Histories in Conflict

This interest group focuses on the history of cities in conflict, examining how eruptions of strife shape architectural histories, and reciprocally, how architectural history intervenes in the predicament of conflict. We interrogate the inextricable ties between the history of cities and urban conflict through several complimentary questions. First, we examine how situations of socio-political conflict affect research. How does the temporality of spatial conditions stirred by conflict influence concepts of history, heritage, preservation and urban renewal? Bitter national, ethnic or class conflicts often inspire dichotomized readings of history, or conversely, generate pleas for “symmetry” that put the rigors of research at risk. What are the implications for architectural praxis in either case?

A second set of questions focus on the architect/ historian/preservationist operating from a particular “side” of conflict, facing palpable restrictions in the form of inaccessible national, physical and moral boundaries that may put them at physical risk. Can one set claims on a “legitimate” practice from any particular perspective? Reciprocally, should architectural history actively assume a civic responsibility towards conflict? Can history become a platform of negotiation? Moreover, conflict has lingering effects. How does conflict inspire the post-traumatic histories of places defined by the conflict? The issue of agency becomes particularly pertinent at the seam between the historian and the activist, where architecture/history/heritage are negotiated, contested and pulled apart on the one hand by scholars, and on the other hand by the state/ the market/ human rights activists—with all of them claiming a stake in the “public good”. Who is posing the rules of the game, according to which the historian as activist works?

By focusing on history and urban conflict, this interest group questions the impact of conflict on the larger disciplinary discourse, and particularly on our understanding of urban citizenship.

Group coordinators: 

Alona Nitzan-Shiftan

Technion, Israel Institute of Technology

Panayiota Pyla

University of Cyprus

Fatina Abreek-Zubiedat

Technion, Israel Institute of Technology

Petros Phokaides

National Technical University of Athens, Greece