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The consequences of heritagization for local populations

Nick Dines points at the tension between the heritagization discourse and the presence of lower class populations in the historic centre of Naples.
I was particularly interested in how this process of transforming an urban area that, until a few years before, had been earmarked for demolition. The impact of it becoming a heritage site, what were the consequences for the local people? Remembering something that I said just before, that a large proportion of the population of the historic centre was low income, and was often considered part of the Neapolitan population that had given the city, historically, a bad reputation. A population that was associated with crime, with poverty, and not with that idea of the city now being able to resurrect on the basis of its own assets, on the basis of its own possibilities, and actually competing at a global level.
So on the one hand, there were, and one can see it today if one visits Naples, a number of positive consequences if we consider it purely in terms of the economic impact of the heritagisation process. So we see a rise of tourism, with some ups and downs during the late 2000s. 2008 to 2011, there was a trash crisis which actually led to a drop in Tourism, but that has since picked up again. And today, for instance, the historic centre of Naples is awash with various activities associated with tourists. And so tourism has become an important part of Naples’ local economy.
At the same time, over the last 20, 25 years, we see heritage also being implicated in the rise in rents, the rise in the cost of living in the historic centre, and therefore also in the rise of, to a certain extent, gentrification within the historic centre. And a number of authors have observed this in other cities, for instance, Michael Herzfeld’s work on Rome, which also sees how heritage is implicated in gentrification processes. I was also interested in something else, though. What was also occurring is precisely this connection, or rather this relationship, between redefining a historic centre, what it meant to the city as a whole and the local population.
So what you actually saw was local administration and the local media beginning to intervene in the question of who was an appropriate member of the historic centre population, what was the appropriate behaviour for someone who lives or uses the historic centre. So in other words, what you had were a number of responses on the part of the authorities to activities that had always existed in the historic centre. Local kids using the church door as a football post, local people driving around on their scooters and not considering the pedestrianised areas. These activities suddenly become seen as serious threats to the future of the city.
And you actually see, in certain moments, the administration passing decrees to clamp down on forms of behaviour. And so I was particularly interested in this aspect, what one could perhaps call the governmentality of heritage, how it impacts upon the way in which the population of the historic centre is regulated, and how that population that was traditionally seen as a cause of the city’s bad reputation was now re-codified as a population that lacked heritage consciousness.

Nick Dines shows that lower class populations living in the historic centre of Naples have been viewed by the urban elites as an obstacle to promoting the area as cultural heritage, as they were associated with a bad reputation, namely crime and poverty. This led the administration to redefine the right behaviour in the city and make reproaches to local inhabitants for their “lack of heritage consciousness”.

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Cultural Heritage and the City

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