Rewiring UNESCO's World Heritage Centre and Rural Peripheries: Imagined Community and Concrete Inequality From France's Corsica to China's Heyang

Joseph Nicolai
2017 International Journal of Communication   unpublished
UNESCO's World Heritage Centre's communication monopoly over nationally filtered heritage operates not in an apolitical past but in present politics. Working through the "World Heritage Order" and its changing definition of "outstanding universal value," this article develops a bridge between seemingly disconnected rural sites in France and the People's Republic of China to move beyond the confines of "imagined communities" and their potential for displacing "concrete inequalities." The article
more » ... extends a critical approach of communication to heritage and contextualizes present rural heritage communication within larger political economic and cultural processes of urban-rural and capital-capillary dynamics that enables, in the cases examined, their current heritage identity. While engagements with old and new media-news, television, film, social media-are the norm, approaching the production of cultural heritage as a site of communication remains relatively uncharted. One of the possible reasons-and, simultaneously, results-of this is that cultural heritage is commonly understood as operating in the apolitical past tense, approached as historical fact, rather than within the present tense of politics, where it can be critically reproached for its ability to package political projects. Despite this understanding, the ongoing contestation over the use of cultural heritage, in everything from the deployment of historic maps as "weapons of mass cartography" in territorial claims to recent riots over Confederate statues in the United States, point toward the political and economic ramifications of the communication of cultural heritage. With this in mind, the expanding global rural heritage industry and its articulation through UNESCO's World Heritage Centre (WHC), the largest institutional player in the field, can be fruitfully explored from a communication perspective. This article enriches the "global to village" framework of this Special Section by avoiding a vertical line from a universal or global experience to a local or village-based experience by breaking from established identities and building a transcultural line from my home in rural Corsica, a French island, to Joseph