War, sectarian conflict, colonialism and dictatorship leave both material and symbolic marks on the cityscape. Both the archive and the (re)appearance of effaced traces in the palimpsest are particularly compelling figures in cultural debates concerning the city. Freud, in his definition of the cultural super-ego in Civilisation and its Discontents, begins with a meditation on time, memory and the cityscape; similarly, his formulation of transference draws on Jansen’s novel Gradiva and the footsteps left in the ruins of Pompeii. In other words, a major tenet of psychoanalytical theory is derived from a symbolic relationship with an urban trace. More recently, the engagement of diverse cultural and literary modes with the aftermath of violence, colonialism and concomitant traumas has formed the basis of urban theories put forward by Michel de Certeau, Henri Lefbvre and Marc Augé. Furthermore, Andreas Huyssen has offered pioneering work on the global “explosion of memory” witnessed in recent years which has been threatened by - yet proved resistant to- advanced capitalism and consumerism in an age of globalisation.
Connecting memory, the palimpsest, and mutations of a diverse collection of cities, this special issue will showcase interdisciplinary and comparative approaches to the analysis of the cultural imaginary. Understanding cityscapes as urban palimpsests, areas of interrogation include: How does the interaction of personal and public memory function in relation to the city? How is violence, in its many permutations, - personal and political or local and global - played out in topographies of cityspace? How is the confrontation of the self with Other understood through archival figures or material objects in intermediary urban space? How do figures of the archive work against themselves in relation to the city? How do urban concepts such as dérive, displacement, or the idling flâneur relate to figures of the palimpsest or the archive? Finally, how have cities been transformed in light of the way in which neoliberal ideologies have guided post-conflict or dictatorship transition?