This session seeks to examine the processes of assigning economic value to cultural and natural heritage and promoting it as an identity brand.It aims to scrutinize the extent to which the branding processes encapsulate authenticity or fake-authenticity, genuine or counterfeit, realities or utopias.
Constructing an identity brand means identifying a potential attraction of a place and promoting it as a specific form of tourism. Lately, built heritage - sometimes associated with other endogenous resources such as a preserved natural environment, local products, traditional practices and customs - has become an important economic resource to be mobilized in tourism. By considering identity brands as a construction undertaken with the purpose to attract more visitors to a certain destination and thus enhance local development, our endeavour is to scrutinize the human agency in such processes. In line with this topic, our session seeks papers addressing the issue of shaping a place as a tourist destination by questioning the role heritage plays in development plans for urban or rural areas, along with the power relations in instrumenting identity brands. On the one hand, we would like to examine the extent to which the processes of branding heritage entail negotiating between the "genuine" state of places and the idealistic or imaginary manners of portraying them. On the other hand, we ask ourselves to what extent cultural and natural tourism-oriented discourses forged as part of political and cultural strategy reflect the local people's representations about their place and in what circumstances the rejection of a brand by indigenous (dissident) people may promote alternative rhetoric of local communities' identity-building. Colleagues whose embedded reflections provide overviews of the recently symbolic usages and displays of heritage within rural or urban development plans are invited to submit their proposals.