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This article examines the concepts, definitions, policies, and practices of heritage in a contemporary context. Within recent years, there have been significant shifts in our understandings and applications of heritage concepts and policies in the modern world. ?Heritage? emerged as a buzz word in international policy arenas in the 1980s and early 1990s, and has since weathered the vagaries of turbulent definitional and governance?nomenclature storms, as traditional debates about ?what it is and what it is not? reverberate around academia and state agencies alike. Policy and funding structures for heritage are determined by the classifications used to define them in various countries. Typically, reference is made to ?built heritage?, ?natural heritage?, and ?intangible heritage?, loosely reflecting buildings, landscapes, and culture. Aspects of heritage are used by the cultural and tourism industries to add economic value, through heritage tourism sites, museums, and other activities. The cultural tourism product is often anchored around notions of heritage, and in postmodern, post-tourist societies, boundaries between culture, (travel) space, and identities are increasingly blurred. Issues of authenticity become important in the representation of heritage, and questions are asked about the validity of nostalgia versus realism. The role of heritage is examined in the context of identity formulation at individual and nation-state levels, and the political aspects of this are also discussed. Finally, heritage conservation is assessed through an examination of UNESCO?s World Heritage Site listing and protection strategy. In a changing world, new constructs of heritage, identity, authenticity, and representation will continue to emerge as meanings are constantly renegotiated over time and space.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe International Encyclopedia of Human Geography
EditorsNigel Thrift, Rob Kitchin
Place of PublicationLondon, UK
PublisherElsevier Ltd
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9780080449104
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2009


  • authenticity
  • built heritage
  • commodification
  • conservation
  • contestation
  • culture
  • governance
  • heritage
  • identity
  • intangible heritage
  • interpretation
  • museum
  • monuments
  • national identity
  • natural heritage
  • representation
  • sustainability
  • tourism


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