Cultural Values in Urban Conservation: The Emic Perspective

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The form, structure, and modus operandi of historic urban areas are inextricably linked between them, reflecting the essence and dynamics of society. Cultural values of historic urban areas and their theoretical construction can be determined in the light of what linguists and anthropologists call the etic and emic dimensions of systems of meaning. This dichotomic concept was coined by linguist Kenneth Pike in 1954 and transmuted to cultural anthropology by Marvin Harris in 1964; since then, it has proved a very useful heuristic device for many disciplines and has been used in many senses (universal vs. specific, objective vs. subjective, outsider vs. insider, ideal vs. actual, ethnological vs. ethnographic). In the case of urban heritage, this etic/emic approach situates values between a meta-discourse on the tangible features of the urban fabric and their meaning, and a speci(fic)-discourse on the specificity of urban fabric and its cultural construction and significance. The two discourses are both concerned with recognising and understanding the identity of the urban fabric, and ideally complement each other: the first category of objective values is rooted in history and theory of urbanism and our desire to create better places for living, while the second of specificity, is rooted in anthropology and an understanding of cultural diversity through hermeneutics of space. The evaluation of the urban context for the purpose of identifying what is urban heritage and what are its values should attempt to examine it through both perspectives, in order to ensure a comprehensive, if not exhaustive, investigation. This means that, beside the well-established comparative, typological and morphological methods of architecture and urban history, that represent an objective, etic perspective, attention should be paid to the more relative, emic perspective produced by the societies who in fact build and use a particular urban context.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationForever Young: Celebrating 50 Years of the World Heritage Convention
EditorsElisa Baroncini, Bert Demarsin, Ana Gemma López Martín, Raquel Regueiro Dubra, Ruxandra-Iulia Stoica
Place of PublicationModena
PublisherMucchi Editore
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9788870009644
ISBN (Print)9788870009644
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NameUn'anima per il diritto: andare più in alto
PublisherMucchi Editore
ISSN (Print)2724-4660
ISSN (Electronic)2724-4660


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