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Conference “Between dream and reality: Debating the impact of World Heritage Listing”

14-15 November 2013

To what extent does the World Heritage status transform places? This international conference in Oslo 14-15 November 2013 aims to bring the research and management communities together for two fruitful days of dissemination and discussion.

Since the 1990s World Heritage has been portrayed as a marker of transformation, from economic growth, increased tourism, regeneration to more intangible aspects of local pride and global recognition. In the last five years research on the effects of World Heritage inscription has shown that World Heritage status is not synonymous with tangible benefits such as increased funding and tourism. Yet it has proved much more difficult to pin down the more intangible consequences of World Heritage listing. Thus this conference invites speakers to explore a series of specific questions related to the tangible and intangible transformations of World Heritage inscription:

  • What impact does World Heritage status have?
  • To what extent does the World Heritage transform places?
  • More empirically, how does the World Heritage status impact and possibly transform places?
  • How is World Heritage status used and does it really generate change?


As World Heritage is a field where research and management have a close relationship, we aim to bring the research and management communities together for two fruitful days of dissemination and discussion. Thus we would like to invite speakers with different disciplinary backgrounds to explore and approach these questions of transformation in a broad sense using examples from all over the world focusing on either the more tangible or intangible aspect of change. At present we envision papers will be grouped thematically into sessions focused on central empirical areas of the following World Heritage fields:

World Heritage and historic cities

Here we welcome papers based on case studies that explore very physical and tangible processes such as regeneration and gentrification, how these processes may impact patterns of habitation and the relationship between the citizens of the cities and their managers, as well as topics of branding and tourism.

World Heritage and indigenous communities

Many indigenous communities are associated with different natural and cultural World Heritage sites/areas, and we invite speakers to reflect upon the impact World Heritage status has had on indigenous communities’ struggles for empowerment, relations with management communities, the tourism sector and so forth.

World Heritage and natural heritage management

In this session we would encourage speakers to reflect upon topics such as how the World Heritage status may impact environmental management, the way in which the natural heritage sites are conceptualized, changes in patterns of recreational use and tourism.

World Heritage and international politics/relations

As areas are inscribed on the World Heritage list, they become part of a large international heritage network; how does the inclusion into an international network transform and impact management and local communities’ views of the place and a sense of being part of a network?

In addition to regular sessions and keynotes we hope to finish the seminar with a public debate looking back on the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention.

General info:

Cost: The conference is free to attend and will include lunch for all both days. Location: The conference will be hosted at the Blindern Campus of the University of Oslo.

The conference is organised and funded by the interfaculty research program Kultrans (Cultural Transformations in the Age of Globalisation), University of Oslo.


Thursday, 14 November 2013
Friday, 15 November 2013

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Blindern Campus, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway