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Cambridge Heritage Research Centre


The making of a “heritage citizen”: historic preservation, urban gentrification, and personal transformation in Indonesia

Dr Lauren Yapp (Lecturer in Urban Studies, Brown University)

This will be a hybrid event held in-person at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Downing Street, Cambridge and Online on Zoom. 

To Registration to attend online click to here


In recent years, gentrification has emerged as a familiar side effect (or even explicit aim) of urban heritage preservation initiatives around the globe. While the destructive material and social impacts of such projects on historic neighborhoods and their residents are well established across numerous case studies, relatively less attention has been paid to the ways in which the phenomenon of gentrification-by-heritage also transforms urbanites’ fundamental understanding of heritage itself and imposes new expectations of their own personal relationship to it. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork at historic districts in several Indonesian cities, I argue that current patterns of urban heritage preservation are in fact producing a novel form of urban subjectivity, one which I term “heritage citizenship”. Here, molding oneself into the image of a good “heritage citizen” involves subscribing to a particular set of behavioral, emotional, and moral attitudes when it comes to one’s engagement with the historic cityscape. Understanding gentrification-by-heritage through this lens not only reveals the manner in which preservation projects in the country are deeply implicated in broader patterns of urban development and displacement, but also sheds light on how and why some Indonesians today are reworking the memory of their own city’s colonial past in unexpected ways. 


Dr Lauren Yapp received her M.Phil. in Archaeology (Archaeological Heritage and Museums) from the University of Cambridge before going on to complete a Ph.D. in Anthropology at Stanford University, where she was also a member of the Stanford Archaeology Center. Her research is broadly concerned with cultural heritage, memory politics, and postcolonial cities in the Global South. Her doctoral dissertation explored these themes through an ethnographic study of urban heritage revitalization initiatives in the Indonesian cities of Semarang, Bandung, and Jakarta. Such initiatives – which increasingly involve not only local players, but also regional and international organizations, government agencies, and traveling technocrats – prompt both a renewed grappling with legacies of the colonial past and an evolving debate over the future of these cities and the welfare of the diverse communities who call them home. The fieldwork for this research was funded in part by a Fulbright U.S. Student Researcher grant.

In addition to this doctoral research, Lauren has published and presented on a variety of subjects related to the socio-political dimensions of cultural heritage, including international cultural diplomacy, inclusive urban governance and social justice, culture and the arts as a source of civic engagement, community-based heritage activism, and postcolonial memory politics in the Netherlands and Indonesia.


Thursday, 10 November, 2022 - 13:00
Event location: 
HYBRID: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Seminar Room and Online on Zoom