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In-Visible Palimpsest

Memory, Space and Modernity in Berlin and Shanghai

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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 III: Forgetting Modern Space? – Amnesia and the “Obsolescent” Modernities

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Part IIIForgetting Modern Space? – Amnesia and the “Obsolescent” Modernities

This part addresses another dimension of memory culture that concerns urban spatial politics: forgetting. Memory is not only understood in terms of remembering. The creation of commemorative discourse and nostalgia also involves the screening of certain memories. The focus of this part is thus on spaces that are normally excluded from the official image of the city’s visualization in contrast to monuments and constructions imbued with nostalgic sentiments that are highly conspicuous in urban representation. Therefore, amnesia is understood here as marginalization of certain spaces in the major representation of the city’s past, present, and future.

One of the most drastic changes that Berlin underwent after the unification in the narrative of its urban form is the demolition, forgetting, and conversion of former East Berlin’s architectural legacies. The disappearance of the totalitarian communist regime also put an end to the ideological legitimacy through the existence of constructions bearing its memories. Moreover, since the past authority was “defeated” by the victory of Western liberalism, undoing the wrongs done during the dark ages is necessary. Nonetheless, an in-depth reading of planning schemes of both sides of the wall and the reconstruction projects in the late 1970s in East Berlin reveals a scenario disproving the rigid imagination that cities under opposing ideologies are innately dissimilar. In Shanghai, spatial amnesia also partly echoes the ideological shifts and partly transverses them. The changes in spatial discourse, way of...

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