Space + The Politics of Memory


Fall 2012

Mabel O. Wilson, instructor

Instant forgetting is the disease of our time.
Thomas Frank, radio interview, 1 January 2010
November 2009 marked the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and along with it the collapse of Communism and the so-called heroic triumph of Democracy and Capitalism. Amidst the commemorative events that documented the transformation of Berlin whose new civic and national identity can be seen in the proliferation of new museums, office towers and public buildings in the capital of the unified German State, journalists also sought traces of the memory of a city that had once been cleaved into two ideological civic spheres and nation-states of an East and a West. September 11, 2011 marked the tenth anniversary of 9/11. How should the monumental “Freedom Tower,” an emphatic declaration of the U.S.’s perceived invincibility within a world of unequal global power relations and balkanized religious zeal, be interpreted ten years after the event? Both of these recent examples require that we understand how discourses, representations and practices of memory, history and politics impact the social production of space and the making of the built environment over the past fifty years.

Monumentality in architecture and art have been seminal topics of research within their respective fields, however, the study of its wider political implications has only recently been addressed in new scholarship. This seminar sorted out the differences between the formalization of the past, its various incarnations of collective, individual and cultural, and the dynamic spheres of contemporary spaces.