Evicting Heritage

Spatial Cleansing and Cultural Legacy at the Hampi UNESCO Site in India

Author: Natalia Bloch


The Indian village of Hampi, site of a medieval Hindu Empire that is now a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, was until recently inhabited by a vibrant community of farmers-turned-small entrepreneurs reliant on tourism. However, since 2011 the village has been undergoing spatial cleansing resulting in the eviction of people and the demolition of their homes and businesses. The residents, portrayed in the official discourse as “illegal encroachers” and a threat to monuments, have been subjected to power relations imposed on them by postcolonial authorities guided by a hegemonic approach to material heritage. This paper analyses what has happened at Hampi through a theoretical framework of the anthropology of colonial legacies as an effect of mimicry. It also demonstrates how villagers have countered the state claim of Hampi as an outdoor museum with the concept of living heritage. However, perceived by authorities as neither native nor traditional enough, they have failed to win claims to this heritage site.

Regions: South Asia
Countries: India

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December 2016
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