Whose landscape, whose heritage? Landscape politics of ‘swiftlet farming’ in a World Heritage City

Creighton CONNOLLY*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

11 Citations (Scopus)


To date, little attention has been paid to critical intersections between urban heritage and landscape change. This paper examines this relationship through the case of urban ‘swiftlet farming’ in the UNESCO World Heritage city of George Town, Penang, Malaysia, which over the past 10 years has been transformed by the phenomenon. However, the industry has been fiercely resisted due to many issues, most notably for its alleged irreversible damage to the (in)tangible heritage of George Town and its abundance of pre-war heritage shophouses. Yet on the other hand, swiftlet farmers, have sought to legitimise their right to the city by arguing that swiftlets and the harvesting of their nests are in fact an integral part of Penang’s cultural, economic and natural heritage. In digging into these controversies, this paper focuses on the circulating discourses around ideas of what constitutes ‘heritage’, and ‘appropriate’ uses of urban space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-320
Number of pages14
JournalLandscape Research
Issue number3
Early online date23 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research for this paper benefited from the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union?s Seventh Framework Programme [REA agreement number 289374??ENTITLE?]. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the ?Relational Landscape Studies of Urbanization? in Alnarp, Sweden in June, 2014, which helped shape the paper into its current form. Thanks to Mattias Qvistr?m, Erik Swyngedouw and two anonymous referees for helping to clarify my arguments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Landscape Research Group Ltd.


  • Cultural heritage
  • Malaysia
  • urban farming
  • urban political ecology
  • urbanisation


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