could be experienced as difficult memories and contradicting dominant discourse on national heritage ideologies, Tianjin´s concessions are a privileged field to investigate heritage hybridizations. The particular interest lays in the intertwined sets of actors that have been, according to different sets of norms, values and representations, reshaping these heritages and constituting as many different heritage scenarios: from a strict respect of the original architecture to pastiche and fantasy realizations. Yet, all of them, are testimonies of hybridization processes – simultaneously in the forms involved in the heritage recognition and in the action settings that apply to the heritagized elements. The specific context of this case study looked at “from the South” (ROBINSON 2003; ROY, 2015) illustrates another type of models’ circulation bringing in new insights on hybridization and heritage studies.

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