Special Issue "Ghost-towns: Cityscapes, Memories and Critical Theory"

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A special issue of Societies (ISSN 2075-4698).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (16 September 2013)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Graeme Gilloch

Department of Sociology, Bowland North, Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YT, UK
Website | E-Mail
Interests: social and cultural theory; critical theory; visual and urban culture; memory studies
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Changnam Lee

HIT building 208-2, Hangyang University, 222 Wangsimri-ro, Seongdong-Gu, Seoul 133-791, Korea
Website | E-Mail
Fax: +82 2 2298 0542
Interests: transnational history; urban culture

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

With the emergence in recent years of ‘memory studies’ as an interdisciplinary field within the humanities and social sciences, a number of intriguing questions have come to the fore concerning the character of individual and collective remembrance in relation to urban structures, spaces and experiences. How is the past etched into the very physical fabric of the modern cityscape? How are memories prompted, produced and reproduced in urban contexts and with what consequences? Whose past is celebrated, whose memories are preserved? Such questions have in turn led to critical consideration of the manifold roles played, for example, by monuments, counter-monuments, museums and other sites of (un)official commemoration (Pierre Nora’s lieux de memoire) and of how marginalised and excluded memories might be mobilised to challenge and critique hegemonic histories and narratives of the powerful. As processes of so-called urban renewal and regeneration in former industrial cities threaten to silence and erase ‘troublesome’ memories, it is timely to ask: are ruins sources of, or resources for, recollection? Are cities always and everywhere haunted by their pasts? And perhaps most importantly: how can critical thought and hope survive amid the selective, collective amnesia of 21st century global megacities?

Walter Benjamin once observed that the metropolitan crowd was so important for the poet Charles Baudelaire that, paradoxically, one rarely finds an explicit description of it. The same might well be said of the Critical Theorists of the ‘Frankfurt School’ and memory, for what always stands behind their pessimistic denunciation of modern capitalism is precisely the nightmarish prospect of a complacent conformist world shorn of critique, bereft of meaning, purged of memory. As Theodor Adorno once famously remarked, and it is a sentiment he shared with Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse and others: ‘all reification is a forgetting’. Notwithstanding this, there are two other writers, not members as such but more marginal figures of the Frankfurt Institut for Social Research, now recognised as the key exponents of Critical Theory in relation to memory and the city. As a consequence of their many and varied writings on Berlin, Paris and cities elsewhere (auto/biographical, journalistic, aphoristic, historiographic, always idiosyncratic) both Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer have become important and indeed inspirational figures for contemporary writers and artists of all kinds who share a fascination with urban experience and the possibilities and practices of remembrance. For example, the meanderings, musings and memories of the flaneur, as both an eccentric historical figure and as a contemporary perambulating pedestrian in the city, have stimulated novelists, essayists, poets, filmmakers, digital experimenters, architects and others to recognise and read the cityscape as a form of palimpsest.

Accordingly, this special issue invites essays and other contributions on the theme of the city and memory in relation to Critical Theory broadly conceived – that is to say, not just ‘Frankfurt School’ thinkers themselves but also all those others (Marxist writers, feminist thinkers and postcolonial theorists among them ) who have found their writings profoundly provocative in their own envisioning of the modern metropolis as a site not only of everyday alienation, exploitation and contestation but also of haunting, myth-making and mourning.

The editors invite contributions of circa 5000 words for publication in the December 2013 issue of the on-line journal Societies.

Dr. Graeme Gilloch
Prof. Dr. Changnam Lee
Guest Editors

Submission

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Societies is an international peer-reviewed Open Access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 300 CHF (Swiss Francs). English correction and/or formatting fees of 250 CHF (Swiss Francs) will be charged in certain cases for those articles accepted for publication that require extensive additional formatting and/or English corrections.

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Eurydice at Euston?: Walter Benjamin and Marc Augé Go Underground
Societies 2014, 4(1), 16-29; doi:10.3390/soc4010016
Received: 31 October 2013 / Revised: 24 December 2013 / Accepted: 24 December 2013 / Published: 3 January 2014
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Abstract
Taking as its point of departure Walter Benjamin’s repeatedly unsuccessful attempt to give spatial form to his past, this paper suggests that it is perhaps the contemporary French anthropologist, Marc Augé, who provides the most appropriate envisioning of a ‘map of memories’ in
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Taking as its point of departure Walter Benjamin’s repeatedly unsuccessful attempt to give spatial form to his past, this paper suggests that it is perhaps the contemporary French anthropologist, Marc Augé, who provides the most appropriate envisioning of a ‘map of memories’ in his brief writings on the Parisian métro system. For Augé, the labyrinthine subway network constitutes nothing less than a ‘memory machine’ in which lines and station names serve as mnemonics, recalling long-forgotten childhood encounters and experiences. Mirroring the cityscape above, places themselves unexplored, unknown, the serried toponyms of the métro become an incantation summoning forth the shades of the past. As Augé points out, those stations that provide opportunities to change lines are felicitously termed ‘correspondences’, a Baudelairean term that fascinated Benjamin and informed his key historiographical notion of the ‘dialectical image,’ the intersection and mutual illumination of past and present moments. For me, Augé’s highly suggestive reflections bring to mind my own memories of a London childhood around 1970. Looking at the London underground map today, I cannot but see the sites of many past meetings and partings, dots connected by lines forming complex figures, constellations of memory. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ghost-towns: Cityscapes, Memories and Critical Theory)
Open AccessArticle The Ghost-Image on Metropolitan Borders—In Terms of Phantom of the Opera and 19th-Century Metropolis Paris
Societies 2014, 4(1), 1-15; doi:10.3390/soc4010001
Received: 7 October 2013 / Revised: 16 October 2013 / Accepted: 20 December 2013 / Published: 27 December 2013
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Abstract
This paper reviews Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera in the context of the social and cultural changes of the metropolis Paris at the end of the 19th century. The Phantom of the Opera, a success in the literary world and widely
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This paper reviews Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera in the context of the social and cultural changes of the metropolis Paris at the end of the 19th century. The Phantom of the Opera, a success in the literary world and widely proliferated in its musical and film renditions afterward, is considered and interpreted mainly in the literary and artistic tradition. In this paper, however, this work will be considered from an urban sociological perspective, especially from that of Walter Benjamin, who developed the theory of the urban culture, focusing on the dreaming collectives at the end of the 19th century. Leroux’s novel can be regarded as an exemplary social form of the collective dreams of the period expressed in arts, architectures, popular stories and films and other popular arts. Given the premise that the dream images in the novel, so-called kitsch, reflect the fears and desires of the bourgeois middle class that were pathologized in the figure of the ghost, this paper reveals the cultural, social and transnational implications of the Ghost-Image in relation to the rapidly changing borders of the 19th century metropolis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ghost-towns: Cityscapes, Memories and Critical Theory)
Open AccessArticle Becoming Monument, Activating Windsor
Societies 2013, 3(4), 482-490; doi:10.3390/soc3040482
Received: 22 October 2013 / Revised: 18 November 2013 / Accepted: 18 November 2013 / Published: 27 November 2013
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Abstract
What does it mean to live in a dying place? This auto-critical article asks this question in the context of the Windsor/Detroit region, one of the most economically depressed zones in North America. Using the work of Barthes, Benjamin, and Taussig, I ruminate
[...] Read more.
What does it mean to live in a dying place? This auto-critical article asks this question in the context of the Windsor/Detroit region, one of the most economically depressed zones in North America. Using the work of Barthes, Benjamin, and Taussig, I ruminate on the psycho-somatic experiences of trying to navigate a world that most writers have already dismissed as haunted and abandoned. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ghost-towns: Cityscapes, Memories and Critical Theory)
Open AccessArticle At the Stage of Their Fate: Salvaging the Urban Obsolete in Sydney
Societies 2013, 3(4), 464-481; doi:10.3390/soc3040464
Received: 22 September 2013 / Revised: 13 November 2013 / Accepted: 15 November 2013 / Published: 26 November 2013
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Abstract
Chronicling the interiors and exteriors of selected abandoned buildings in Sydney, this article examines the problem of memory in spaces that are not only isolated and devalued, but often have played no role in the life of the casual visitor or observer. How
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Chronicling the interiors and exteriors of selected abandoned buildings in Sydney, this article examines the problem of memory in spaces that are not only isolated and devalued, but often have played no role in the life of the casual visitor or observer. How can the ruins of someone else’s past be made to speak, and how might contemporary ruinscapes reveal a different way of engaging with the past in urban space, particularly in one of the “youngest” cities in the world: a city not defined by decline; constantly undergoing redevelopment; and known more for contemporary architecture than contemporary ruin? Through describing personal encounters with each site, this paper adopts the attitude of Benjamin’s collector who encounters old books in a way that does not consider their use-value but instead sees them as fated objects, encountered as ephemeral remnants of the past. Like the salvaged but outmoded book, the modern ruin is just as much a site in which history is played out as any house of parliament or mainstream newsroom. Further, history need not be the dominion of those things and people that speak loudly and clearly—it is equally constituted by boundless, amorphous, liminal, discarded, rejected, silent things—in this case, ruined buildings of a recent, remembered and accessible past. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ghost-towns: Cityscapes, Memories and Critical Theory)
Open AccessArticle The Death and Life of Walter Benjamin
Societies 2013, 3(4), 457-463; doi:10.3390/soc3040457
Received: 13 September 2013 / Revised: 4 November 2013 / Accepted: 7 November 2013 / Published: 12 November 2013
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Abstract
What if Walter Benjamin actually made it to New York as he was escaping the Nazis, settling there for the rest of his long life? What if he was working on a sequel to his Arcades Project, translating his ideas about Paris,
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What if Walter Benjamin actually made it to New York as he was escaping the Nazis, settling there for the rest of his long life? What if he was working on a sequel to his Arcades Project, translating his ideas about Paris, capital of the nineteenth century, to his new city and own epoch? And what if I inadvertently discovered the manuscript of this so-called Manhattan Project, and decided to write a study dedicated to the unearthed text? This paper offers a few reflections on, and quotations from, the book that I am currently, truly working on, which is an analysis of a phantom of a book, inspired by a real collection of reflections and quotations that were made in preparation for another book that was also never written. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ghost-towns: Cityscapes, Memories and Critical Theory)
Open AccessArticle Homes for Ghosts: Walter Benjamin and Kurt Schwitters in the Cities
Societies 2013, 3(4), 414-426; doi:10.3390/soc3040414
Received: 9 September 2013 / Revised: 22 October 2013 / Accepted: 28 October 2013 / Published: 30 October 2013
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Abstract
Under the influence of Freud’s dream analysis, Benjamin writes down a dream about Goethe’s house, which he has visited before and in whose visitor’s book he finds his name ‘already entered in big, unruly, childish scrawl’ and at whose dinner table he finds
[...] Read more.
Under the influence of Freud’s dream analysis, Benjamin writes down a dream about Goethe’s house, which he has visited before and in whose visitor’s book he finds his name ‘already entered in big, unruly, childish scrawl’ and at whose dinner table he finds places set for his relatives, ancestors and descendants. This leads him to exclaim: when the ‘house of our life…is under assault and enemy bombs are taking their toll, what enervated, perverse antiquities do they not lay bare in the foundations!’. Benjamin’s other homes, his exile homes, real and those imaged—such as the cave-like arcades—are considered in this essay as repositories of ‘perverse antiquities’ and spaces inhabited by ghosts not just the ghosts of Goethe, but of friends who committed suicide in protest at war. These ghost-filled homes are set alongside those of a fellow exile, Kurt Schwitters, who built for himself three ‘Merzbau’ home-museums, each one as incomplete as Benjamin’s Arcades Project, each one wrecked by war, like that project too. Schwitters addresses the ghosts of the cities head on in his stories and artworks from exile—these are read alongside the effort to produce a safe domestic space, at whose centre is the death mask of his son. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ghost-towns: Cityscapes, Memories and Critical Theory)
Open AccessArticle The Haunting of L.S. Lowry: Class, Mass Spectatorship and the Image at The Lowry, Salford, UK
Societies 2013, 3(4), 332-347; doi:10.3390/soc3040332
Received: 4 September 2013 / Revised: 16 October 2013 / Accepted: 17 October 2013 / Published: 18 October 2013
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Abstract
In a series of momentary encounters with the surface details of The Lowry Centre, a cultural venue located in Salford, Greater Manchester, UK, this article considers the fate of the image evoked by the centre’s production and staging of cultural experience. Benjamin’s notion
[...] Read more.
In a series of momentary encounters with the surface details of The Lowry Centre, a cultural venue located in Salford, Greater Manchester, UK, this article considers the fate of the image evoked by the centre’s production and staging of cultural experience. Benjamin’s notion of ‘aura’ as inimical to transformations of art and cultural spectatorship is explored, alongside its fatal incarnation in Baudrillard’s concept of ‘simulation’. L.S. Lowry, I argue, occupies the space as a medium: both as a central figure of transmission of the centre’s narrative of inclusivity through cultural regeneration, and as one who communes with phantoms: remainders of the working-class life and culture that once occupied this locale. Through an exploration of various installations there in his name, Lowry is configured as a ‘destructive character’, who, by making possible an alternative route through its spaces, refuses to allow The Lowry Centre to insulate itself from its locale and the debt it owes to its past. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ghost-towns: Cityscapes, Memories and Critical Theory)
Open AccessArticle Camera Arriving at the Station: Cinematic Memory as Cultural Memory
Societies 2013, 3(3), 316-331; doi:10.3390/soc3030316
Received: 1 July 2013 / Revised: 6 August 2013 / Accepted: 28 August 2013 / Published: 18 September 2013
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Abstract
This paper explores the modern metropolis as an ironically concrete metaphor for the collective memory and the mourning of cinema’s passing, as it—the “city”—is digitally constructed in two recent, auteur-directed, special effects-driven blockbuster films, Inception and Hugo. The modern city, and mass
[...] Read more.
This paper explores the modern metropolis as an ironically concrete metaphor for the collective memory and the mourning of cinema’s passing, as it—the “city”—is digitally constructed in two recent, auteur-directed, special effects-driven blockbuster films, Inception and Hugo. The modern city, and mass media, such as the cinema, as well as modes of mass transport, especially the train, all originate in the 19th century, but come into their own in the early 20th century in their address to a subject as the mobilised citizen-consumer who, as Anne Friedberg makes clear, is also always a viewer. Additionally, as Barbara Mennel has recently shown, the advent in Europe of trains and time zones, in their transformation of modern time and space, paved the way for cinema’s comparably cataclysmic impact upon modern subjectivity in its iconic reproduction of movement within illusory 3D space. Both films, thus, in their different ways employ cinematic remediation as a form of cultural memory whose nostalgia for cinema’s past is rendered with the latest digital effects, hidden in plain sight in the form of subjective memories (as flashback) and dreams. While a version of this reading has been advanced before (at least for Hugo), this paper goes further by connecting each film’s status as remediated dream-memory to its respective dependence upon the city as a post-cinematic three-dimensional framework within which locative and locomotive desires alike determine a subject whose psyche is indistinguishable from the cityscape that surrounds him. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ghost-towns: Cityscapes, Memories and Critical Theory)

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