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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 Three: City of Divided Memories: Two Kinds of Berlin Nostalgia


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Chapter Three

City of Divided Memories: Two Kinds of Berlin Nostalgia

In Berlin, the memory narratives after the reunification are mainly torn between two kinds of nostalgias. On one hand, the urban planning policy full of nostalgic sentiment for the pre-war Berlin prevailed in today’s Berlin. Nostalgia for “the Golden Twenties”, which seems to mythologize the city’s transient period of glory into its model image for return, tries to revive the landmark of urban modernity. On the other hand, nostalgia for the former East Berlin architectural legacies are to be traced everywhere: the controversy over the demolition of the former GDR multi-functional complex, the Palace of the Republic (Palast der Republik), the popularity of the GDR Museum or the Museum based on the former border Check-point Charlie and the sentiment for the GDR spaces represented in the film “Goodbye Lenin” (Becker 2003). Ostalgie, which describes such disquiet, is derived from the German words ost (east) and nostalgie (nostalgia). This kind of nostalgia speaks of not only a response to global curiosity about a lost and failed regime but also of a sense of disillusionment with reality on both sides of the city, even though the Wall does not exist anymore.

The two kinds of nostalgia are not rivals. Instead, by reviewing the differences between Berlin’s local tradition and the German national tradition since the pre-war years, when Berlin was at the peak of prosperity, this chapter divulges that contemporary memory...

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