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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 Six: Other Shanghais: Missing Narratives of Urban Space


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Chapter Six

Other Shanghais: Missing Narratives of Urban Space

I.  Invisible Shanghai: Three Cases

Similar to the case of Berlin, the amnesia of the socialist architectural legacies is easily juxtaposed as the counter-memory with the prevailing nostalgia for the prerevolutionary Shanghai urban landscape (Luo 2007, Zhang 2006). Critics use binary oppositions between pre-socialist and socialist and between socialist and post-socialist memories to unveil the oversimplified topography of the city in popular imagination. This chapter, however, deals with the topic of amnesia by avoiding using these binaries. The following three cases of Shanghai’s spatial amnesia transverse, though are highly pertinent to, ideological mutations that are significant indicators of spatial changes in both physical and symbolic terms. The Greater Shanghai Plan (1927–1937), probably the most ambitious urban planning project in Republican China, is hardly known in today’s common knowledge of Shanghai for both local and non-local residents. The invisible city slums in Shanghai, namely, the large ramshackle area, actually have existed throughout the pre-revolutionary, revolutionary and post-revolutionary period even though their narrative and actual condition fluctuated in different times. The once highly privileged Workers’ New Villages, which were products of the socialist ideology and political propaganda, also disappeared from the public awareness. The end of its superior position in the urban texture corresponds to the fall of the social class it embodied after the ideological turn in the post-Mao period. However, this turn requires more discussion on the changing understanding of...

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