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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 Four: Revisiting Shanghai Nostalgia: Local Memory as Resistance


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Chapter Four

Revisiting Shanghai Nostalgia: Local Memory as Resistance

When Berlin rose as a controversial modern city in the European continent, Shanghai, in the East Asian continent, also rapidly developed its own more complicated modernity. Both cities reached their peak between the two world wars, that is, between the 1920s and the 1930s. Shanghai became a divided city 100 years earlier than did Berlin. The Treaty of Nanking between the British and the Qing Empires in 1842 ended the First Opium War (1839–1842) and started the conspicuous division of Shanghai between the Chinese-governed zones and the colonial zones. The division of Shanghai is spatial. The spacious northwestern part of the city and the walled old city of Shanghai were still governed by the Chinese government. The foreign territories (mainly the French Concessions, and the International Settlement), which excluded local residents from the 1840s to the 1850s because of mutual fear between the Chinese and foreigners, occupied a large portion of the southeastern part of the city on the western bank of the Huangpu River after several rounds of expansion until 1915. Thus, the city center of Shanghai never went across to the eastern side of the river. The “mother river” of Shanghai is important in the sense that it connects the city not only to the vast Yangtze River basin and into inner China but also to the global water route of transportation. The other side of Shanghai across the river,...

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