Struggles in the Concrete – Architecture, Architectural History and the Marxist Tradition

27-28 April, 2023

An Architecture Space and Society Centre Conference
27-28 April 2023. Venue: The Birkbeck Clore Management Centre, 27 Torrington Square, London WC1E 7JL

The conference aims to sample how the work of architectural historians, and contemporary architectural scholarship more broadly, relates to the analytical categories and concepts belonging to the Marxist tradition, and to open out new lines of research and theoretical enquiry.

Are the concepts of kritik, labour, ideology, totality, reproduction or imperialism, to mention some amongst the main ones, still of use to decipher the entanglements of architecture, the political and social spheres?  If so, what current research and theoretical work succeeds in bringing the theoretical toolkit provided by historical materialism to bear upon the present in challenging and innovative ways? What resources or examples are there in the historiography of architectural history (despite the fact that a Marxist tradition has been only marginally sustained within that discipline), or indeed in returning to those moments when Marx and Engels touched on environmental critique? How can Marxist concepts be strategized in responding to tendencies like ‘new materialism’, which after more than a decade continues to inform certain strands of architectural theory? In what ways can the Marxist tradition speak to the environmentalist concerns of global warming and extractivism and how this has entered architectural history and theory? What does a Marxist critique do in relation to contesting efforts to advance a global architectural and design history? What steps have been taken to address the built environment in the light of racial capitalism? What studies are trying to intersect an analysis of infrastructure with those of contemporary imperialism(s)?  And finally, how are architectural and spatial theory responding to the postcolonial vs decolonial debate?

This is a conference of invited papers focused on particular aspects of research relating to the above concerns. We hope to bring out those broader concerns with ample discussion time following the sessions, through discussion of an artist’s film at the end of the first day, and through a round table of invited speakers and discussion at the end.

The conference is free and open to anyone interested. There is no registration required.

More information and the full conference schedule can be found here.

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