Chinese places: ethnography and landscape

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McConville, Chris and Reeves, Keir (2011) Chinese places: ethnography and landscape. Historic Environment, 23 (3). pp. 24-29. ISSN 0726-6715


Chinese immigrants and especially the Chinese on the goldfields of Victoria, now figure centrally in history curricula and in heritage and tourist promotions most prominently of course, through Bendigo’s Chinese Heritage Precinct and the Gum San Heritage Centre in Ararat. These public representations of nineteenth-century diversity draw equally from a reflexive, culturally-informed historiography and a radically transformed popular culture in Australia, Victoria in particular (Waterhouse 2009: 11–14). No doubt, when heritage analysis of the central goldfields was first systematised, following the Victorian Historic Buildings Act (1974) and a subsequent sequence of municipal conservation studies, the Chinese appeared as something of a curiosity, on the margins of the enterprise of mining and peripheral to the heritage of goldfields towns (Davison 1991). Only after decades of research and widening perceptions of what could be properly classed as heritage, has Chinese settlement emerged as critical to assessment and interpretation, and of course heritage tourism, within townships as well as in state forests and national parks. Perhaps coincidentally this interest in Chinese heritage parallels a revival of Chinese immigration to Australia, in a broad view, comparable to the peaks of the nineteenth-century gold era. And yet, in part because so many remnants of the work of Chinese settlers have been erased, and their intricate mining systems fragmented, these sites unintentionally revert to the status occupied years ago by their creators – as eccentric curiosities.

Item type Article
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Historical > FOR Classification > 2199 Other History and Archaeology
Historical > SEO Classification > 9503 Heritage
Keywords ResPubID24408, Victoria, mining, Chinese culture, gold, historic sites, central goldfields, heritage tourism, Chinese immigration
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