Patrick Lantschner: 'Urban space as repositories of memories and the past.'

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

The goal of Patrick Lantschner’s ‘history in conflict’ presentation was to avoid written sources and, instead, to ask us to think about urban space as repositories of memories and the past. In particular, the question of how far particular urban spaces can be associated with a memory of revolt?

To start, Lantschner presented an example where the city government influenced the associations of a place. After a failed coup in 1355 by doge Marin Falier, who was subsequently executed for treason, Venice’s city government chose to control the memory of his revolt – the audacity of the doge to attempt a coup at the heart of a republic – through processions at the location. Thus, the memory of the event was controlled by the government and Lantschner observed that afterwards these large-scale revolts did not occur in the city anymore. The Venetians managed to successfully integrate the coup for their own purposes.

A second question presented by Lantschner was: how could the use of urban spaces by rebels be used as an argument to legitimate revolt? Indeed, other past revolts are shown to have the opposite effect on urban space. A long memory of revolts ran through three particular squares. First, Place du Marché in Tournai had been the location of several major guild revolts and, subsequently, rebels returned to this location for later revolts. Similarly, the less central Place du Bécquerel had been the site of repeated protests in the fifteenth century. The same can be said for piazzas in Italy, such as Piazza Maggiore in Bologna. By stating a revolt on this location, a rebel group could reinsert itself into the history of Bologna. As a final example, in a similar vein, Damascus had recurring revolts at the site of the Umayyad Mosque during the late Mamluk period, to associate these revolts with the Islamic golden age. As these examples highlight, the harnessing of a past conflict for present purposes was a tactic to assert a legitimacy by rebels.

To invite us to think further about this subject, Lantschner asks us: why were urban governments not more effective to suppress or appropriate the memory of urban spaces? And how far did the long-lived nature of Mediterranean/European cities help preserve spatial memories of revolts?

(Ester Zoomer)


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