Urban political ecologies of heritage : Integrating cultural and natural landscapes in Penang, Malaysia

Creighton CONNOLLY*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Over the past few decades, there have been numerous studies examining the interface between cultural heritage conservation and urban (re)development, particularly in rapidly developing regions. On the other hand, scholars have also examined nature conservation movements in the context of encroaching (urban) development. However, this body of research has, with a few exceptions, not considered the interrelationship between natural and cultural heritage in urban settings. The paper argues that a renewed understanding of urban heritage – consisting of both cultural and natural elements – is required for effective and socio-ecologically sustainable approaches to heritage conservation and urban development. To illustrate this argument, the paper draws on an empirical examination of Penang Hill, which is a culturally and ecologically significant area of Penang Island, Malaysia. In conceptualising this relationship, the paper draws on the urban political ecologies of landscape, which is useful in examining the urbanisation of nature and problematising distinctions between urban/rural and natural/cultural. As I will demonstrate, invocations of Penang's rich natural heritage are often framed alongside urban and cultural heritage in local resistance to these developments, which relate to the particular socio-environmental sensibilities of local stakeholders. The analysis is based on discursive analysis of primary written sources and original interviews with local residents and civil society activists, which helps to demonstrate the crucial role of local communities in achieving more socio-ecologically just forms of heritage management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-180
Number of pages13
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding information Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. The research for this paper was made possible by a Research Grant from the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, for the project ?Negotiating Urban Heritage: Contesting Visions of Redevelopment in Penang, Malaysia? (2016?2017). Thanks are also due to Grace Chong who provided assistance with the literature review, in addition to Maria Kaika and three anonymous reviewers who provided helpful comments on previous drafts.

Publisher Copyright:
The information, practices and views in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). © 2019 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).


  • culture
  • heritage
  • landscape
  • Malaysia
  • nature
  • urban political ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Urban political ecologies of heritage : Integrating cultural and natural landscapes in Penang, Malaysia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this