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The Evolution of the Sense of Heritage in the Walloon Countryside (Belgium)

  • Schmitz, Serge
Publication Date
Jul 01, 2019
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Since 1976, the NGO “Qualité village Wallonie” works on safeguarding and highlighting local rural heritage. The NGO helped to realize 2,500 projects in 850 villages in Wallonia. Yet, the workers of the NGO have noticed important changes in rural communities including other perspectives on the common heritage. This could be linked with rapid changes of demography, including aging and decline of native population and arrivals of commuters. Another hypothesis is that the Belgian society has lost the sense of local heritage. Factors like the rejection of Catholicism, the increase of mobility, the increase of consumerism, including frequent leisure travels, could contribute to the explanation. Based on interviews with the workers and administrators of the NGO and on an e-survey of rural people, the research describes and suggests explanations of this apparent loss of sense of local heritage. The first results show a shift of attention away from the religious and farming heritage to places and buildings that make the village unique. There is also a reluctance to commit oneself to a long period. Therefore, fellow citizens are more selective and want to see fast results. Indeed, local heritage gains in importance when it helps distinguishing the village from the others. More than a loss of the sense of heritage, the notion of heritage is evolving. It increasingly shifts from something from the past that requires protection to things that could be useful for the present and future generations.

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