Submission deadline:

September 8, 2023

Forging “Crossed Histories” of Twentieth-Century Architecture and Urban Design

June 19-23, 2024

EAHN 2024 Conference Athens
S03 – Forging “Crossed Histories” of Twentieth-Century Architecture and Urban Design
Tom Avermaete and Cathelijne Nuijsink, ETH Zurich

In this session, the organizers take up the methodological challenge of writing alternative histories of architecture and urban design that can be more inclusive, dynamic, and polyvocal, by exploring the concept of histoire croisée. Histoire croisée, as defined by historian Michael Werner and sociologist Benedicte Zimmermann, is based on the active and dynamic principle of “crossing.” The concept introduces a way of writing history through interweaving the stories of dominant agents with the narratives of those previously excluded or subaltern. Instead of merely studying the relationships between these different narratives, the method is concerned with “the novel and original elements produced by the intercrossing as much as with the way in which it affects each of the ‘intercrossed’ parties”. To this extent, histoire croisée “breaks with a one-dimensional perspective that simplifies and homogenizes, in favor of a multidimensional approach that acknowledges plurality and the complex configurations that result from it”. But while Werner and Zimmermann’s ambitious treatise is full of potential, the actual toolkit necessary for writing such “crossed histories” remains unestablished.

As such, this session invites scholars to explore the possibilities of writing a crossed history by using a rich “site of encounter” within twentieth-century architecture and urban design as a concrete case study: for example, the crossing of people, objects, practices, and perspectives in the activities of the Aga Khan Development Network, the United Nations’ “technical assistance” projects, or the humanitarian aid missions of NGOs. Papers will scrutinize the construction of the selected crossing not merely by understanding the various social viewpoints intersecting at the moment of contact, but also what happened before the crossing, and the outcomes and processes of transformation brought about by the crossing. Scholars are equally challenged to add a reflexive component to their crossed history to further nuance the intersection in terms of their own changing positionality vis-à- vis the object of research.

While this session first and foremost explores ways to capture dynamism in historiography, it equally calls attention to the challenges that come with “crossing”: the necessity to combine multiple sources, the ever-present need to open counter-archives, and how to account for the hierarchies embedded in crossed histories.

Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be submitted at along with the applicant’s name, email address, professional affiliation, address, telephone number and a short curriculum vitae, all included in one single .pdf file. The file must be named as follows: session or round table number, hyphen, surname e.g. S03-Nuijsink.pdf, etc.

Image: Discussions centered on a model of Arino-machi, Japan.  Photograph: Jack Metzger. ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv, Com_L06-0053-0009 / CC BY-SA 4.0

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