Irna Nurlina Masron

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Gentrification and its various contexts: heritage-making as alternative development?

Through a transnational circulation of theory, gentrification as a frame of reference has increasingly been applied to cases outside the Anglo-American sphere by wholesale adoption or contextual adaptation. Yet even with this intention to include and widen the scope of the phenomenon to rapidly urbanising Asian cities, gentrification as defined thus far has not sufficiently taken into account emergent factors. The term as understood and popularised today may have been coined in Europe and United States in the 1960s, but they should not be the only starting points with which to examine the phenomenon. Current drivers of gentrification can be quite different, given the changing local, regional and global contexts to which even the Western cities are not immune. Examples such as wealthy East Asians putting capital in London, and overseas migrant workers putting capital in their Asian home cities demonstrate that it is no longer just about lower-middle-income residents being displaced by the reinvestment and resettlement of the middle classes. It is a displacement at various scales of politics, with varying local-global dynamics and postcolonial contexts. This displacement takes place differently depending on how actors advance or resist capital flows in the city, such as using heritage-making as an alternative development strategy. In different political systems, the planning powers of the state can also vary greatly, and when combined with the varying origins of capital, the process and outcomes of gentrification can be quite unexpected. Using the case of the urban village (a local neighbourhood) in Jakarta, I argue that current gentrification debates are insufficient in explaining how tensions between heritage-making and gentrification are being resolved by residents who face displacement and their allies. This has potential to shed light on anti-gentrification challenges but also possibilities which may have been obscured in the more well-known Anglo-American and European cases, contributing to the understanding of neighbourhood transformation in Asia.

Irna Nurlina Masron is currently a PhD student at the Department of Politics, Birkbeck College, University of London. Her research interests are at the intersection of urban politics, postcolonial heritage, and housing issues in Southeast Asia.


Birkbeck College, University of London