Publication details

Peripheral Nationalism in Post-Communist Urban Memory



Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Description Nationalism is usually accounted for as a shared sentiment installing cultural-political unity by playing down differences among those who are supposed to belong to a (nationally defined) collectivity, and amplifying dissimilarities vis-a-vis those who stand outside. In this perspective – employed widely in the academic literature – articulation of the national sentiment often appears as an undifferentiated body of symbols and narratives which affects the whole community, even though it can be embraced by some parts of the community more eagerly than by others. The difference rests in the intensity of the sentiment, not in varying visions of what the nation stands for or should. The studies which do pay attention to differing versions of a national self-identification focus mostly at the early stages of the nation-state-building process, and/or they present this as an expression of a struggle for dominance between political-cultural elites. Scholarly work accounting for differences between, e.g., urban and rural nationalism, variations in the nature of national sentiments along different class, gender, or religious affiliations is rare. And where it appears, it also is mostly oriented to historical analysis, assuming – explicitly or implicitly – that deviations from the canon tend to gradually lose their appeal, become insignificant and get incorporated into a dominant form. Our research in post-communist urban memory – on which the proposed paper is based – suggests a more nuanced understanding of contemporary forms and processes of cultural nationalization. It looks at the ways in which urban objects reflect the collective national past in the eyes of various sorts of social actors, and it especially engages two lines of inquiry: a) differences between capital and non-capital (peripheral) cities regarding past-sensitive urban developments, b) differences between memory functions of various kinds of urban objects. The conventional studies in post-communist urban memory all too often focus on capital cities and the memory work of museums, monuments and memorials. We turn attention to past oriented urban/architectural reconstructions of peripheral cities taking place since the early 1990s. And we show how the intensified competition among cities – triggered by demands of, e.g., the tourist industry, organization of big sport events or the project of the European Cultural Capital – brings about a heightened reflexivity to and construction of a specific historical heritage and meaning of peripheral cities, and how this process enriches and sometimes complicates the picture of a shared national past. It argues that while the capital cities readily take on the task of representing national traumas or triumphs, the peripheral cities have more often built their identities or images by architecturally echoing nostalgic pasts exploiting less dramatic and therefore sometimes more appealing narratives of nationalization and modernization. The thesis is in detail illustrated on Moravian cases of urban revitalization of Brno’s functionalist heritage and Ostrava’s early industrialism. It is also argued that the ensuing alternative visions of national past should be conceived more as complementary then as competitive to each other.
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