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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Making meaning of heritage landscapes : the politics of redevelopment in Halifax, N.S. Barber, Lachlan


My research is concerned with uncovering the political and cultural ideologies implicit in the maintenance and reproduction of heritage landscapes. Employing a mixed methods approach involving textual analysis, participant observation and expert interviews, I study debates over development and heritage in Halifax, Nova Scotia and their material outcomes. Proposals for development in the city's downtown see the formation of "textual communities," groups that share a similar reading of landscape, planning texts or heritage, that face off in public hearing, in court rooms and in the media. I identify two such communities, one which sees the heritage aesthetic as an important marker of place-based identities, the other which considers heritage flexible and secondary to economic growth. I draw on theoretical insights by scholars of the new cultural geography who view landscape as a text through which cultural processes are negotiated. I also consider theorizations of the concept of "heritage," and the production and consumption o f heritage through processes of gentrification. In Halifax, the heritage aesthetic is to be found in symbols, styles and objects that reference the maritime and naval activity that was central to the city's founding and expansion as a British military defense centre. Following Duncan and Duncan (2004: 4), I argue that "landscape as an aesthetic production acts as a subtle but highly effective mechanism of exclusion." The modes of representation and forums of debate through which the urban landscape and its heritage resources are maintained, reproduced and transformed are controlled by politically and economically powerful individuals and special interest groups. The majority of the city's residents, however, are excluded from these debates. I conclude that gentrification appears to be the compromise between pro-heritage and pro-growth forces because it simultaneously offers the promise of economic reinvigoration and the maintenance of heritage resources. Meanwhile, this historic downtown becomes an increasingly exclusive "boutique landscape of consumption" (Reid and Smith 1993).

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