The right to entrepreneurial expression over heritage significance: the micropolitics of an adapted cafe in a historic Chinese town

Johnny F.I. Lam, Chin Ee Ong, Tingting Wu, Rui He, Shougang Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

This study draws on Henri Lefebvre’s (The production of space, 1992, translated by D. Nicholson-Smith) concept of the spatial triad to examine the micropolitics of the production of urban and social space in a cafe in a historic tourist town in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai. Such a spatial and social examination of the historic town of Tangjiawan’s Wangchuan Cafe is conducted in the context of a growing consumer society and experience economy in China. Specifically, we found that the cafe proprietor has performed a role that is commonly associated with official planners and technocrats in creating a ‘coffee art living space’ in a process that Lefebvre describes as a ‘representation of space,’ and that ‘spatial practices’ serve to shape the space away from the heritage significance of the town and towards entrepreneurially aligned ideals. Such resultant consumerist spaces are coconstructed with and negotiated by visitors and consumers. In conducting such an examination, we highlight and critique the ways in which dominant discourses operate in a microsite, such as that of a cafe, that has become a key cultural tourism attraction of the refurbished historic town, the means by which such discourses and visions result in real-world transformations and the ways in which visitors and tourists interpret and negotiate such a microsite.

Original languageEnglish
Article number26
JournalBuilt Heritage
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Keywords

  • China
  • adaptive reuse
  • conservation
  • cultural tourism
  • experience economy
  • gentrification
  • historic town

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