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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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Part I: Contested National Memories: Monument, Myth-Making, and Modernity


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Part IContested National Memories: Monument, Myth-Making, and Modernity

Representing the essence of the national myth, the official commemorative constructions (i.e., monuments, memorials, archives, museums, etc.) of today are erected primarily by main political powers in a nation-state to assert national identity. As Eric Hobsbawm (1990) and Benedict Anderson (1991) contend, the nation-state is a relatively recent invention in human history and is deeply connected with the discourse on modernity (Hobsbawm 14). Three points can illustrate the interrelations between monuments and modernity. First, monuments play an important role in establishing, sustaining, consolidating, and legitimatizing the creation of the national narrative. Nations are made up, though not necessarily completely falsified, by the common imagination of the collective and continuous existence of a geographical territory. “The material existence of “certain artifacts and events – such as dead bodies, gravesites, and burial ceremonies – have unique symbolic power because they invoke a sense of timelessness, awe, fear, and uncertainty” (Verdery 23–53). And in turn, “The power to transcend time, to bring historical events and personalities into the present, makes such objects especially effective in mobilizing national movements” (Forest and Johnson 526).

Second, as spatial representation in memory of a historical happening, a monument invokes the core contradiction between modernity and its temporality. Modern monuments belong to the “intentional commemorative value” according to Alois Riegl’s categorization (Riegl 38). Unlike age-value and historical value that enable time work on spatial meaning, “(i)ntentional commemorative value aims to preserve a...

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