Urban Cultural Heritage


Urban Cultural Heritage




Urban Cultural Heritage

Zukin, S. (2012). The social production of urban cultural heritage: Identity and ecosystem on an Amsterdam shopping street. City, Culture, and Society, 3(4), 281-291.

The article by Zukin reiterates the overlooked importance of local business streets that are yet to conform to the forces of modernization. While the global retail stores are yet to invade these spaces, the time is numbered unless intervention by government to preserve this cultural ecology is implemented. The author highlights that central streets of historic and ethnic significance to the elite are being restored with their architectural designs of the 17th century retained. On the other hand, the smaller shop streets that lack visual appeal owing to the representation of individuality of the shop owners lack a champion hence susceptible to gentrification. The authentic cultural feel of these streets is ignored as they fall outside of even the middle class’ interests. The middle class has conformed to the automobile culture that prefers globally oriented malls for removed from their neighborhoods. The technological advancements key among them the online shops are also a contribution to the extinction of these shopping streets.

The need for conservation of these shopping streets arises not from their aesthetic value or their economic success, but for their ability to sustain the intangible cultural heritage of these urban areas. The residents usually go every day to these shops to perform daily transactions thus the buildings act as meeting points for interactions between neighbors where they cultivate their social capital. These vernacular spaces such present the authentic tastes and desires of the local residents. These individually owned shops from barbershops, grocery shops to the restaurants provide a threat where cultural experiences are created and remembered for posterity. However, for the shopping street in the case study to become a living heritage it has to be more socially inclusive. Zukin argues that in the midst of increasingly detached and faceless economic transactions, these shops help people in urban areas maintain the social authenticity of interaction in the complex life of urban centers.

Gentrification is among the key terminologies utilized in the paper. The word refers to the process of renovation of deteriorated spaces in the urban settings to pave the way for buildings that are more modern and facilities with the aim of increasing the property values. The remodeling of the areas is an economic decision with the real estate considered in isolation from its inhabitants. It follows that small income families are pushed out from these communities. Intangible cultural heritage refers to the collective memory that is derived from social interactions of the local of a given urban area due to the habitual performance. Cultural ecology refers to spaces within which human adaptations to the changing social and physical environment occurs. Social diversity refers to the inclusiveness and representation of the multicultural values of the residents of a given urban space. The shopping street refers to a conglomeration of individually owned businesses covering several properties along a single city street.

Her argument is valid as the small shopping streets have personalized relationships with the locals by virtue of being a member of that community. The need for the streets to become more representative of the reality of multicultural communities in major cities is consistent with the themes of social diversity taught in urban studies. Zukin utilizes citations of peer review articles to increase the credibility of her assertions. At times, she references her past work to create continuity. The research utilized interviews and ethnographic studies conducted in the Centre for Urban Studies in the Amsterdam from 2010 to 2011. The use of the Utrechtsestraat shopping street is strategic as it is a historic street in an established global metropolitan, representative of other European cities. Therefore, its findings are replicable.

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