Tensions between Local Development, National and International Conservation Policies: the case of World Heritage Status in Liverpool

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis investigates how the global heritage conservation approach (WHC and Operational Guidelines) is localised to inform Liverpool's urban transformation and regeneration. The World Heritage Convention (WHC) is now one of the world's most popular conservation and management programmes. The WH list included 1,120 sites across 167 countries in 2019. This universal initiative was a significant way to foster and ensure the global heritage is recognised internationally as a vehicle for political-economic leverage. The formation of UNESCO and the shift to global heritage have only emphasised the dilemma of globalisation versus nationalism. Though a globally interconnected world is fluid, the position of State Parties appears to be challenging. These challenges have led to a shift in the heritage conservation practice, which was one reason the WHC, and the operational guidelines have been interpreted differently. However, State Parties failed to integrate them into their planning systems. Instead, technical, and managerial matters were used as a soft power in negotiations, forming cultural politics that framed the nexus between heritage conservation and urban regeneration. Thematic discourse analysis unpacks the tensions and conflicts between local development, national planning, and World Heritage Site (WHS) conservation in Liverpool. From one side, it traces back the dilemma of trading off the significance of WH status as a crucial economic engine for Liverpool's transformation of the tangible and intangible cultural values of the historic built environment, which created tensions between different expectations and set priorities for development, with the technical language used differing from the other side, such as how heritage conservation (global and local technical standards) could be integrated to represent a material intervention. Inspired by Bourdieu's (1986) forms of cultural capital: objectified state to analyse how the use of the historic built environment of the WHS as commodities and products of cultural expression helps in the city's economic transformation. The institutionalised state of the WH status gives a guaranteed value of global recognition and high quality that makes it culturally competent, which combats the negative image of Liverpool and repositions itself in the global network, besides global governmentality, inspired by Rose (1996) and Foucault (1991), to understand the political knowledge of global heritage conservation and how the practice (WHC and the operational guidelines/UK national conservation policy) conforms to rationalities (the core goals of the different organisations involved in the process). Secondary data analysis (policy documents) is used to understand the tensions and the gaps in the heritage conservation approach between local and global approaches and how it informed the setting of the priorities for development. In addition, the study conducts semi-structured interviews with Liverpool City Council (LCC), Historic England (HE), and the steering committee of the WHS to investigate how the role of different stakeholders and their backgrounds influenced the interpretation of the WHC. This thesis aims to make three contributions to debates in urban studies and heritage conservation. First, it advances the epistemological position of the technical approach in heritage conservation with its politics, crucial in shaping and forming global heritage. Second, it expands on the concept of an institutionalised state of cultural capital which is crafted through the WH status to extend global heritage as a recognised certificate to assure a conventional, constant, and legally guaranteed quality. And third, it uses global governmentality theory as a methodological approach to understanding the difference between national and global heritage conservation approaches and how this minimises the gap to find a common ground for such an approach. The output of this thesis can be used as lessons lear
Date of Award1 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRichard Kingston (Supervisor)


  • Governmentality
  • Heritage Conservation
  • Heritage Governance
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site

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