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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 II: The Politics of Nostalgia: Memory, Space, and Competing Modernities


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Part IIThe Politics of Nostalgia: Memory, Space, and Competing Modernities

Connecting the past, present, and future, nostalgia plays a crucial role in understanding a city, particularly a cosmopolis where global, national, and local discourses are inextricably interwoven. Nostalgia involves the identification of home and ego, national and local. Nostalgia is derived from the Greek words nostos (homecoming) and algia (longing). Nostalgia, then, literally means a longing for a faraway home that no longer exists or has never existed. Thus, nostalgia, as a form of homesickness, involves the relation between home and self. Moreover, nostalgia has both temporal and spatial dimensions; it is a yearning for somewhere else and for another time. Nostalgia now becomes a collective symptom beyond the individual level. It is not a mere expression of local longing but is a result of a new understanding of time and space, creating a distinction between the local and the universal. In today’s context of globalization, as cyberspace and the global village rapidly develop, local consciousness becomes stronger. The epidemic of nostalgia takes place globally, marked by a longing for continuity in a fragmented world.

The nostalgia for a cosmopolis deeply involves our perceptions of modernity because it is a crucial part of the collective imagination, as well as the semiological reading, of time and space. As Svetlana Boym suggests,

Urban cosmopolitanism is not a feature of the present but rather an element of nostalgia, yet it serves to underscore...

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