mudot issue #8 - memory, amnesia and urbanism

In Berlin the physical deconstruction of the former parliament building of the GDR, the “Palast der Republik” is underway. In this example a long debate about memory has come to its material end, however the questions over the relationship between city and memory linger.   How are memories constructed, embedded or deleted in the city?  Why and how are some preserved at high cost while others are sacrificed with nary a backward glance?

Lest a city wants to become a ghost town or an open-air museum, history will constantly be layered, merged and replaced by new memories and stories. Just as the relationship between the political , economic and the existing geography is in constant flux, so too are we – our lifestyles and our stories transformed.  But when does intentional forgetting develop into something close to amnesia and becomes detrimental? Is the re-engineering of Chinese cities for example, happening at a speed, that it outpaces the city’s ability to fill the new scape with memories and meaning?

The construction of memories in cities can be a highly contested and intensely political process. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the history and meaning of the land is also battled out in dozens of cities and villages. Similarly settlements on the borders of many nation states have undergone repeated shifts of political identity.  How does size and scale enter the issue? How do the stories of small, unknown places differ from those of world-cities that can more obviously connect their image to that in a globalized world? Or on a very concrete level, what does it mean for the spirit of a neighborhood when a restaurant that carries the memories of a generation has to close as tastes change? Who will mourn its loss?

To these and other issues in the field of memory, forgetting and amnesia in cities, we are looking for contributions. Photos, documentations or fiction, opinions or theoretical approaches are all welcome. Please send inquires or proposals to editors@mudot.org. The deadline for submissions will be February 2008.