Call for Papers: "Forging 'Crossed Histories' of Twentieth-Century Architecture and Urban Design"
EAHN 2024 Athens, Greece
Session Chairs: Cathelijne Nuijsink, MIT and Tom Avermaete, ETH Zürich
At long last, historians of architecture recognize the numerous flaws of Euro–American-centered histories of architecture and urban design, which for centuries have glorified individual Western architects and their imposing “colonial” or iconic “capitalist” designs. Promising alternatives come from scholars who try to counter the unilaterality of such unbalanced histories by structuring narratives following the logics of translation, comparative urbanism, and transculturation. These histories view the making of architecture not as a one-man-show, but as a cross-cultural and dynamic collaborative endeavor, without losing sight of the problematic hierarchies of domination and dependency. Making the historiography of architecture more accurate and equitable requires that we expand these efforts to a consistent rewriting of architectural histories using renewed methods of analysis that bring into the picture the many actors, (counter)voices, and differing opinions involved in the making of the built environment.
In this session, we 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 to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 8, 2023.