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Spaces of Writing History in the Postcolonial City

Edits, Erasures, Inscriptions

Time: Mon 2022-05-30 10.00

Location: F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26 & 28, Stockholm

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Language: English

Subject area: Planning and Decision Analysis, Urban and Regional Studies

Doctoral student: Suha Hasan , Urbana och regionala studier

Opponent: Professor Jane Jacobs, Yale-NUS College, Singapore

Supervisor: Associate Professor Maria Håkansson, Arkitektur, Urbana och regionala studier; Associate Professor Catharina Gabrielsson, Arkitektur; Professor Emeritus Stephen Ward, Brooks University, UK

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QC 20220513


The search for a pre-colonial identity has occupied post-colonial cities since independence, becoming intertwined with modern nation-building projects. Consequently, an active agenda of reframing heritage has emerged that is strongly connected to the process of revisiting and rewriting the past. This requires merging fragments of memories into one collective memory, which is also called history. This is derived from the intention to create a nationalistically accepted view of how the nation should be perceived by its citizens and presented to the world. Such a singular narrative, which is viewed as essential to creating cohesion and consensus among a diversified population, entails the erasure of other urban narratives. Writing this collective memory, history, is an action in which edits and erasures are equally important as inscriptions. The built environment becomes a vital mediator through which this history is transcribed onto the city terrain. Reading the city through these processes of edits, erasures, and inscriptions constructs a nuanced urban narrative, providing insights into the interconnection of colonial and post-colonial eras on a non-linear timescale.

            The study of Manama’s evolution as a city lends an understanding of the dynamics through which the urban fabric has played a role in the rewriting of history. This study goes back and forth to both link the writing practices in the city today to its past, as well as to highlight identified recurring practices of rewriting history through the built environment. These writing practices are investigated through processes of restoration, demolition, and unrealisations that make visible the frictions and incoherence in the narrative; a narrative that is not produced by a single entity, but rather the dynamics of different agents over the years. History here is dismantled into layers of memory found in archives of different forms, allowing space for the echoes of distant memories to emerge. Central to this narrative is an ever-evolving relationship between the land and the nation.