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Doing Simulacra: Heritage, Hyperreality, and Gentrification in Seoul

Authors: MyungIn Ji*, University of Kentucky
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, Asia
Keywords: Gentrification, Historic Preservation, Heritage, Simulacra, Hyperreality, Seoul
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Historic preservation and heritage designation have become a common strategy of urban regeneration and gentrification as they add new values to devalued urban fabrics. Gentrification literature has particularly highlighted how heritagization disrupts the original ways of local life and thus ironically put heritage in the danger of the loss of its 'true' authenticity. This paper challenges this romantic perspective on historic preservation by dismantling dichotomies of true/false, image/reality, and past/present with Baudrillard’s concepts of simulacra, simulation, and hyperreality. Drawing on governmental documents, media coverage, and 13-months of ethnographic research in a historic preservation district in Seoul, Seochon, I demystify a symbolic and affective process of simulating the past, which constantly (re)invents and performs heritage as the authentically imagined past. By demonstrating the role of imagination and embodiment in historic preservation, this paper explores a myriad of possible temporalities and ultimately broadens the discussion of ex/inclusion in gentrification.

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