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In-Visible Palimpsest

Memory, Space and Modernity in Berlin and Shanghai


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 Two: Monuments in Shanghai: The Invisible Turn


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Chapter Two

Monuments in Shanghai: The Invisible Turn

Having experienced the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) and the student movement in 1989, the Chinese commemorative spaces and monuments are not straightforward in producing their meanings. The national agenda of the People’s Republic of China has turned from a fierce political struggle to an economy-oriented open-door policy since the late 1970s and has been experiencing full-speed development since the early 1990s. The influences of similar social transformations can also be found in the commemorative cultures of Russia or the former Eastern European communist countries. Benjamin Forest and Juliet Johnson, for example, studied how Soviet-era monuments were renegotiated in the post-Soviet present and suggested three possible categories of the current treatment of monuments in Moscow: Co-opted/Glorified, Disavowed, and Contested.11 However, the fate of the post-Soviet “disgraced monuments,” which refer to the numerous destroyed memorial artifacts of the Communist era, such as the statues of Lenin and Stalin, has not befallen most of the Chinese monuments.12 Owing to the unshaken political rule of the Chinese Communist Party, the question that Chinese national monuments are confronted with is how they can be incorporated into a revised national ideology that is ← 83 | 84 → still deeply entangled in the continuities and discontinuities of its political vicissitudes.

At first glance, the association between monumental significance and the city of Shanghai can easily be overlooked. As the most prominent national symbols of contemporary China, for example,...

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