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Pierpaolo De Giosa

Melaka

In 2008, Melaka was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage property, in tandem with another Malaysian historical city in the Straits of Malacca, George Town. This has been the crowning achievement in a strategy of remaking Melaka as the Bandar Raya Bersejarah (Historical City) of the nation, emphasizing continuity with the grandiose past of the first sultanate of the peninsula and the urban fabric left by Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial overlords. National, federal-state, and municipal agencies have cooperated in promoting the 'universal' characteristics of the city, embracing also the contributions of Chinese, Indian, and mixed-descent communities. The purportedly harmonious coexistence of traditional townhouses and shophouses, temples of diverse faiths, urban festivals, and several ethnic neighborhoods or kampung has been supported by revitalisation projects, and Malaysia has shown particular World Heritage commitment by adopting a national law and successfully running for a World Heritage Committee seat in 2011. Along with the protection of the historic core, however, modern construction development is ongoing.

Research on the ground will focus on the urban heritage of Melaka between conservation plans and real estate development. Intangible aspects such as urban rituals and parades or 'new' urban performances will be significant too for analysing re-imaginations of the past, projections toward the future, and discourses on tradition between invention and creativity. Ethnographic fieldwork will explore a broad range of actors: transnational agencies, nation and nation-state, local bureaucrats and experts, NGO's, ordinary Melakans, and the tourist industry.

 
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