Role of Heritage Activism in Post-Disaster Reconstruction
Sanjaya Uprety and Barsha Shrestha
Department of Architecture, Institute of Engineering, Tribhuvan University
In Nepal, heritage conservation is inherently political, as can be observed from the several heritage activisms in the various forms of protests, demonstrations, and criticisms of post-disaster reconstruction efforts of heritage structures of Kathmandu, which were heavily damaged by the Gorkha Earthquake of 2015. The politicization of heritage reconstruction is conspicuous in the government’s approach to defining heritage objects and places for conservation, the methods by which it interprets the relics of the past, and the cultural history and the opposition it receives from local communities and civil society. This has led to the emergence of heritage activism to protect cultural heritage from the threat of loss. This paper aims at highlighting heritage activism and its role in the post-disaster context by discussing the politicization of the conservation agenda by the government (state actors) and activists (stakeholders). Specifically, it focuses the role of heritage activism using secondary sources of information to assess the heritage value, its significance, and the “event analysis method” to analyze the events of the protest against the government’s reconstruction plan of Ranipokhari (Queen’s Pond), located in the heart of the city of Kathmandu. The paper discusses the contributory factors for the emergence of heritage activism and its potential role in sensitizing state actors and stakeholders about the conservation agenda to safeguard conservation prerequisites. It concludes that heritage activism can serve as an important means of indirect public participation to influence the post-disaster conservation policies of heritage sites in developing countries like Nepal.
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