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In-Visible Palimpsest

Memory, Space and Modernity in Berlin and Shanghai

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Lu Pan

In the early 1990s, Berlin and Shanghai witnessed the dramatic social changes in both national and global contexts. While in 1991 Berlin became the new capital of the reunified Germany, from 1992 Shanghai began to once again play its role as the most powerful engine of economic development in the post-1989 China. This critical moment of history has fundamentally transformed the later development of both cities, above all in terms of urban spatial order. The construction mania in Shanghai and Berlin shares the
similar aspiration of «re-modernizing» themselves. In this sense, the current experience of Shanghai and Berlin informs many of the features of urban modernity in the post-Cold-War era. The book unfolds the complexity of the urban space per se as highly revealing cultural texts. Also this project doesn’t examine the spatial changes in chronological terms, but rather takes the present moment as the temporal standing point of this research. By comparing the memory discourse related to these spatial changes, the book poses the question of how modernity is understood in the matrix of local, national and global power struggles.
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Chapter One: The Berlin Republic: Re-invoked Memories

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Chapter One

The Berlin Republic: Re-invoked Memories

The German reunification in 1990 ended the division between the former West Germany and East Germany for almost thirty years. With their respective national narrative in the Cold War period, the reunification marked the turn of Germany’s commemorative culture. This change is particularly noticeable in Berlin, the new capital of the new Germany. As the capital of the kingdom of Prussia (1701–1918), the German Empire (1871–1918), the Weimar Republic (1919–1933), the Third Reich (1933–1945), the German Democratic Republic (GDR) (1949–1990), and now the Federal Republic of Germany, Berlin epitomizes the arduous journey of Germany’s modernization. Karl Scheffler’s pre-First World War characterization of Berlin as “always to be in the process of becoming and never to be” is still valid (Scheffler 1989). Today, the reunified geopolitical condition poses at least two questions of immediate exigency in Berlin: first, how today’s German national identity is defined through the image of Berlin, and second, how Berlin (re)finds its niche in the global mapping of a metropolises. Berlin is still struggling with its new identities that are transforming the city into a site of new urban experiments, where various powers and interests constantly compete, negotiate, compromise, and annihilate one another. The urban formation of Berlin, under such circumstances, stands again on a kind of “ground zero” immediately after the “Wende,” or the turn after the reunification, which has left the city in the...

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