Cartier C L, 1997, "The dead, place/space, and social activism: constructing the nationscape in historic Melaka" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 15(5) 555 – 586
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The dead, place/space, and social activism: constructing the nationscape in historic Melaka
Carolyn L Cartier
Received 11 July 1995; in revised form 25 November 1996
Abstract. In Malaysia under state-led economic restructuring, government interventions in cultural heritage landscapes reflect divergent priorities betweenlocal place-based conservation interests and forces of political and economic restructuring at broader spatial scales. I examine a major land-use conflict, between economic development interests and a grass-roots preservationmovement with links to the national opposition party, to assess how preservation activists mobilised place-based constructions of cultural identityand representations of state nationalism to halt development plans fora historic landscape. These issues are examined by negotiating the relationship between locally based cultures of place, andpolitical and economic forces seeking to appropriate space, in a piece of historic land in Melaka, Malaysia. I work throughtwo lines of approach. The theoretical framework applies Lefebvre's workon spatial processes and spatial categories to conceptualise the significance of the historic landscape, and utilises Merrifield's reading of Lefebvreto write between the place - space dualism. A social constructionapproach is adopted to demonstrate how people actively create meaningabout place in space, and work out the dialecticof preservationist intervention between local and state-level land-usegoals. The social construction approach shows how cultural identity maybe place based, and therefore the basis of a powerful localised socialmovement. Through the movement generated by this debate, a monumentaltraditional Chinese burial ground became local park and 'nationscape',a site-specific distillation of half a millenium of Malaysian history.
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