EAUH Conference 2018


Session SS23. Urban Histories of Heritage: Emotion and Experience in Comparative and Transnational Perspective, 1750 -

Coordinators: James Lesh (, Rebecca Madgin (

Urban Histories of Heritage: Emotion and Experience in Comparative and Transnational Perspective, 1750–

Historic environments are central to urban life. Often decisions about their preservation or destruction have been driven by functional and economic imperatives, yet this approach obscures the profound attachments that urban citizens hold to place. Drawing on the theme of the conference we want to examine the nature and resilience of these heritage attachments in moments of stress, when threatened by the processes associated with renewal. We want to explore the production of urban heritage space, via the relationship between urban experience and expressions of emotional attachment. Changes to historic environments, the loss of familiar reference points and the meanings and memories embedded in place, impacts existing communities. Community responses have ranged from the deeply personal to collective mobilisation of attachment through activism. Such reactions to heritage have often erupted during periods of rapid urban change, and frequently conflicted with the desires of planners and architects, developers and financers, and authorities and policymakers. Urban histories of heritage are often difficult to research, and so we propose emotional reactions to change and renewal as this session’s provocation.

This session seeks to engage with urban histories of heritage. We define heritage broadly, incorporating tangible and intangible heritage, including but not limited to historic environments, landscapes and districts, and conservation and preservation practices. We ask the following questions:

1. What role has everyday urban experience played in the production of emotional attachments to urban heritage?
2. What kinds of emotional expressions—including positive and negative emotions such as pride, joy, fear and sadness—have been displayed during periods of urban change and renewal?
3. In what ways do emotional reactions to change and renewal differ between different stakeholders, i.e. residents, activists, and urban professionals such as architects, planners and developers?
4. What kinds of sources and methods can urban historians use to access the emotional and experiential relationships to urban heritage?
5. What comparative and/or transnational links might be drawn between emotional and experiential understandings of urban heritage in different cities across time?

In doing so this session seeks to engage with an emerging but less understood area surrounding the emotional and experiential value of urban heritage. The session also wants to build on recent debates on transnational and comparative urbanism to examine how these approaches can uncover new source material and help us to ask different questions of existing sources. As such we welcome proposals from any geographic context and period of history after 1750.
Keywords: urban heritage; history of emotions; historic environments; urban renewal; urban change