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Networked Remembrance

Excavating Buried Memories in the Railways beneath London and Berlin

by Samuel Merrill (Author)
Monographs XX, 408 Pages
Series: Cultural Memories, Volume 8

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Preface
  • Introduction: Departure Points
  • Part I: Clearing Ground
  • Chapter 1: Social Memory in and under the City
  • Chapter 2: Working across and beneath London and Berlin
  • Part II: Cartographies and Toponymies
  • Chapter 3: Mapping an Icon: The Underground’s Mnemonic Cartographies
  • Reflection: The Changing Symbolism of Berlin’s Network Map
  • Chapter 4: Naming the Network: The U- and S-Bahn’s Commemorative Toponyms
  • Reflection: The Underground’s Toponymic Heritage
  • Part III: Memory Work and Memorials
  • Chapter 5: The Roots of Resistance: Memory Work at Samariterstraße Station
  • Reflection: The Compensatory Memorialization of De Menezes
  • Chapter 6: Accounting for Trauma: Memorializing Accidents under London
  • Reflection: Memorial Absence in the U- and S-Bahn
  • Part IV: Ruins and Vestiges
  • Chapter 7: Networked Ruins: Re-encountering London’s Disused Stations
  • Reflection: (Re)membering Berlin’s Buried Ghost-Stations
  • Chapter 8: Art from Below: Creating Mnemonic Imaginaries in the Vestiges of the U10
  • Reflection: Mixing Memory at Aldwych
  • Conclusion: Infrastructures of Memory beneath and beyond London and Berlin
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

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Figures

← x | xi →

Abbreviations

← xiv | xv →

Preface

In this space there can be nothing inherited, traditional, taken for granted or unplanned. One is completely dependent on the will of those who create it.

(GROYS 2003: 117–18)

The railways that pass beneath the surfaces of cities across the world collectively carry almost 150 million passengers each day (UTIP 2014).1 For the majority of these passengers, however, they mostly embody the quotidian aspects of everyday urban life, even if, at times, they become the setting for exceptional events and otherworldly imaginaries (Pike 2013a). Reflecting this duality, Boris Groys suggests that although some urban underground railways, more so than others, come to serve symbolic functions, in the majority of cases they remain merely technical conveniences where the past is conquered and the individual is subjugated to the wishes of the planner (2003). Indeed it is probably fair to assume that the vast majority of urbanites consider their underground transport networks primarily in practical terms, as either spaces of routine, marking the transition between home and work, places of work themselves, or as interruptions between locations of leisure, and not, therefore, as places in which to reflect on the past. For a long time I was no different in this respect.

My first recollections of the London Underground, the urban railway that serves the city where I spent my early childhood in the late 1980s, are ← xv | xvi → barely that. The boundaries of my world rarely reached as far as the closest Underground station at Willesden Green, which had opened in 1879 and, along with a nearby mainline station that opened eleven years earlier, had driven the urbanization of the wider area and helped transform a rural settlement into first, a suburb of London, and then, part of the city’s urban core. My childhood memories of travelling in London had vertical as well as horizontal limits. As the youngest of four children I rarely used the Underground and mostly remember either struggling to keep up with my older sisters on foot or travelling together by car or bus. In fact, I can only recall being actually underground on the Underground once as a child, accompanied by my mother, when – much to her panic – there were no alternative means of transport. I moved away from London aged eight but later visited as an adolescent to finally take advantage of the Underground’s utility, although never really for long enough to get to know its landscape in any great detail.

The first urban railway networks that I truly comprehended were the Untergrundbahn [Underground Railway] (U-Bahn) and Stadtschnellbahn [City Railway] (S-Bahn) of Berlin. Still, during my earliest prolonged stays in the German capital, over ten years ago, I used these networks merely to get about, and perceived their times and places mostly as interludes while I collected my first impressions of the city. My subterranean journeys were pauses between the contrasts and contradictions of Berlin’s more famous tourist attractions, as typified by the freshly renovated Reichstag and the newly constructed Sony Centre that flanked both the Brandenburg Gate and, at that time, the still incomplete Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. In retrospect my initial disregard of Berlin’s underground seems odd, especially given the interest that I, by then an archaeology undergraduate at the University of Birmingham, had in almost all other things ‘buried’. I certainly did not pay much critical attention to the U- and S-Bahn’s cultural, or, more specifically, mnemonic significance. This changed when I began a postgraduate degree in heritage studies at what was then the Brandenburg Technical University in Cottbus, a town located 125 km east of Berlin. As I learnt more about the turbulent twentieth-century history that was reflected in the German capital’s urban fabric, I realized that I was not alone in neglecting the mnemonic registers of the city’s transport ← xvi | xvii → infrastructure. While a number of scholars had extensively researched questions of heritage and social memory on Berlin’s surface, far fewer, if any, had addressed similar themes in the subterranean spaces beneath its streets. I channelled my first efforts in considering such questions, however, not towards the U- and S-Bahn but back towards my origins and the Underground (see Merrill 2010). These initial forays pre-empted the doctoral research that I conducted at the Department of Geography of University College London (UCL) between 2010 and 2014, which led first to a thesis and now, this book.

Summary

Networked Remembrance is the first book to explore questions of urban memory within what are some of the most commonly experienced subterranean margins of the contemporary city: underground railways. Using London’s and Berlin’s underground railways as comparative case studies, this book reveals how social memories are spatially produced – through practices of cartography and toponymy, memory work and memorialization, exploration and artistic appropriation – within the everyday and concealed places associated with these transport networks.
Through numerous empirical excavations, this book highlights an array of different mnemonic actors, processes, structures and discourses that have determined the forms of «networked remembrance» associated with the subterranean stations and sections of the London Underground and Berlin U- and S-Bahn. In turn, it invites readers to descend into the «buried memories» that are often imperceptible to those travelling by rail beneath the British and German capitals and encourages them to ask what other memories might lie latent in the infrastructural landscapes beneath their feet.
This book was the winner of the 2014 Peter Lang Young Scholars Competition in Memory Studies.

Biographical notes

Samuel Merrill (Author)

Samuel Merrill is an interdisciplinary researcher based at the Department of Sociology’s Digital Social Research Unit at Umeå University. He completed his doctorate in Cultural Geography at University College London in 2014.

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