Revival of Kolkata’s Chinatown: Democracy and its Role in Safeguarding the Heritage of Ethnic Minorities in India

Bose, Kamalika (2018) Revival of Kolkata’s Chinatown: Democracy and its Role in Safeguarding the Heritage of Ethnic Minorities in India. In: ICOMOS 19th General Assembly and Scientific Symposium "Heritage and Democracy", 13-14th December 2017, New Delhi, India. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract (in English)

The eclectic history of India’s immigrant and minority communities have shaped and left an indelible imprint on its pluralistic ethos and cultural diversity. As a hallmark of India’s democracy is the commitment to safeguard and integrate these diversities - ethnic or religious - into mainstream notions and approaches to urban heritage. And yet ethnic heritage is rapidly at risk due to a range of debilitating factors. As the India of today moves towards embracing the ‘smart city’ idea while turning a new tide towards majoritarian politics - what is the role and future of ethnic heritage in Indian cities? What are attitudes and approaches that permit their heritage-led regeneration, as a tool to contain gentrification, boost local economy while restoring urban spaces and streetscapes that celebrate diversity and inclusiveness? This paper addresses the preservation and sustainable management of Kolkata’s ethnic neighbourhoods, through the case of its Chinatown – the only such historic settlement in South Asia. The city's Chinese with a 250-year history, continue to enrich Calcutta's urban culture through built heritage and traditional practices. And yet Chinatown witnesses emigration and urban decline, low institutional will and political inertia. Invigorated through community-based urban strategies, initiated under The Cha Project, the paper establishes Chinatown’s formal and associational values held closely by this ethnic minority. A detailed architectural and cultural survey, its socio-cultural and economic mapping today informs the heritage-oriented urban regeneration for the Indian Chinese. The paper will elucidate pathways attempted by The Cha Project to seek answers for oft-contested issues of custody, ownership and collective identity within ethnic heritage in India. This ongoing project’s appropriate implementation and success could be a watershed for urban conservation in Kolkata and a model for strengthening diversity of cultural experiences within fast-homogenizing Indian cities.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Bose, Kamalika
Languages: English
Keywords: community participation; ethnic minorities; religious minorities; historic quarters; revitalisation; sustainable development; urban areas; cultural identity; town planning; built heritage; immigration; ethnic heritage; ownership; conservation; traditions; cultural significance; values; India
Subjects: D.URBANISM > 02. Urban planning
E.CONSERVATION AND RESTORATION > 09. Social and economic aspects of conservation
J.HERITAGE ECONOMICS > 05. Heritage and sustainable development
N.ANTHROPOLOGY > 02. Ethnography
Name of monument, town, site, museum: Chinatown, Kolkata, India; The Cha Project
National Committee: ICOMOS International
ICOMOS Special Collection: Scientific Symposium (ICOMOS General Assemblies)
ICOMOS Special Collection Volume: 19th General Assembly, New Delhi, 2017
Depositing User: intern icomos
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2018 15:04
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2019 10:45
References: Bose, K. (2013). Incentivizing Urban Conservation in Kolkata: The Role of Participation, Economics and

Regulation in Planning for Historic Neighborhoods in Indian Cities. Ithaca: Cornell University

Master’s Thesis.

Bose, K. (2016). “Invisible Identities, Uncertain Futures: Upholding the Cultural Heritage of

Kolkata’s Chinatown.” Marg Publications, March, Volume 67 Number 3, p. 34-45.

Bose, Kamalika and Hilberth, T. (2014). Cheenapara: Cultural Identity & Urban Heritage of the Chinese

in Calcutta. Ahmedabad: CEPT University.

Xing, Zhang and Sen, T. (2013)."The Chinese in South Asia," in Routledge Handbook of the Chinese

Diaspora, edited by Tan Chee-Beng, 205-226. New York: Routledge.

(2016). The Cha Project: Detailed Project Report of a Heritage-led Revival of Kolkata Chinatown,

Submitted to Department of Tourism, Government of West Bengal.

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