2007- The Politics of Territory and Identity: Buildings, People & Place

Dozenten > PROF. LINN SONG

The Edwin Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY, USA + Lampeter, Wales, GB)                         Tentative publishing date: 2009

The Politics of Territory and Identity: Buildings, People and Place is a book that examines "place” and its relationship to the politics of cultural / national identity, traditions and beliefs, whereas "place” is defined as a confluence of landscapes, cityscapes, architecture, territory and individual and cultural identities. The book questions the conventional notions of "place” in which static and purified understandings of territory, history and a dominant culture predominate, and uses Germany as a model to examine some troubling issues that are emerging within the context of mobile, interconnected, and globalized societies.

Germany is used to examine various processes in which local and national politics promulgate and perpetuate the myths of purity and permanence. Modern Germany’s relatively short and turbulent history as a nation provides insight into the discrepancies involved in attempting to understand and define "nation” and perhaps reveals the necessity to rethink our relatively static definitions of culture in an age of hyper-globalization. Architecture and landscape have their relevance in this discourse in the sense that they are considered cultural goods/artifacts (Kulturgut), are relatively "stable” in the sense of enduring time, and are "permanent” in the sense that they form the physical reality in which we operate everyday. Because buildings and landscapes are such a strong presence in our everyday lives, they have been and continue to be powerful tools in the construction, defense and negotiation of cultures, identities and places.

The work spans across and weaves together several interrelated disciplines as it questions the validity of the exclusionary practices of national identity preservation through politics and the regulation of images and physical space. Beginning with

- an analysis of the immense role that landscape representations played in the construction of post-1871 German national identity,

- a case-study of a building and how it is appropriated (or not) into the identities of individuals and groups,

- a critique of the cultural political practices of planning, building, and memorializing at the scale of a capital city that is simultaneously a representative of an entire nation, and

- a critique of cultural territory and national borders.

The conclusion puts the physical environment back into discussions about "places” and identities – by asserting that a "progressive sense of place” cannot be constructed exclusively by social relations as Doreen Massey describes1 but rather by the embracement of heterogeneous environments and their convergence in "places” of hybridity and tolerance, as well. The book is unique in its approach and content, for it draws from authors and sources "originating” from many disciplines (architecture, landscape, geography, cultural studies, history, etc.), uses various methods to build an argument and make connections; including historical analysis and critique, empirical data from an original and recent case study (Muenster / Muenster City Library) as well as original photography (German Borderlands and Berlin) produced by the author. The work connects questions of "place” and identity - present in "separate” disciplines - into a holistic and interdisciplinary undertaking.

1 Massey, Doreen, "Power-Geometry and a Progressive Sense of Place," in Mapping the Futures: Local Cultures, Global Change, pp. 59-69, ed. Jon Bird, et al. (London: Routledge, 1993)