2007 ORIAS Summer Teacher’s Institute
July 9th to July 13th, 2007
University of California, Berkeley




Foundations: What is a city?

Footprints: The city shaped.

The Arts: The city observed.




Çatalhöyük: Deconstructing the World’s First City
Burcu Tung—Department of Anthropology, UCB
(Summarized by Robert Nelson)

Note: Burcu Tung has been working on the Çatalhöyük site since 1997, and is currently looking at the architecture of the site.


The idea with which this talk will engage is that Çatalhöyük was the world’s first city. This idea has been printed time and time again in countless publications; however, I believe that we should look at Çatalhöyük differently. Çatalhöyük is not necessarily a city. In order to examine this difference, I will introduce you to the history of the excavation and the history of the concepts associated with this excavation site. I hope to show you why this site is interesting, and how the distinction between what is a city and what is not a city is historically important. Can we see Çatalhöyük in a different way?

This image is a photograph of ongoing excavation at Çatalhöyük. It is a dense archaeological site; you can see people doing things everywhere in this photo, in many different buildings that were constructed adjacent to one another. The building of Çatalhöyük took place during a transition phase of growing animal and agricultural domestication. During this time some people decided to settle down, and this is of extraordinary importance. Archaeology focuses on settlements and the people who move back and forth within these settlements.

If you take a look at this map of the modern Middle East, you can see that Çatalhöyük is in present-day southern Turkey. Çatalhöyük dates back to the Neolithic (New Stone) Age, and was dated to approximately 12,000 years ago. In the early twentieth century, the radio-carbon revolution allowed archaeologists to give approximate dates to organic materials, a very important step in the field of archaeology. This Neolithic Revolution was a term coined by Gordon Childe, and refers to a very important period in human history during which people began to settle down and create the first permanent settlements. The research that took place in the Middle East has uncovered many interesting sites that have led archaeologists to talk about the changes that took place during the Neolithic. They asked many questions:

1. Did people settle down and become sedentary during this period (Sedentism)?
2. Did people domesticate animals?
3. What was the symbolism of the period?
4. What happened to people during this period?
5. Was there a change in the way people depicted human and animal forms in figurines, etc?

The answers to these questions are disputed. What we know from archaeology is a disputed record. We only have certain things, and only a handful of sites. Many researchers, for example, are quite loath to talk about a revolution in symbolism. The evidence is inconclusive because the Paleolithic record is not protected from the environment. To take another issue, how does one define sedentism? One answer is that most people have a primary settlement and live there throughout the year, but this is also open to interpretation.

“Cities: A Theater of Social Activity” (Lewis Mumford)

One of the guide questions in this conference is: “What is a City?” Lewis Mumford defined it as a “theater of social activity.” Generally, we see it as a central place with centralized control (for example, a palace, temple, government building), hierarchical relations, social division of labor, a means for transportation or movement, a means of infrastructure, and communal areas for social interaction. Archaeologically, we define cities through their imprints and their architecture; more importantly, we see the city through its human experience and community formation. Architecture is the surviving footprint, and unfortunately, for the Neolithic, we only have a partial record. Given the evidence that follows, I believe it is wrong for us to refer to these settlements as cities.

Defining Cities Archaeologically (mostly relying on architecture): Jericho

First, let’s look at the settlement of Jericho, which is in the modern day a disputed territory of Israel/Palestine. Jericho was a beautiful settlement, and has a long history of excavation. Kathleen Kenyan found a tower that dated to the Neolithic. This is the first communal structure that has been found in Jericho, and the first structure to require a communal effort for construction.

Defining Cities Archaeologically (mostly relying on architecture): Nevali Çori and Göbekli Tepe

Across this particular landscape, there are quite a few settlements that show a very interesting shift in the way people were constructing settlements. These two sites in Turkey are marked by big buildings, stones that were cut by people, and the widespread construction of certain symbolic forms. Both of these sites predate Çatalhöyük and date to a time when agriculture was much less commonly practiced in the region. There were other things happening at a similar time as well.

Defining Cities Archaeologically (mostly relying on architecture): Çayönü

This site was excavated by Robert Braidwood for many years. This site shows a continuous span of settlement, and a much different culture from that of Çatalhöyük. A sacred site, where they found approximately 400 human skulls and a stone slab blotted with blood residue, marks the building.

Defining Cities Archaeologically (mostly relying on architecture): Çatalhöyük

Now we move to Çatalhöyük. It is a big site, only a small portion of which has been excavated. New excavations are taking place in the northern areas, but what we know is based on the excavation of only about 6% of the site. The houses were built one on top of the other, and it is fairly obvious that this hill was artificially made.

The first excavations took place in the early 1960s, at a time when archaeologists were very excited about the Neolithic period. They were finding sites all over the world, but the “Fertile Crescent” became the focus of archaeologists’ gaze as they came to believe that domesticated crops and human culture spread out from that area. At that time, people did not think that the Neolithic existed in the area that is present-day Turkey. The discovery of Çatalhöyük was a hit with archaeologists, and provided the field with much new information. James Mellaart could delineate about 10–12 layers of buildings, built one on top of the other. He also believed that this site was occupied for about 1000 years, a theory that has largely been confirmed by subsequent excavations.

The settlement was very dense. Built on top of an alluvial plane, Çatalhöyük is marked by its mud-brick houses as there was no rock with which to begin construction. Wooden posts were used to prop up the houses and their roofs. They were built immediately adjacent to one another, with doors being on the roofs as in a honeycomb.

Question: So there was a hole in the roof?
Answer: Yes. There was a ladder inside the house that would lead to a hole. We think there was a wooden door that would close it off from rain and snow. There could be adjoining rooms with crawl holes as well.

Question: Was the cooking done on the inside or on the outside?
Answer: Both. At the southern end of the house, there was a stove with a hole for exhaust, but there were also hearths on the roofs.

Question: Is there evidence of animal discards?
Answer: Yes, there is evidence of animal discards. There is no evidence of ritual slaughter, but there is evidence of feasting.

Question: A settlement pattern like this may have been an adaptation to the harsh weather. It would be cooler in the summer, and warmer in the winter. Is this an advanced innovation?
Answer: We are still debating the reasons for this. Was this a major innovation? There is another site in Central Turkey that predates Çatalhöyük by 700–800 years, where the houses are positioned next to one another and the doors were on the roofs. This practice must have been learned from someone else, because archaeologists went deep into the first layers to find where this came from, and they weren’t able to.

Question: Did they share a wall?
Answer: Each had their own walls. This is another reason why the site it is important, because it shows definitive households with different identities, differences. They were similar, yes, and you can guess where you are going to find an oven or food bin, but the details are different.

Question: Did they have furniture?
Answer: There are traces of matting, bits and pieces of wood that may have been used as some form of furniture, but nothing like tables and chairs.

Question: Sixth Grade textbooks talk about built-in platforms…
Answer: Yes, on the eastern and western walls. This is for the differentiation of space. People would cook on the southern end, and seemed to have been particular about keeping their platforms clean.

James Mellaart uncovered the architectural density that looks like what you see in these pictures. This site is archaeologically very complex. We have good dating techniques, but we don’t know when it was first inhabited or when it was finally abandoned. This makes any guess as to the density of the settlement somewhat problematic. Some say as many as 8,000 inhabitants, some say as few as 2,000 inhabitants.

Mellaart also found a good deal of symbolic expression in Çatalhöyük. He believed some of the buildings to be shrines, decorated with bullhorns, ibex horns, mother goddesses, leopards, bulls, etc. He thought that the cattle depicted here were domesticated, and theorized that cattle domestication took place in Çatalhöyük in the Neolithic and then moved to Europe. These designs are far from being simple geometric patterns; for example, one image shows a mother goddess giving birth to a baby. After looking at images like this, Mellaart decided that this was a place where people domesticated plants and animals. The boar represents males, while the figurines (seen here) represent females. Given this form of symbolic expression, Mellaart concluded that Çatalhöyük was indeed a city. However, with the progress of archaeology and a greater number of excavations, some of his ideas have become a little outdated.


This is difficult for us to understand in North America, but in Çatalhöyük, they buried their ancestors under the floors of their houses. This is a practice we see throughout the world in different places and at different times. In terms of burial practice, archaeologists have not yet been able to define the difference between the respective roles and status of men and women.

Trade and the Beginning of Agriculture

Mellaart also knew that this site participated in the obsidian trade. He said, “Ok, great, this is the center of trade in Turkey, and people were extremely involved in this trade. This is a city in the sense that residents went to Cappadocia to get goods, and Çatalhöyük became the center of a trade route.” As a result of Mellaart’s excavations and theories, Çatalhöyük became a world-famous site. Recent excavations, however, have been a little more meticulous and more reserved in their conclusions.

Ian Hodder, for example, excavated and documented only a few houses, in addition to reopening excavation on Mellaart’s houses for the first time. He looked for an answer to the following questions: What was it about animal domestication that was important? Was this really an important agricultural center? Was this really the center of the obsidian trade? The new excavations also took a multiple-scale approach. What happened in one particular house? What happened in the environment around Çatalhöyük? How did the environment shape its people?

The site itself was located next to a river, and Neil Roberts, a geomorphicist, determined that it could possibly have been flooded for three months of the year. The farming that took place at Çatalhöyük was dry-land farming, but the site itself was swampy. The whole idea of Çatalhöyük as an agricultural center began to fall apart. It was decided that 1) We didn’t really know what was happening; 2) People were farming about twelvemiles away from the city; or 3) They may have built canals that would allow them to practice agriculture on drier grounds.

The UC Berkeley Team, Directed by Ruth Tringham

Archaeologists from the UC Berkeley team have also been excavating Çatalhöyük, and are interested in the daily life of Çatalhöyük. Archaeologists are learning a lot about the residents' diet, which was made up mostly of legumes (peas, lentils, chickpeas), fruits and berries, nuts, barley, wheat, and small portions of sheep or goat (difficult to tell the difference between the two). Our new research on cattle bones leads us to determine that cattle were not domesticated. The bones belonged to a wild species that was hunted. Deer and boar were also hunted from faraway mountainous regions. All in all, they seem to have had a fairly high variety of food in their diets.

Question: Is there an easy way to tell whether livestock was wild or domesticated?
Answer: You compare the size of the bones…domesticated stock is generally smaller. Also, it is important to look at the morphology in the skull, because when animals become domesticated, they are more juvenile in their features. In Çatalhöyük, the sheep and the goats were wilder than the others. Age can tell you whether they are herded or not, or if you have a majority or males or not. There are multiple lines of evidence.

Questions: Did they have other domesticated animals?
Answer: They may have had dogs, but we haven’t found any in the Neolithic site. They had a lot of birds—as it was a swampy area there were storks. There is a considerable amount of fishbone, but we think it might have been in the mud and brick already. There were no chickens.

The Berkeley team had a great house that we worked on, which looks fairly complex from this image. The holes next to the walls are post-retrieval kits: when they abandoned a house, people recycled the wooden posts because wood was scarce. A platform on the northeastern side is a burial kit, where five individuals were buried, but because they were buried in different times, the earlier burials were more disturbed. There is also a wall with symbolic association.

Question: Do the walls go all the way to the ceiling?
Answer: Walls were 3 meters high, but what we have left is 1.5 meters’ worth of wall. They would knock them down into the house, and then smooth out what was there and build on top of it. Sometimes they built on a dump area, sometimes they built on top of someone else’s abandoned house, sometimes half and half, very complex. Built up in a funky way, difficult for us to understand when one was abandoned.

Question: Why build on top of the old rubble, and not on a virgin site?
Answer: They had nowhere else to go. They had to construct in the actual settlement. It was important for them not to leave where they were. They had ancestors buried in their floor. We don’t know who had the chance to build a house. If I were them, I wouldn’t have gone away either!

Question: Did the settlement expand at all from the original footprint?
Answer: We can’t tell. We hit virgin soil, and the architectural record shows only two buildings here. One level shared a wall, one had its own building. We don’t know how big it was or how far it went.

New Interpretations

We can’t call this site a city anymore. But the website says it still is. There are certainly politics involved here. More funding will follow the excavation of a major site. So why not call it a city? It all comes down to the question of how one defines a city. In the modern sense, we look at population density. But in ancient times, people think the biggest ones conteained 5,000 inhabitants or so. A city shows a specific division of labor and hierarchical divisions (whether open or covered) but there are also central locations from which the city can be governed. These are things we don’t necessarily see at Çatalhöyük, nor do we see the control mechanisms we associate with the city.

Question: If you got to the center of the mound and found some sort of central building, government structure, etc. would you redefine how you feel about it?
Answer: No…I don’t believe that you will find a central structure. Maybe call it a proto-city, but I am uncomfortable looking at a city like this. I think there is a lack of evidence. What is a city?

Question: Ruins . . . do all of the ruins show domestic activity? Were there religious things going on in some rooms, and domestic things in other ones? Was there a division of room use?
Answer: There were rooms for domestic and symbolic activities. They were integrated together, one with the other. Replastering the walls, repainting the doors, were symbolic as well. When Mellaart found things on the walls, he thought they were shrines, but they do also show domestic activity. They were all households, and what was found may have represented specific lineages and plans, may have been core houses for a family in which all family members were buried, with satellite houses around it. This is evidence for it to be a city, with evidence of hierarchy and power relationships where people are trying to negotiate their status. But there is no evidence of aggression, disputes . . . things worked quite fluidly. There is one level where there are burnt houses, but that’s for another day.

Question: While we find burials at each of the domiciles, households, was their any evidence of special significance of one particular person—someone with eminence, status, privilege, etc.?
Answer: We don’t see that. It is a disputed factor. One thing that we found a few years ago was a burial with a woman holding a plastered skull in her hands. The first thing we thought was that the skull must be a man’s. Based on the analysis done on the bone the first time an anthropologist saw it, it may have been a woman’s. There was decapitation: some burials have skulls; we find skulls on the ground. No sexual preference involved. In the beginning the anthropologists thought some might be female which now they call male. It is very difficult to be certain about this. Everything is very disputed, up in the air.

Question: How do you know that replastering was symbolic and not functional?
Answer: It was done consistently throughout every house, and there are phases of replastering with different colors coming at similar times—cycles. Some walls were repainted and plastered. We don’t know 100% percent, but we think that it was symbolic. One thing that is important in archaeology that we have to use analogy for our findings.

Question: Was the reason to create this city choice? Did a natural disaster force people here? Did they want to create a tighter community or become city-dwellers instead of nomads? If you look at us now, the closer we are, the further we are symbolically. We have no sense of community.
Answer: The beginnings tie in to the creation of the community. This place was inhabited continuously for 1400 years; things changed through time but much was repeated. This community stayed until the bitter end. One of the newer findings is that plastering was symbolic and found in the Neolithic Age. We actually see the making of lime here, and Plaster of Paris was used to make the floors; we see this as a regular practice. We see this in many sites, but people stopped making it. It is easy to do, mix lime with water and splash it on.

Question: Was the entrance to the house above the flood line?
Answer: Houses themselves were built above the flood line. The first layer was probably built on perma-dry soil.

We were also doubting some of the fantastic bulls’ heads found by Mellaart. We weren’t finding any because we excavated very slowly. Now we do, in about one house per year. He found about one per day. Anyway, we found some impressive bulls’ heads after all. One thing that challenges the ideas about changes in symbolism is a figure shaped like a bear. It was believed by Mellaart to represent a mother goddess, and we think that the mother goddess was most likely a bear. Animals protected a house, a family, or a clan. Some people believe that the Neolithic saw a shift to specific gods and goddesses, but at Çatalhöyük this had not yet taken place. The definite females only constitute a certain percentage of the figurines.

Question: What caused the site to be abandoned?
Answer: It was never really abandoned. That is, it was abandoned but a site was built right next to it, and the cultures are quite continuous. In archaeology, the latest levels are usually eroded, so we don’t have much to say about the connections.

Archaeologists and the Site: Transparence, Outreach, Education

The website has a lot of features that can easily be accessed at There is a new website that will be much more involved, but it isn’t up and running yet, so stay tuned. It is being developed through UC Berkeley to promote digital preservation and outreach. This website also has a sixth-grade activity, so if you are teaching world history, there are plenty of resources. The idea is to remix other people’s work, mixing, citing in a scholarly manner, and producing your own remixes as well.


Uruk: The First City
John Hayes—Near Eastern Studies Department, UCB
(Summarized by Robert Nelson)

We know a lot about Mesopotamia, because archaeologists have been excavating there for over a century and a half. We also have many cuneiform tables, hundreds of thousands of them in fact, and many more still await discovery. Most of these tablets are economic, administrative, and bureaucratic recordsF—records of private individuals, of the temple, and of the palace, keeping track of the movement of goods of all kinds. When mankind first started to write, they wrote about sheep! So on the one hand, we know a great deal about Mesopotamia. On the other hand, there are still basic aspects of Mesopotamian civilization that scholars argue about, such as: Which city was the first city?

The average person on the street knows less about Mesopotamia than about Egypt, because Mesopotamia didn’t survive as well. You can go and look at the pyramids, temples, and palaces in Egypt, but if you go to Mesopotamia, what you will see are big mounds of dirt. In Mesopotamia, there is very little stone, so buildings were constructed of mud brick, which does not survive the way that limestone in Egypt does. This is true of the city of Uruk. Here is the mound of Uruk (image). This will not impress the average visitor in the same way an Egyptian pyramid would.

The city of Uruk made the news a few years ago because of the “Uruk Vase.” This is a vessel made of alabaster, weighing about 600 pounds, with a pictorial image of a ritual procession. This dates to about 3200 BCE. In the year 2003 it was ripped out of the Iraqi National Museum and then was returned to the museum in the form of 14 pieces.

Some people may have read the Epic of Gilgamesh, which has poetic descriptions of the architecture of Uruk. Even at the time of Gilgamesh, Uruk was known to be an ancient city that had been there long before Gilgamesh lived. We find numerous references to it in Mesopotamian historical and literary texts. It is also mentioned in the Book of Genesis.

Archaeologists have been digging in Uruk since 1850, but modern scholarship really began in 1913 with scientific excavation by German scholars, who dug there until 1989, when all archaeology in Iraq was halted by the Persian Gulf War. You can see [Map] how Uruk is in the south of what is currently Iraq. Neolithic settlements tended to be in the upper reaches of the Fertile Crescent because there was more rain. Most archaeologists would say that are no settlements in the south until about 6000 BCE. So how old is Uruk? It is difficult to tell. Even though Uruk has been excavated for quite some time, we still haven’t hit virgin soil. Best guess: it probably dates to about 5500 or 6000 BCE.

In the Sumerian King List, ancient Sumerian scholars attributed the founding of Uruk to a king named Enmerkar, who was the grandfather of Gilgamesh. By 3000 BCE Uruk was a huge city marked by monumental architecture. Most scholarship contends that cities appeared in the south before the north, but many archaeologists are digging in Syria and Lebanon and finding sites that could nearly be called cities. Our knowledge of the record is biased. For example, archaeologists have recently found what may be cities in Syria that, ten years ago, we didn’t even know existed.

By 2800 BCE, Uruk was surrounded by a twenty-foot-high city wall, with numerous gates, towers, and observation posts. The Sumerian accounts say that Gilgamesh himself built the wall, but we doubt it; it was there before he was born. The walls enclosed an area of 6 or 7 square kilometers, quite a large chunk of land, making Uruk bigger than any of its contemporary cities by far. How many people lived there? The population has been estimated at between 50,000 and 80,000 inhabitants, but you should take this figures with a grain of salt. Archaeologists and anthropologists do not yet have the tools to accurately estimate population size.

Who built Uruk? Presumably the Sumerians. The Sumerians are the first people we know of by name in the history of the world, and their language, Sumerian, is the first language we know of by name. Are the Sumerians native to Mesopotamia? The question of the ultimate origin of the Sumerians is known as the “Sumerian Question.” We don’t know the answer. Some think they were there from the onset of settlement in the south of Mesopotamia, but others think that they were relative newcomers, that in fact they only came in the 4th millennium BCE. There is all kinds of speculation about where they may have come from. We do know that there were other people in Uruk besides the Sumerians, but we don’t know where they come from; we really only know of the existence of these other peoples because some words from their languages made it into the Sumerian vocabulary.

Why was Uruk built? This is a thorny question. There are different factors that figure into the building of Uruk, or any city, and scholars disagree about which factors were more important, and about which factors actually led to the building of the city, and which resulted from the presence of the city.

The most important factor was probably water. There is agricultural potential locked up in the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, but someone had to tap into those waters, distribute them, regulate them, and build the canals and dykes in order for the water to be used for agriculture. Someone had to organize all of this. In this scenario, there is water and a need to control it, and complex organization arises to take care of this problem; that organization led to city-states. This view on the origin of cities and civilization was adumbrated by the archaeologist V. Gordon Childe, who said in 1942 about the Euphrates:

The waters teemed with fish, the reed brakes were alive with wild fowl, wild pig, and other game, and on every emergent patch of soil grew date palms offering each year a reliable crop of nutritive fruit... If once the flood waters could be controlled and canalized, the swamps drained, and the arid banks watered, it could be made a Garden of Eden. The soil was so fertile that a hundred-fold return was not impossible....

This is what has been called a “hydraulic” civilization. The presence of water and its control lead to abundance and surplus, which then leads to social complexity. Exactly how all this happened, we will never know; the earliest stages will not show up in the archaeological record.

Some scholars now see the sequence of events in reverse. In this view, as population increased, social complexity developed, and then attention was turned to organizing the distribution of water. Moreover, Uruk was also involved in long-distance trade, ranging from Anatolia to as far away as India and Bahrain. Trade requires organization, which also contributes to social complexity. Water, complexity, and trade are just some of the issues that must be considered when thinking about the origins of cities.

How did rulers and their institutions arise? We will probably never know the real answer. The speculation is that there was some sort of evolutionary path: a nomadic leader became a tribal leader, a tribal leader became a king, and so on. In Mesopotamia, there may have been an intermediate stage, where an assembly of leading citizens would pick one person to solve a conflict, and that person would come away with greater control. We know of these assemblies primarily from later, literary sources, and have no idea how much this corresponds to history. There is hardly anything we can say about how it happened.

By and large, the Mesopotamian temple was more important than the palace. Uruk was surrounded by 20-foot-high walls, and had several temple complexes. Someone had to build these structures. Religion may have provided the ideological justification for coercion, whereby people were convinced by the temple authorities to give up part of their resources and part of their labor, for the good of their community and their deity.

Writing may in fact have been invented in Uruk. While the Egyptians attribute the invention of writing to the god Thoth, the Mesopotamians had several theories. One attributes the invention of writing to King Enmerkar, he who the Sumerian King List says built Uruk. This attributes writing to human invention. In the prescientific Western tradition, it was usually said that God taught Adam how to write.

The system of writing used in Mesopotamia is known as cuneiform. It is a system of writing, and not a language; it used for many languages, related and not. It was used by Sumerians to write in Sumerian, a language of unknown affiliation; it was used to write Akkadian, an early Semitic language; and it was used to write an early stage of Persian, an Indo-European language. [Image of Clay Tablets]

Question: At least two civilizations were coexisting at the same time and sharing writing?
Answer: Yes, Mesopotamian civilization is really the fusion of Sumerians and Akkadians.

In 1931, archaeologists found thousands of archaic-looking tablets at Uruk, which seemed to belong to the genre of administrative and economic texts. They were not obviously understandable, and so were published without translations, which means that historians tended to ignore them. Most of them were found in a rubbish heap. Much of the city of Uruk was filled with temples for Anu and Inanna. The ancient Urukians would periodically rebuild and enlarge these temples, and in so doing would throw out tablets that had no further usefulness. Since they were found in a rubbish heap, they are very hard to date. We now have some 5,000 or so of these archaic tablets, found in various places in the Middle East but mostly from Uruk. These tablets are fairly complex with complicated counting mechanisms and thirteen different metrological systems. Scholars began to reexamine these tablets in the 1980s, and now we know that they record such things as grain rations, beer rations, debits and credits, account-keeping, etc.

How did these cuneiform signs start out? Many signs have their origins as pictograms. So the sign representing a pig looks like a pig, a head like a head, etc. Some signs, however, look more like abstractions than like pictograms.

How did this system originate? Up until the 1970s, scholars thought that writing was consciously invented, more or less at one specific point and place in time, with no obvious antecedents. In the 1980s, an archaeologist at the University of Texas, Austin, Prof. Denise Schmandt-Besserat, developed the idea that the immediate precursor of writing was a system of physical “tokens.” These are small items of different sizes and different shapes that have been found at excavations throughout the Ancient Near East, and which have often been neglected by archaeologists. These tokens were used for counting; each shape counted a different thing. One token of a particular shape counted sheep, another counted beer rations, etc. They didn’t represent “one” in the abstract,but one concrete thing. Why did any one particular shape indicate one particular thing? That we don’t know. In addition to the tokens, we also have clay “envelopes” used to contain tokens, although none have been found at Uruk.

Some time around 3200 BCE, someone got the idea of pressing these tokens against the envelope, thereby creating a symbol on the outside of the envelope, this being the origin of writing. What is the evidence? We actually have a few clay envelopes preserved with tokens inside, and impressions on the outside, and they correlate with each other. Furthermore, once you have the impressions, what do you need the actual tokens for?

Where was writing invented? For now, we think Uruk, but it is logically possible that it may have been invented somewhere else, at some unexcavated site. Who invented it? Most scholars think it was the Sumerians. It is, again, logically possible that it comes from someone else. Why was it invented?? Mostly for bureaucratic purposes; a complex society with a complex bureaucracy needs a complex notational system.

Although 4/5 of the tablets known to us are bureaucratic, about 1/5 are not. They form a genre that we refer to as “lists.” They generally listed things like material inventories, or different professions. Why? They may have been used in scribal training in order to help scribes learn cuneiform. Another potential reason is to organize the known universe, to gather up the facts and try and sort them out. Some scholars think that this might have been the reason for the invention of writing. In any case, the point here is that writing was an invention. It was the result of a conscious process and deliberate effort. It was an act of the will.

Writing is a hallmark of civilization. It also has its dark side. It is found in societies based on exploitation, and it is connected first and foremost with power, inventories, censuses, and catalogues. Some men exercise power over others and their worldly possessions, and writing is one way by which this power is organized and articulated.


Imperial Rome: Monuments, Resources, and Power
Carlos Noreña—History Department, UCB
(Summarized by Robert Nelson)

What is a city? This is notoriously difficult to determine. What matters? Size, density, division of labor, functions, goods, and services are features that distinguish a city from its countryside. I would like to explore the city as a key element in a larger configuration. In this case:

Rome: 1 million inhabitants
Larger Configuration: Empire

Guide Questions
How does the city reflect political power within the Roman State?
How does this city constitute power of the State?

I. Conventional Periodization of Roman History

a. 753 BC: Foundation

b. 753–509BC: Regal

c. 509–31 BC: Republic—People exercised their sovereignty, but in reality it was the Senate that ran the show during the Republic

d. 31 BC–AD 395 (or 476): Empire—High-stakes game of power ends with Augustus. After 31 BC, there is an emperor.

e. AD 395/476–1453: Byzantine Empire

f. AD 1453: Fall of Constantinople

g. Today we will focus upon the period, approximately 200 BC–200 AD.

II. Map of the Roman Empire


To begin with, if you have ever seen the HBO series “Rome,” it generally gives a more realistic picture of Roman topography, and captures the ancient city in details and grandeur better, than the movie “Gladiator.”

Its physical topography can be seen on this map, where you see the main hills and the River Tiber. This triangular area (capital) is one of the biggest hills in Rome. Between them, there is a small plain that was later filled by the Roman Forum (monumental center). It is no accident that the monuments are here. The other main area here was the Campus Martius (Mars Field), a monumental space in the large and low flood plain. It also developed here because that part lay outside of Rome’s religious boundary (this is indicative of the centrality of religion to the organization of Roman life and public space) and there were certain rules about what you could and could not do in Roman public space.

One of the key features of Roman topography is the clustering of religious and secular buildings. For example, the Roman Forum, in the center of the city, was a political, economic, and religious center all in one. Here are marked all of the buildings that one would call administrative, financial, or political; and here are marked those that we would call religious. You can see, they are to be found one beside the other, clustered together, with no strict separation. This is very convincing visual proof of the integration of religion into politics and business. Furthermore, religious buildings could often be used for a secular purpose, and vice versa. For example, the Senate would often meet in a temple, or temples could be converted into banks or archives. The fact that they are clustered together like that tells us a lot about the religious nature of Roman life, and how different it was from the classical Greek world, because of their separation.

Urban Monumental Development

Here we must distinguish between the ways in which monuments developed under the Roman Empire and the Roman Republic. Under the Republic, development was highly chaotic. There was no master plan for the layout of the city. It was very much the result of the pluralist constitution of the Roman republic in which there were elections for officials who hold office for one year and had power-sharing with other colleagues. This fragmentation precludes the development of a monumental master plan. This makes a very strong contrast with Greek city-states and even with the Roman Empire.

Under the Empire there was no fragmentation of decision-making, as all decisions came from the Emperor and his circle. For example, the proliferation and spread throughout the city during the Republican period of monuments celebrating victories took place during the 1st and 2nd century BCE. Here there is a correspondence between military victory and monument building. Generals would pray to a god for victory, make a vow (if you lend me support, I will repay the debt by building a temple in Rome), typical of this type of transactional religion. This really shaped the urban fabric of the city, forming a striking visual expression of the relationship between religion and warfare.

Triumphal monuments in the Republican period came in the form of temples. Each temple was designed according to convention, with a frontal staircase and a temple that sits on top of a platform. Roman temples emphasized frontality, as opposed to Greek temples, which were accessible on every side. This building type was also useful for the aristocratic general, whose name would go in very big letters on the front. It would henceforth be known that this aristocrat was the patron of this temple. What then developed was an intense competition between aristocrats who would go to war, stomp a hapless enemy, build a temple, and then go and do it again. All in all, we know of 96 temples from the mid-Republican period of Roman history, showing very clearly the lack of any master plan for urban monumental development. One cluster on the Campus Martius became the destination of processions and parades celebrating the god Jupiter and frequently marking the onset or termination of a war. There is in fact no strong correlation between temple building and city development. The generals and aristocrats treated them as private initiatives. This kind of aristocratic, senatorial competition intensified in the 1st century BCE. The stakes got higher, and the results were violent. 1st-century BCE temples were built as a result of civil wars. In the late Republic, you get a procession of very power figures who put their imprint on the city with monumental buildings; Pompey and Caesar are important examples. With Caesar, there was a transition from haphazardness to autocratic control of the city in the Empire.

Caesar’s Forum

Caesar’s Forum was an ambitious undertaking, designed to remake the Roman Forum in his own image. He began by creating an entirely new forum, the Forum Julium, adjacent to the old forum, and many of the functions that took place before were moved. The crowning monument of this form is the temple of the Venus Genetrix—goddess of love, whom Caesar claimed as a family ancestor—as a monument to his family. He attached his own name to the Curia Iulia, the new Senate House. Within the forum itself, he built a massive new Basilica Iulia that had a lot of administrative functions and law court activity, all in his name. Whereas earlier, aristocrats had dedicated a temple here, paved something there, Caesar systematically overhauled the basic configuration of the forum, putting a Caesarian stamp on the city and foreshadowing what Augustus and future Emperors would do.

Contemporaries always complained that the chaotic development did not look the part of a worthy capital city, and that such haphazardness was an embarrassment, or worse, backwards and barbarian. That began to change under the Empire, when new material resources began to pour into the city as a result of conquest. The city-scape became more spectacular as emperor after emperor completed building programs. It is impossible to see every construction in the time allotted, so we will get a handle on imperial monumentalizaiton through a typology:

Imperial Residence

[Map view of the Imperial Palace on Palatine the Hill] The Roman emperors needed a suitably grand residence as a way of expressing their status. They developed their residences on the top of the Capitoline Hill. By the 1st century AD, the hill was monopolized by the palace complex—thus, Palatine Hill. Geographically, it is highly central to the city itself.

Question: Did Caesar have bigger plans?
Answer: Yes, man. One of his plans was to divert the Tiber and make a straight river. The result would be a flat, axonometric city like those he saw in the east for new monumental buildings. Augustus actually put many of these things into action. This is only meant to be an illustration of the scale and complexity of the new construction.

Question: Was there a military motivation for this as well?
Answer: No. Back in the early history of the city, they were constructed for military purposes. But by this time, the city walls were in decay, and practically undefended. This was seen as a testament to the Roman sense of security.

Back to the palace. It was restricted, so one couldn’t just show up and get an audience with the emperor. The scale of the residence is not particularly ostentatious or overwhelming, and when compared to Versailles is quite modest.


The temples were usually colonnaded squares, paved walkways with central courtyards, flanked by priceless works of art. You get a development of a characteristic mix of religion, Greek culture, and leisure. Among other things, the emperors put their resources into developing structures for the good of the population.


Several Emperors created their own Forums. They were all bunched together in the center of the city, adjacent to Caesar’s Forum. If you take a look at the image here, you can see how close they were, one to the other.

Bath Complexes

The bath complexes were very large. Baths and bathing culture was central to Roman society. So, a trip to the Baths was not about hygiene, but about socialization and athletic competition. Many of these bath complexes had libraries or even small museums, amounting to a mix of hygiene, socialization, athletics, and Greek culture. There were a few large bath complexes, and hundreds of smaller bath houses, the bigger ones being Trajan’s and Caracalla’s.

Question: Was there a fee involved?
Answer: Yes, but it was nominal. Very often, it was very small and within reach of most people. Aristocrats would pay for their friends, and the emperor would sometimes give out tokens.

Question: Were slaves allowed into the baths?
Answer: Possibly. Most likely there were specific baths and specific times when slaves could come in, but unless they were accompanied by their masters, probably not.

Question: Were these bath houses co-ed?
Answer: That is another debated point. There is evidence of ethical debate over whether or not it was appropriate to admit women to men’s baths; most times, it was probably not appropriate. Some times, it certainly was.

Public Entertainment

Aside from the palaces, forums, and temples, there were also venues for public entertainment with which you are probably familiar. There were theaters, stone amphitheaters for gladiatorial combat, and circuses for chariot racing built and maintained by the Roman emperor. A quick glance at the Circus Maximus shows it to have a capacity of about 250,000 people. The size and presence of such a structure would have been a symbolic presence of the emperor’s power.

Provisioning the City

Rome was perhaps the biggest pre-industrial city, and perhaps the only one to reach a population of 1 million inhabitants before London in the nineteenth century. We know a little about its population due largely to records that survive detailing the free grain distribution to the city’s poor. Its population was a testament to Rome’s size and strength, and the ability to provision it a testament to its organization and planning. The majority of cities at that time would have been provisioned by the immediate hinterland, but as Rome grew, it could no longer do so, and had to import its grain from other parts of the Italian peninsula, and even more farflung areas of the Empire like Egypt, North Africa, Sicily, and Sardinia. Because Rome controlled these areas militarily and politically, they could use them to sustain their own population.

In terms of water, they were dependent on the Tiber River. Water had to be imported to the city, and this was done by aqueducts that operated on the principle of gravity. They did have siphon technology, but gravity was most frequently used. How did they get their water, and how was it distributed? Historians have a remarkable document from a Roman senator who wrote a pamphlet on the water questions, complete with amazing detail on its distribution:

Three basic categories existed:

  • In the name of the emperor (17%)—the imperial palace, those built by the emperor;

  • For private citizens (39%)—for those individual citizens who were permitted to bring a tap into the aqueduct and bring some into their home;

  • For public uses (44%)—water for markets, military barracks, fountains, public basins, where the majority of the population gets their daily water (Public basins 13%)
These combinations are really a testament to the power of the emperor and the way in which the emperor controls a potentially unruly population.

Juvenal, Satires, 10.78–81

The Roman people, which once bestowed imperium, fasces, legions, everything, now foregoes such activities and has but two passionate desires: bread and circuses.

Fronto, Principles of History, 17

It was the height of political wisdom for the emperor not to neglect even actors and the other performers of the stage, the circus, and the arena, since he knew that the Roman people is held fast by two things above all, the grain supply and the shows, that the success of government depends on amusements as much as on serious things.

Balance sheet

What was the lived experience? It depends on social and economic status—high life for the urban aristocracy, miserable quality of life for the totally destitute. What about the masses in the middle? Material and cultural?

Free grain distribution (Roman cities went above and beyond by giving free grain to the people . . . as many as 150 thousand people were given monthly distributions of grain)
Water supply (availability of water in drinking basins seen as a perk)
Public entertainment (dramatic performances, Greek tragedies, Romances, public plays, monuments of unparalleled splendor—see the example of Pompey’s theater—chariot racing, gladiators a very common and a very regular feature of daily life, originally staged in Rome as part of aristocratic funerals but that association disappeared and it became public entertainment)
Spread throughout the city of portico complexes, colonnaded squares and shade from the elements (showing of the Campus Martius)
Other advantages of a large commercial city: you can take advantage of the availability of staples and luxury items, many opportunities for employment, especially in building . . . not built solely through slave labor, but paid, free labor as well

Total absence of basic state services that we take for granted: no public health care, no public education, no public firefighting service, no police force (free-for-all situation), disaster and violence mitigation, urban sanitation (serious limitations, see Strabo quotes…he is right, but it is a typical aristocratic viewpoint . . . unpleasant for the urban masses, most houses did not have toilets, waste tossed out of window), 1 million produced about 50k kilograms of body waste per day, plus the anecdotal evidence of filthy streets, dogs and birds eating dead animals, corpses lying around for days, contagious diseases, multiple references to urban slums. Problem of apartment buildings collapsing (Cicero quote).

Strabo, Geography 5.3.8
“The Romans were farsighted about matters to which the Greeks gave little thought, such as the construction of sewers which could wash waste matter out of the city and into the Tiber. The sewers, covered with a vault of tightly fitted stones, are so large that hay wagons could drive through them. And the quantity of water brought into the city by aqueducts is so great that rivers, as it were, flow through the city and the sewers, to which almost every house is connected.”

Cicero, Letters to Atticus
“Two of my buildings have fallen down, and the rest have large cracks. Not only the tenants, but even the mice have moved out.”

Question: Do you have a visual of the temple of Venus?
Answer: No; it would usually have been locked shut, used to store money and archives. Inside would have been a cult image of a god or goddess kept behind closed doors. What is missing is the altar, placed about halfway up the stairs, where sacrifices took place and formed the centerpiece of Roman religion.

Question: In what kind of numbers was the military presence in the city?
Answer: Another important distinction between Republic and Empire. Republic, no police force, no public service for security. The result was that aristocrats had private armies for protection, and could offer protection in exchange for votes or loyalty. In the Empire, Augustus implements some sort of paramilitary forces, and Trajan creates a military that would become the Praetorian Guard. Later, consider it about 25k armed men in the employ of the Emperor.

Question: Was there any mass transit?
Answer: No, and there were often regulations about the hours of the day when wheeled vehicles could be brought into the city.

Question: Did they have public latrines?
Answer: Yes. This has only recently become an area of scholarly interest. In the past twenty years, the daily life of people has become more interesting to historians, as opposed to the lives of the Emperors. The anecdotal evidence is suggestive of the level of public filth, but public latrines did exist.

Question: Poor people—were they ghettoized or homeless?
Answer: The standard explanation is that Rome is unique in its mix of rich or poor. There was no zoning of poor and rich. I don’t think that is right . . . in macroscopic terms, there seems to be a certain hierarchy, based on water distribution. Tenements and slums coexist with wealthy hotels, etc., so it’s a mixed bag.

Question: Was Roman expansion really more about the idea of conquest for a glorious Rome, rather than to provision the city?
Answer: A vast majority of rank and file soldiers would have been intimately familiar with the city of Rome. The city had the reputation of not caring about the Empire, but there is a split between the professed ideals of the state and its existence within the city of Rome.


Cities in China: The Early Evidence
Michael Nylan, History Department, UCB
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)

Cities are not just the location of social, economic, and political activity, but prime agents and aspects of that activity. This talk will focus on the early urbanization of Han China, taking place at about the same time as the Augustan Age of the Roman Empire, with a particular focus on the Han Capital, Han Chang’an, found in China’s northwestern province, which was closely linked to the areas further west along the Silk Road, areas such as the so-called autonomous regions of Tibet or Chinese Turkestan. Five other capitals of the Han Empire could also have been considered global cities, and I use the term “global cities” advisedly but anachronistically. On the one hand, “global city” suggests the massive scale of urbanization, by which rural communities outside of the city take on the urban pattern as well. This level of urbanization existed in Han China, but not everywhere. The capital itself, Chang’an, boasted 600,000 inhabitants, and its metropolitan area had 917,000 inhabitants. No fewer than five other cities in China had a roughly comparable size. Far to the southwest was the city of Chengdu, a city of only sixteen square miles whose greater metropolitan area counted 1.2 million inhabitants. City dwellers were therefore a substantial portion of the sixty million residents of Han China, whose population was fairly evenly distributed, unlike modern Asian cities, which have become magnets for lopsided population growth.

The modern global city, in the words of Rem Koolhaas, is “dead” because (a) its downtown area empties out at night, leaving only a fraction of its population behind; and (b) its boundaries are hard to map. Something similar was true of Chang’an, since only the imperial family, their servants, and some 30,000 or so resident bureaucrats lived in or adjacent to the palace confines. The palace walls were shut and bolted at night, leaving the doings of the capital to its few inhabitants. Moreover, Han cities were typically divided into wards like this, each of which was tightly shut at night and in times of crisis. Even in Chengdu, the beginning of the Silk Road and one of Han China’s most vibrant cities, merchants haggled only from dawn to dusk over their precious metals and silks. Modern studies that see China’s government as an oriental despotism would also see the iron fist of administrative law extending outwards from the city to its hinterland. Major cities in classical Chinese are called “daju,” a term which is often (mis)translated as “great agglomeration,” but which refers instead to the “coming together of the greats,” in other words, the political elites. However, when we turn from the institutional structures of the grand cities to everyday life, we see that the Han people came, then as now, to cities mainly for opportunity. They came for economic reasons, for better jobs, to seek justice, for entertainment, and even for sight-seeing. Chang’an was certainly a major destination for such travelers. Rubbings from tomb tiles and bricks show carriage processions through the city. Once a year, the imperial robes and caps paraded in all their splendor through the streets of the city to impress the throne’s majesty upon the people. These processions were standard from one palace to the next. The emperor also had traveling palaces outside the city walls, in which similar processions might take place. In addition to imperial processions, high officials would also have their own processions.

Merchants and businessmen were also fairly common in this area. A Chinese legend tells the story of a man who made the equivalent of 100 million dollars in one day, and was hired by a private family to help them increase their funds. Local industries were highly sophisticated, and they included silk, copper, iron, lacquer, and chariot industries. Trade in silk alone made Han China the dominant economic power in the world during the Han period. However, we must not fool ourselves into thinking that, even with all this material wealth, daily life in Han China was similar to what it is today.

What would have astonished the modern observer is the city’s hinterland, or that which lies beyond the city walls. Within the city, there was a modern administration, and in fact, many of the forms of administration used in Europe and the United States originally came from China via the Italian city-states. There were approximately 130,000 functionaries and administrators working in the Han civil service and compiling documents. Outside of the walls of the major cities, however, there would have been only small outposts, analogous to the old frontier outposts in the western United States. The officers and bureaucrats of the Han city tried to stake their claim to large areas that appeared to be beyond their grasp. The Empire itself was often compared to an unseaworthy boat, in that when it sprang a leak in one location, you patched it up, but it would leak again somewhere else.

Han Chang’an

As is typical of planned cities in Han China, Chang’an was built on a square plan with fortified walls. The main palace city that contained the royal residence and governmental offices and workshops was situated in the western part of the city. Surrounding the walls of the capital was a moat that measured approximately eight meters in width, and was spanned by several wooden bridges. The fortified wall, which was made of rammed earth and brick as was typical in Han times, ran for 25.7 kilometers, and was some twelve meters high and even wider than this. The outer wall was pierced by twelve gates, three to each side of the quadrilateral formed by the town. Each gate had three access passages, measuring six to eight meters in length, and wide enough to accommodate three to four carriages abreast.

Four of the gates communicated with those of the two great palace complexes, the Changle Palace and the Weiyang Palace. The other eight gates opened up avenues that crossed the town. The longest of these avenues is approximately 5400 meters long. The main thoroughfares in Han cities were usually five to eight meters wide in smaller cities, but in Chang’an they measured 45 meters in width. The central lane, the widest of the three, was reserved for the exclusive use of the emperor, and its surface was paved with rammed earth.

Liu Bang, the creator of the restored Qin Shi Huangdi, or “Palace of Eternal Joy”, chose Chang’an as the Han capital in 202 BCE. Under his successor, the city wall was completed in 190 BCE. The city assumed its definitive shape in 141-87 BCE when many buildings and terraces were introduced both inside and outside the city walls, in particular, the pleasure palace to the west and southwest including the Mingguang Palace north of the Changle Palace, and the Gui Palace and North Palace, north of the Weiyang Palace. Palaces occupied some two-thirds of the city, and it is outward from these palaces that the rest of the city developed with little or no planning scheme. We know that some of the palace towers were as tall as ninety meters in height. There were also several closed parks, including the Sung Dang Park and a hunting park in the western suburbs. This image shows an elevated walkway that connects two different palaces; it was built so the emperor and his entourage could pass back and forth in secrecy.

Chang’an in Western Han, in other words, was not originally constructed according to a pre-established plan that mimicked the Great Bear constellation [SLIDE 9], as has been claimed ever since the sixth century AD, because of a work entitled the San Fu Huang T’u. According to Chinese city planning texts, Chang’an was built according to a central plan; however, we believe that to be false. Its shape and its layout became significant later on. For example, its shape was soon analogized to the seven stars of the Dipper. After all, in the Han political scheme, the palace is the center of the social world of the earth, and the chamber of the emperor is like the North Star around which all revolves.

The site of the Changle Palace bureaucratic offices has been thoroughly excavated. Inside, we have found bone documents, recording the name, measurements, and dates of manufacture of a number of palace goods, including how and when they were made. Archaeologists haven’t yet located the library, but they have found an arsenal that occupied an enormous space between the Weiyan and the Changle palaces. Here seven storehouses also contained various types of weapons, mainly of iron, and items of equipment, placed on weapon racks and shelves. As mentioned earlier, to the north of both the Weiyang Palace and the Gui Palace were the Eastern and Western markets, each surrounded by a high wall with two gates on each side. Excavations have revealed within the enclosures of the Western Market’s surrounding walls (550 m E-W by 480 m N-S) an industrial complex under the management of imperial officers that comprised an iron foundry; twenty-one potter’s kilns producing funerary statuettes for the imperial tombs; and a workshop where coins were minted. The presence of blast furnaces so close to the imperial palace is astonishing, for this was a choice with many drawbacks. The blast furnaces must have consumed enormous quantities of charcoal, possibly producing shortages of the limited fuel available to the population; they would also have increased pollution, waste, and the risk of explosions. Any or all of these reasons would have justified moving this type of industry away from the center of major towns. Most believe that the reason behind this choice to locate production sites so near administrative offices—and indeed the palaces of the emperor—was the desire of officials to maintain strict control over production, once a government iron monopoly was instituted in 119 BCE.
Zooming in for a still closer look at the palaces within Chang’an, we should imagine the palace as a Han poet did, allowing for a bit of exaggeration on his part:

Joined by lofty towers and leisure lodges,
The Hall of Fresh Coolness, the Proclamation Chamber, the Warm Chamber,
Hall of Divine Immortals, Hall of Enduring Years,
Hall of Golden Splendor, Jade Hall,
White Tiger Hall, Unicorn Hall:
Within the palace compounding, buildings like this
Were too numerous to be recounted.

Inside the palace:

They had carved columns of jade pedestals,
Decorated brackets with cloud-patterned crossbeams,
A triple staircase and a tiered balustrade,
Engraved railings with figured edging.
On the right was a ramp, on the left was a staircase
Blue was the door-engraving; red was the floor.
... Gilt paving stones, jade-decorated staircases
Vermilion courtyards shone with a fiery glow...

Palaces also contained:

Repositories of documents and writings.
Here the court commanded:
Elder officials, diligent in instruction,
Famous scholars and tutors,
To lecture and discourse on the Six Classics.

The hunting parks are also of some significance. They not only served as hunting grounds for the imperial suite, but they functioned as training grounds for infantry and cavalry, they acted as storing grounds for certain precious goods and confiscated items, rare plants and even zoos. Zoos were not the only entertainment though, by far. The capital was famous for its “Hundred Entertainments,” which daily delighted all residents of the city regardless of rank or class. For example, there were sword swallowers, tightrope walkers, magicians, dragon dancers and so on who performed for the residents in the market areas. The city also had a sophisticated system of water drainage that brought water from the interior areas of the city to the nearby river. Channels ran alongside the streets. Some of these channels for carrying water and draining it away were built of stone blocks, but most were earthenware and mass-produced, as were the facings of well walls. While it may not be much to look at, it was effective in carrying “night soil” outside the city limits and away from the water supply. “Night soil” could also be used as fertilizer to enrich soil and crops. That may be one reason why even outside the capital city walls of Chang’an there grew up flourishing markets, mostly situated to the north and the northwest, between the capital and the mausoleum counties, which were convenient for the powerful families in those areas whom the throne wished to keep under close supervision. Cemeteries and religious centers were situated outside the walls. There were also cemeteries and certain religious centers, including a shrine to the dynastic ancestors, found outside of the city limits.

Current Research

Since the 1950s, nearly 150 Han towns have been discovered, not including the numerous settlements in the north of China. There were several highly dense areas of settlement, including the area around Chang’an and the area alongside the Yellow River. Urban growth was relatively high in the first and second centuries BCE, but slowed down significantly in the first and second centuries CE. This slowdown affected both the number of towns and the size of their populations. We have a good deal of information, but the excavation of these towns is not yet enough to give us a more complete version of this story. At the moment, our excavation gives us a monolithic picture of urban planning, but this picture may well change if settlement archaeology ever really develops in China outside of the old major centers of the north and the Yellow River Valley.

It is notable that not one of the three capitals of the Qin dynasty or Han dynasty were natural towns. The Qin capital, which was destroyed by fires during the conquest, was chosen for its strategic value. All three capital cities developed as seats of imperial power to which things, goods, and people eventually gravitated, but not where they had originally settled. Three controversies centering specifically on Chang’an have stimulated considerable reflection on Han town planning in general: (1) the status of Chang’an as strictly a palace city (nei cheng) or as a town whose significance lay as a commercial or industrial center; (2) the presence or lack of extensive suburbs to the city; and (3) the location of the Eastern and Western markets, specifically whether they were inside or outside the city walls.

The controversies, as it happened, pitted a historian, Yang Kuan, against an archaeologist, Liu Qingzhu. Yang Kuan believed the capital to be modeled on other capitals, and insisted that most of the population would have lived not within the city walls, but in the northeastern suburbs that offered the natural protection of the river. Li Qingzhu believed that Chang’an was a producer city, in that normal people who engaged in economic and productive activities populated sections of the town. Li Qingzhu cited the lack of fortifications outside the city walls and some 160 residential wards inside the city as evidence for this argument. Eventually, Li Qingzhu’s argument was confirmed, and today, most scholars believe that twenty to thirty percent of the city’s residents lived inside the capital city’s walls. The wealthiest inhabitants preferred the suburbs found outside the city walls, but there was no strict separation between rich and poor. Beside this, we know very little about the placement of the residential ward. In part, this is because Chang’an lies underneath the modern city of Xi’an, so in order to excavate, you would have to destroy some of the modern city. Current research has established Chang’an as a political, administrative, and cultural center that was by no means a parasitic town. Chang’an was a fully functioning city in all respects. All current research into city planning is based on material remains: town walls, terraces, the foundations of buildings, bricks, roof tiles, roads, sewers, industrial and craft workshops. Town walls constituted the main vestige of early towns, but sometimes serve as the foundations for modern structures. In addition to these kinds of structures, there might be pottery, architectural models, and tombs with pictorial representations from the first to the second century CE, but nobody has listed or maintained a typology or catalogue of all these different representations. This is necessary for a more thorough critical analysis. Taken together, material remains make the analysis of early urban sites possible, but barely.

Our knowledge of Han town planning is still somewhat sketchy, for three main reasons: First, the poor state of the preservation of buildings made of earth (mud-brick, wattle-and-daub, and rammed earth) and wood, instead of baked bricks or stone. Most of the remaining structures are “hollowed out” of the earth and few walls or examples of architectural decoration have survived. The second reason is that urban excavations in north China have been impeded by alluvial deposits and present-day urban development. Urban development is progressing rapidly, in many cases without preliminary excavations, and ancient sites are being destroyed as a result. Under these conditions, most of the excavations are selective at best. Third, representations of houses are not at all uncommon, but the identification of these representations remains problematic. Nor do Han representations show how city and countryside were connected one to the other; city life was disconnected from the agricultural economy and the environment of landowners and farmers. One aspect that would be worth studying is that of end tiles, as these are, first, often the only surviving elements from aboveground architecture and, second, an excellent indicator of the building’s dates and functions.

All of this patchy evidence allows us to hazard a few observations. We know that apart from new towns on northern and southern borders, most Han towns developed by expanding older sites. All of the so-called capitals during Han times had also been capitals from pre-imperial times. These capitals have the same basic plan: inner city, wall, outer city, wall. There were new urban developments in Han China, including satellite towns around Chang’an, which is a good example because of its mausoleum towns. Another departure is that all major Han cities shifted their cemeteries outside of the city walls. Why? We don’t know. The final change is that whereas pre-imperial cities were under the jurisdiction of independent polities, Han cities were ruled by central powers, and therefore needed central planning, and were ranked according to importance to the crown.

More discoveries and better knowledge of foreign influences will improve our knowledge. More integration, less narrowly focused excavations will help us all. Many things have yet to be weighed or assessed. To explain material, ideological and social conditions of those in the past is complex.

Question: Were Han cities independent of their hinterlands?
Answer: No, they needed grain and other things. Right around the cities, there grew up quite a few farming communities in the suburbs because of the night soil.

Question: Who lived in the suburbs? Was it reserved for a certain caste?
Answer: There was no caste system; there was great social mobility. It was nothing like India. If we talk about how many people were in the imperial family, literally just the imperial family (clearly the family was connected with the nobility through ties of intermarriage) it would have been less than 1% of the population. The remainder was divided into 18 ranks. This sounds hierarchical, but the ranks are often given to everyone upon the accession of the emperor, or through good harvest, etc. Merit-based promotions took place as well. It is important to remember that pre-modern economies were not run by money, but by status.

Question: Where were the temples located?
Answer: There was no organized religious activity prior to 150 CE. What you had was imperial cults, but nothing like present-day Buddhism. The closest things to temples were the imperial and ancestor shrines. Buddhism comes in the first century BCE, but doesn’t catch the elite consciousness until later.

Question: Was city planning inspired by feng shui?
Answer: We don’t know when this started. By 500 AD, yes, it was cosmologically based. A 6th-century text tells us that Han Chang’an was done so as well, but we don’t believe it. The earliest traditions were pretty much in the realm of legend and lore.

Question: Did the emperors change residences with seasons?
Answer: There was talk about the emperors changing residences; what is referred to, however, is that they changed residences within the actual home. They aren’t changing geographic locations. This is following the cosmic orders.

Question: Is there any information about gender roles?
Answer: Yes, soon there will be more on this. By next year, the new supplement to the Cambridge History of China will be out. The best place is Michael Bowie, Daily Life in Han China. That would work pretty well for most of imperial China…we think of vast aristocracies, but that’s not accurate. The Emperor seems to have been responsible for the economic livelihood of his people

Question: What is rammed earth?
Answer: You build a wooden frame, put earth in it, and ram it in there. This makes soil into a compacted base, and that compacted base is virtually stone. In areas covered by this loess soil, the earth can be made into virtual rocks. Rammed earth was always used for platforms of Chinese buildings.


The Built World of the Incas
Jean-Pierre Protzen, College of Environmental Design, UCB
(Summarized by Robert Nelson)

When most people think about the Incas, they think about Machu Picchu—the beauty of its natural scenery, the unity of its architecture, gives it unsurpassed harmony, and the perfection of the stone masonry is exquisite. It rivals the best of any civilization.

The Incas were a remarkable people who emerged around Cuzco around 1200 AD. For about 200 years, they remained within its confines, governing an agricultural state of minor importance. It was not until

about 1438 that they embarked on an unprecedented empire-building enterprise in the relatively short time until the Spanish conquest in 1532. They assembled the largest empire the New World ever saw, which stretched from Ecuador to Chile, west to the Pacific Coast, East to the Amazon basin and into the Argentine Pampas. Its greatest length was about 4000 km, or the equivalent of the distance from Cairo to Moscow. The Incas are often compared to the Romans for military exploits and as administrators, agronomists, and architects. The Incas laced their empire with an extensive road network, estimated at about 45,000 km in length. The major highway was at the back of the Andes along the coast, but there were numerous others. On this map, I would like you to remember Tambo Colorado and Cuzco. The roads were paved or cut out of bedrock, steep grades were overcome by stairs, obstacles were tunneled through, and sheer cliffs were crossed with daring structures and rivers with suspension bridges.

To gain much agricultural land, the Incas like their ancestors terraced entire hillsides. It was a major intervention into the landscape, but the intervention did not destroy the landscape, it enhanced it. To protect agricultural lands, they straightened out rivers. To irrigate, they built thousands of lines of canals. To conserve the fruits of their labor, they build innumerable storehouses all over the Incan Empire. Now, my initial fascination was with the awesome feat of their stone masons. They had no iron tools and no mortar, but made absolute perfect fits between huge stones. They put them together without mortar, and their precision defies imagination. How the Incas did this is a subject of another lecture. This one is not about construction techniques, but about cities.


Now, I did much of my research on Inca quarrying and stone-cutting techniques in Ollantaytambo near Machu Picchu. The more time I spent there, the more I became intrigued by the complex as a whole, namely, the various components and their temporal and functional relationships to one another. The site reveals good understanding of morphology, geology, and imagination. It reflects a rationality of deliberate decision; in other words, a plan or a design. People still live there, and use the site as it was used in Inca times. An art historian once called it the longest and best preserved Inca settlement. It sits in a valley sacred to the Incas (the slide shows all the infrastructural elements at the mouth of the valley, well connected with the road network coming from Cuzco. There are two roads, one on each side of the river. The river here has been diverted to change directions. At both ends we see control posts, one on the left, one on the right. A bridge close to the settlement in the Ollantaytambo connects the tow roads. The pier and the abutments are the originals. There is terracing climbing the foot of the hills all along the valley. There is also one rather intriguing staircase that climbs about 700 meters, which allows farmers to climb the mountain and exploit different altitudes for their agricultural potential. At the bottom it is warm, so they grew beans and corn. Higher up, they planted potatoes, which are resistant to cold. There is one particular set of terraces opposite the town that are intriguing because they are irrigated with a well-situated cornice, which is dry most of the year. It has a catching basin that runs year-round. In the sunken valleys, you will find sunken terraces, averaging 2°F higher than elsewhere. So they exploited these areas for special crops. On the other side of the valley there is an old riverbed surrounded by fancy walls. You see the remains of the walk, and at the very end of it you see a structure which some have identified as a palace of a local lord. There is a site further up the river where someone experimented with crops that did not belong at this end of the river.

Ollantaytambo has many storehouses—high, cool, and windy places that are ventilated, and perhaps provide protection from predators. Storing crops here was a part of a primitive freeze-drying technique that helped to preserve crops. There is a bench in the back that was drained and ventilated. The unit was dry and appropriate for storing food (probably maize) but archaeologists have never found traces of this practice. Another type of storage arrangement was much smaller, rectangular or square, and had an opening at the bottom where the buildings were separated from each other for ventilation to keep food dry. There was also a quarry, about 1000 meters above the valley floor. This implies an enormous infrastructure serving the town.

Ollantaytambo is situated at the mouth of the river valley, and it uses very little land. You see the Inca town situated on longitudinal roads and latitudinal roads. It forms a square-like shape. If you map only the Inca parts, you find that all of this part (the square section) is the original Inca town. One can pretty much reconstruct the rigorous plan; the streets are parallel, with transverse streets at right angles—90 degrees, 88 degrees, 86 degrees—perfectly oriented to an imaginary point. They had a way of surveying, but we don’t know how. The end of the town, in Inca times, was marked with water channels. The town was supplied with water like this until 1982. Streets ending in water channeles were the ones that gave access to city blocks.

As you have seen on the map, part of the town was built in a very regular fashion. In town, at the fifth transfer point, you see a change in architecture: there is cut stone in the lower, whole stone in the upper. The significance is that Andean communities are even today separated into two sections and have two mayors, as is represented here in the architecture. This system of communities being divided into upper and lower parts probably predated the Incas. The lower parts of town are built up in these courtyard structures in buildings called canchas, which is a word of Incan origin. Two canchas back to back make one city wall. There was no communication between sides, with a two-story building dividing them. The cancha was entered through a building that was open to the court. We find two opposite symmetrical buildings, with the two-story one in the middle. On either side, there were symmetrical buildings, all built the same. The original doorway was much higher than the current one. The roof is steep, and the original gables are still there. The courtyards were left open, and animals were herded into them and kept there. There is still a stairway that leads to the second story of the two-story building. When you look back, you see the entrance.

Now, Ollantaytambo has terraced hills, and each of the settlements have a sort of residential area, but there were also ceremonial centers, and this is the most important one here. When you climb the stairs, you see unfinished monoliths. This one is the Temple of the Sun. At the bottom of the temple hill, there are these hard rock faces all over the place. These are really amazing to see; we don’t know how they were used. They were described as wachas, or holy cities. There were obviously some sacrifices, but we don’t know why or how many. You see how the whole face is carved out of the hillside. There is also carved stone laying around everywhere. There are also wachas distributed throughout the landscape. Here we find all the elements of a city: urban planning, water, ceremonial center, etc.


Now we should turn our attention to Cuzco. Many people have argued that because the previous city was so well drawn, we want to see if that prototype really holds. The Incan Cuzco was situated between two rivers, but in Incan times, there were canals that directed the river flow. Although Cuzco was burned down by the Incas themselves in 1535–36 and was rebuilt by the Spaniards as a Christian town, we can still reconstruct the Inca town by its well-preserved walls. Sometimes the whole street was preserved, sometimes only sections of it. We can reconstruct the shape of the Inca town here—we see the streets and the remaining walls, more walls than are shown on this plan. There was a plaza that was open on one side, and like Ollantaytambo we have a regular street pattern, but not so much as in Ollantaytambo because it had to be squeezed between these two rivers. The grid was broken to fit the landscape.

Question: So the Spanish maintained the center, and built out from there (and put in cathedrals)?
Answer: Yes, here is a cathedral and here is a Jesuit church. One interesting fact is that, in Inca times, sand was brought from the Pacific to cover the plaza. The Spanish wanted it used for mortars, which nearly caused another rebellion. Up here, dominating the town is a Spanish structure—not a fortress, but a ceremonial center.

Question: So the ceremonial place was outside the city?
Answer: Yes, but there were also ceremonial centers in the middle of the city. In Ollantaytambo there was also one in the city. There is some ethnographic evidence that at least in their minds it might have looked like a ceremonial site.

So there was the center, the ceremonial outside, and then the Coricangha (Temple of the Sun). These walls were restored and formed into the Dominican church and monastery. In 1950, the monastery was damaged in an earthquake. The Spanish section was damaged, the Inca section was not. An interesting thing is that there were imaginary lines coming from the coricangha, and here they are all listed. One of the Spanish chroniclers named all these lines; there were wachas on each one of them, and he named every one along the line. Each three lines together were charged to two families, one noble and one non-noble, to maintain the shrine and make sure the proper ceremonies were performed. There was a calendar to indicate which ceremonies should be performed at what time. Following the wachas around gives you another way to understand the city. Some were in the city themselves; some were out in the countryside.

Question: When you look at that outcrop, there is no identification that this is a shrine in particular
Answer: No, we know because the line leads to it.

Tambo Colorado

Ollantaytambo was a private city, Cuzco was the capital, and Tambo Colorado was an administrative town. It does not fit anything we described. It has a plaza, and is built out from the sides. It is called Tambo Colorado because it was painted. It is amazingly well preserved, and the colors are still there to be seen. It is one of the best-preserved Incan sites along the coast. There was no street pattern; a huge plaza was built up on three sides. This [indicating a building on the slide] is referred to as the northern palace. This resembles a cancha, with a single entrance and buildings all around. Tambo Colorado was built in a very tightly structured hierarchy. Come into the front, and there is this cancha, then you go into a double doorway, and if you go left or right, you come to another plaza with double-jambed doorways. There you have two compounds, but it is a roundabout trip to get to them all. It is a very tightly controlled hierarchy, with controlled access. It does have a number of features, like waterworks, found within the compounds as at any other place. Yet it also was different, not just in layout, but in incorporating elements of coastal, rather than Inca, origin. When the Incas conquered people, they took elements of their architecture. We recognize the windows and the doors as Inca, but with new elements incorporated into it.

Question: Is there any evidence that this was built on another city?
Answer: No; this was not necessarily virgin land, but it was relatively untouched. There were lots of settlements in the surrounding areas, a dense population, but no city on that site.

Question: What is a double-jambed doorway?
Answer: There is a recessed second frame, and it never led into a room or building, but always into other compounds. It signifies a higher status for people.

Machu Picchu

A colleague of mine thought Machu Picchu was the prototype of an organically grown city, but I thought he was wrong, because there is a grid. The roads either follow the contour lines, or they cross at right angles, but there was a plan. That is another element of the planning is this division. There were canchas, courtyards, but these canchas had to be squeezed in because of the land. There were also water-works at Machu Picchu.

Most tourists come up a switchback highway, then they go to the hotel and the site. The Inca did not come this way. The old Inca road runs along the ridge, and you miss a very important feature of the city if you don’t come this way. You would have come from Cuzco through the jungle on the highway, and would not have seen much as you went along. There is a structure from which you would discover Machu Picchu for the first time. As you go away from that new point, you pass by another control place, but your sight is taken away from it, and you don’t see Machu Picchu anymore until you come to another cliff and there it is.

If you come in on the old Inca road, the sight of the city is taken away again, but when you go down and approach the main entrance, what do you see there? There is one peak, there are two peaks, and these frame the city. This is no accident. As you go through a gate toward the temple plaza, there is the Temple of the Three Windows, and if you look through the center window, another mountain is framed. This mountain has a platform, from which you can look back towards the city. As you turn around in that plaza toward the sun, on a good day, you see in plain sight a mountain range that has several sacred peaks. Then you are looking out on the snowy peaks, and you go up some stairs and you come to a place where you see the Intiwatana hitching post. It is sort of an observatory, with certain shadows cast at certain times of years lining up with edges, and it certainly has something to do with the sun. When you are up there and you look back through one of the windows, you see Machu Picchu peak. These amazing features (there are also such features at Ollantaytambo) are well and significantly integrated into the layout of the place. The Incas had a great reverence for mother earth, and as I said things could become sacred, objects of worship. Therefore the landscape was a part of the structure. It lacks those ideas that we have of built cities like diversity of economic and social structures, large populations, which may have existed in Cuzco but only marginally. There was not much of a public life, although there were ceremonies on plazas; there is nothing like people going to the forum in Rome. I wanted to show this as a way of integrating nature into the city.


Walking in the City: Mapping St. Petersburg circa 1910
Stiliana Milkova, Comparative Literature Department, UCB
(Summarized by Robert Nelson)
(Complete paper also available here.)

Project Website:

Reading Literature with the help of a city map has become a common teaching practice. Many 19th-century novels require knowledge of a map, including but not limited those of Dickens and Flaubert. The knowledge of urban space has informed literary production in the West. Therefore, using a map to get insight into the diurnal activities of a city’s inhabitants is crucial to a better understanding of Western literature. One can gain insight by plotting characters’ lives and deaths, food sources, and entertainment. This project traces such life-itineraries by going through the city of St. Petersburg, using a city map as a conceptual tool in research.

First, a brief account of the appearance of St. Petersburg. Its history coincides with that of the Russian Empire, but the city sprang primarily from the vision of one man. In 1703, Peter the Great ordered the construction of a modern city on the Gulf of Finland. If one examines an area map from 1705, one can see the islands and peninsulas upon which the city was built from marshes reclaimed from the Neva River. Building St. Petersburg from the ground up was an ambitious and daunting task, which required many workers and saw many deadly floods. Peter himself designed the city with a pencil, as it sprang forth from his vision of a mapped city. Early maps, like the map from 1737, together with plans, house designs, and naval regulations testify to Peter’s vision of integration.

On the one hand, the construction of St. Petersburg was a political move designed to secure Russia’s northern territories. On the other hand, victory over the elements was a testament to Russia’s leap into modernity. St. Petersburg was to rival western European capitals and reflect Peter’s westernizing agenda. He invited Italian, French, and Dutch architects and artists to design rectilinear boulevards and façades. Next, Peter attended to the peopling of the city, beginning with the imperial family itself, who moved from Moscow along with the organs of imperial government. In 1716, by Peter’s order, many families and thousands of peasants arrived through a policy of forced migration. The new city became fully functional and attempted to catch up to its European “parents,” like Rome and Amsterdam. Paradoxically, Russia’s foremost city now existed on the margins of both Russia itself and of Europe; this irreconcilable identity came to define St. Petersburg. By 1903, 200 years after its founding, St. Petersburg was a fully integrated and functioning urban center. The miraculous appearance of a city in the marshes captured the imagination of Russians, and that imagination was in turn captured in literature. The boulevards, canals, palaces, swamps, and gardens would become the topographical setting of Russian literature. As cultural historian Julie Buckler puts it: Petersburg was “the literary capital of tsarist Russia, not to mention its own favorite literary subject ... St. Petersburg virtually wrote itself into existence, so vast and varied is the Russian literature that charts this city in all its aspects. The textual ‘map’ of St. Petersburg—that is, the sum total of genres, topoi, and tours that cover the city in writing—constitutes a detailed literary analogue for urban topography.”

The Mapping St. Petersburg Project is designed to explore the cultural history of St. Petersburg by creating a textual map that traces private histories and the movement of products and peoples through the city’s urban space. This project was conceived by a group of students at Berkeley, and is very near to completing its task of mapping various aspects of St. Petersburg in the 20th century. In doing so, it explores the themes of Russian literary modernism, urban space, and cultural life with the goal of tracing literary modernism in the city of St. Petersburg.

The Mapping model was inspired by Andrei Bely’s 1913 novel Petersburg. It represents the imperial capital struggling with modernity and Russian identity, the same cultural and geographical split that dates to the age of Peter the Great. The project traces the plot to assassinate a government official by navigating the city space that brings the characters and authors together at this event. Such a tracing shows the city in a profound state of angst, from its idealistic revolutionaries to its downtrodden locals. The city appears to us as fragmented and abstract, reflecting a certain vision of modernity. Indeed, Petersburg opens by asserting the city’s cartographic existence: “However that may be, Petersburg not only appears to us, but actually does appear—on maps: in the form of two small circles, one set inside the other, with a black dot in the center; and from precisely this mathematical point, which has no dimension, it proclaims forcefully that it exists.”

The mapping of the novelistic St. Petersburg opened up new possibilities: as had been done with 19th-century Paris or London, it casts a map on modernity, with progress and poverty center stage. The exigencies of modernity required new ways of navigating city space, and new visual and oral experiences for its inhabitants and visitors. Looking at a map of the St. Petersburg rail system, you see that it is a complex network of railroads and trams, newly conceptualized and connected city spaces that are fixed into the space of small maps. Trams and trains altered notions of urban time and space. Technological progress brought consumer products, and the urban space grew into a capitalist space. Tourists came, and brought with them guidebooks for walking tours and sightseeing. Slums and factories gave Alexandr Blok his material. Furthermore, the Russo-Japanese War and Revolution of 1905 caused a good deal of political unrest. The 1904 assassination [of Minister of the Interior Viachislav von Plehve] exploded the security and uniformity of urban geography and experience.

Our map begins to show modernity at the moment that St. Petersburg emerged as a modern city, as we trace itineraries enacted by visitors and residents through the streets of St. Petersburg. Our vision of literary modernism follows inhabitants on their daily pathways—a window onto a different St. Petersburg through walking tours and strolls. We give a cartographic view of the city composed of public and private practices. As Michel de Certeau has theorized, walking the city unravels urban sectors and opens possibilities, as directional and directed arbitrary movements offer singular glimpses into private and public endeavors. Our hero is a Baudelaire-ian flâneur, a passionate city walker, a collector and a connoisseur who bridges the gap between public and private by seeing through façades and understanding the city crowds.

Our website follows several plots that unexpectedly cross paths, each with its own itineraries and subplots. They are hypertext narratives that destabilize linear progression. Each allows the user to cross from one to the other into fuller urban life. At present, the site follows six paths that document different sorts of movements. Our plotting goes beyond the novel to reflect the presence of the everyday. Soon we will be adding four more itineraries. The advent of modernity’s infrastructure (electricity, sewage, telephones) creates new space and is fixed into the maps and our plan. Mechanical transportation facilitated navigation through the city. Modernity through tramlines transformed the city streets, and the first of our pathways does precisely that.

Note: It is advised that the reader follow along at

Tram technology was first demonstrated in Russia at the World’s Fair in Nizhny Novgorod, where it offered a spectacle of progress. The opening of the first tram in St. Petersburg was a ceremonious affair: the first tram pulled away from St. Petersburg laden with the blessings of orthodox priests and manned by uniformed employees. For a while, people stood in long lines to take the tram. It was functional, it was entertainment, and it was movement for pure pleasure

The first pathway, Trambau, maps narratives of modernism and modernity, and traces the first tramline through St. Petersburg. Tramline 4 made its first journey on September 16, 1907; then, inspired by modern maps of public transportation, it branched into three lines of its own. The green line was Russia’s first functioning tramline. The blue line connects the tram as part of urban culture to its modernist texts. The blue line links the trams of the world of St. Petersburg artists by locating them along the tram itineraries. One stop maps an important literary event in the history of St. Petersburg—a chance encounter occurred on the tram in 1918, when Alexandr Blok and Gippius met for the last time in a tramcar. The tram was a public space that sanctioned the severing of their relationship. It changed the way the conversation was heard, viewed, and interpreted.

The red line is the theoretical model. The red line and the blue line converge at the house of Dmitry Mitrokhin, whose etchings transformed the tram into a part of everyday visual culture. On the one hand, this etching includes the tram as part of everyday culture and as a part of the urban experience; on the other hand, it is already a part of the urban experience. At the end of this line, we go to the city margins, where we can transfer over to the riverbanks.

Our second itinerary is called Karpovka, and allows the flâneur to navigate fluidly through the numerous canals and waterways of St. Petersburg. The river Karpovka as one particular approach to modernity runs through islands, to Peter’s side, and through the northern part of the city where different strata of urban society mixed and lived. Here, you find slums, bourgeoisie, industrial giants, and aristocrats. A walk along the Karpovka recreates the city margins by following emblematic figures of St. Petersburg’s modernism in four stops. The first gives you to Alexandr Blok, who roamed its banks and lived there. This stop allows you to learn more about his city walking and his poetry. The next stop takes you to the house of the famed actress Maria Savina, and allows you to learn more about her life. Next, you stop at the house of the artist Dmitry Mitrokhin. Finally, the most prestigious furniture factory in St. Petersburg, owned by Fyodor Fyodorovich Meltser, who worked in the art nouveau style. Here, you can learn about the factory and the furniture produced there.

Our third itinerary is called Visions of Terror. It conceives of human life and death as urban space, through an assassination and a funeral. Both the terrorist and the poet were prototypes for characters of St. Petersburg. In this itinerary, we take characters from the novel Petersburg and plot their own itineraries through St. Petersburg. More important, an intimate understanding of the event cannot be separated from the topography of the city. The assassination was plotted here in an alleyway, and took place on July 15, 1904: as the notoriously oppressive Viacheslav Konstantinovich von Plehve stepped into his carriage to meet the czar, a young man threw a bomb that blew up the carriage and the person in it. The main map shows two ways of navigating this site, all based on the memoirs of conspirator Boris Savinkov. It combines two tabs, one for each navigation. The assassination itinerary plots the day of the murder; the other, the historical and theoretical implications. The assassination pathway shows three prominent lines of the plot and its unfolding. Blue follows the Plehve path, the brown, the assassin, and the red, Savinkov’s own path. The second line of navigation offers a theoretical approach to its theatricality. In the days before the attack, the conspirators spend days roaming the city, using the city to camouflage their attack, as they were dressed like railway porters. The city was a stage of sorts on which the reporters staged the events. This pathway illustrates how a historical event can be mapped and visualized through its multiple locales.

Our fourth itinerary is called Postcards from St. Petersburg, and it follows a guided tour of the main attractions of the city. The modern phenomenon of mass tourism framed the city as a travel destination. This path captures the city in postcards, casting sightseeing as another urban experience and remapping the city as a guided tour. This pathway maps the four stops of the itinerary through two different guidebooks, where you can navigate from one stop to the other and read the guidebook description. It is a virtual meta-guidebook with critical commentary. The city’s most famous monument, the Bronze Horseman, was built in 1782 at the behest of Catherine the Great, as a memorial. The original text of the guidebook is on the right hand side of the page, with some commentary. This suggests a way of reading the guidebooks’ representations and poses questions for further analysis. The visual experience includes different postcards of the site, so you can get different visual takes on the same monument. This pathway works with the most literal conception of a map, that is, its use for practical and navigational purposes. The tour represents a simultaneous oriental and occidental identity, representing Russia’s own uncertainty about itself. This pathway illustrates how the visitor’s perception of the city could be manipulated and viewed through the pages of a guidebook. Please visit the website for more itineraries, and stay tuned for four new itineraries to be added soon.

This online interactive map studies movement through modern urban space and various aspects at the same time as modernity was emerging as a critical concept. This project can be used as a research tool, a pedagogical tool, or a suggestion for new research. Just like modernity itself, this project is a multifaceted one, representing the many different experiences of the urban walker. It takes the vantage point of the flâneur, a person with a slippery identity; this flâneur could be a passenger, an assassin, a poet, an artist, a tourist, or a butcher. The six existing pathways map these movements through the space of a text, each giving a framework or a meta-pathway to the understanding of the itinerary.


Ecological Apocalypse in Dickens’ London
Robert Alter, Comparative Literature Department, UCB
(Summarized by Robert Nelson)

I would like to propose that the 19th century was a special watershed in terms of the evolution of the city. As we are aware, cities have been a part of civilization since ancient Sumer at least, but something new happened in the 19th century in the Western Hemisphere. There was a mushrooming of cities. There are many reasons for this startling transition: the Industrial Revolution, new jobs and massive immigration from the provinces to name a few.

The growth of cities is especially visible when we consider two famous men from the twentieth century. Both Sigmund Freud and Franz Kafka were born into families originally from the countryside and who came to make their living in the city; the former’s family came from a village in Galicia, while the latter’s hailed from Moravia, but both Sigmund Freud and Franz Kafka became famous for discussing in one way or another the dislocating effect of modern city life. Better and more diverse nutrition led to a decrease in infant mortality, and a consequent population explosion. One particular illustration should give you an idea of how quickly cities were growing. In 1800, London was a city of one million inhabitants. In 1850, it had reached 2.6 million inhabitants. In 1899, there were six million inhabitants, a six-fold increase in only one hundred years. Now, in England this was due not only to a greater life expectancy, but also to in-migration from the countryside as a result of rural dislocation and the enclosure.

There is a very general way in which this is mirrored in the 19th-century novel. There is a recurrent plot in nineteenth-century literature—“The Young Man from the Provinces.” Think Balzac with Rastignac confronting the big city; think Lost Illusions; you will remember Pip from Great Expectations, again a young man from the provinces. From the East, think Raskolnikov, who was crazed by a delusional ideology; he came from a small provincial village. The general effect of this migration was a transformation of all the basic coordinates of existence. It is a situation where quantitative change becomes qualitative change; there is massive crowding of the population living in appalling proximity to one another. Because people came as individuals, you have the break-up of the extended family as the unit within which you lead your life. Individuals become isolated, and you have both crowds and crowdedness, and a sense of experience in the 20th century that Simmel described as the overload of stimuli. Later, Walter Benjamin talked about shock and disruption (little and big alike) as characterizing life in the city.

One of the hallmarks of modernity in Great Britain was the railroad. It was invented in the 1820s, and put into general use in the late 1830s and 1840s. It is one of the agents that enabled the big migrations from the provinces. One could hop on a train and be in a capital city in three hours, not two days by horse and wagon. What we are looking at here is the construction of a railroad line in London in the 1840s. This picture gives you a sense of what was going on. The violence of the disruption of the urban landscape, these people with pickaxes and hammers tore apart the guts of the city to make way for the railroad. So what does the novel have to do with any of this?

My contention is that the experience of everyday life was radically altered in these new cities. The individual sense of selfhood and individuality, human agency, and how that person perceived both time and space really shifted in these new urban circumstances. Novelists used certain tools to cope with that. I will mention one major line of development that I will not follow—namely, the “interiorization” of narratives. That is, if you read an old fashion 18th-century novel, one by Fielding or even the novels of Balzac, you have an omniscient narrator who explains exactly what is happening in the physical setting and the characters. But at the same time as Balzac a few novelists, like Jane Austen or Stendhal, see that there is something compelling about telling the story through the eyes of the character. What you see as you read the novel is what the character sees, which may be imperfect or skewed but it is what he sees; this gives the story a dramatic immediacy. For example, Gustave Flaubert’s writings are technically referred to as free indirect discourse, where the narrator reports to you in the third person the words that the character would speak to him or herself. This is another way of telling the story as the character experiences it. For example, in Flaubert’s Sentimental Education, the entire story is told through the lens of the main character, Frédéric, a young man from the provinces. You get a sense of the disorientation of the urban experience and a dizzying array of stimuli.

Now I would like to discuss the use of metaphor in Dickens. You can’t talk about literature without talking about metaphor. For many people, metaphor is a sort of decorative device. Actually, metaphor does much more serious and compelling work. One task I would like to propose is that it is a vehicle of discovery—it opens up the horizons of the new perspectives it represents. The stereotypical conception of Dickens, which is inaccurate or incomplete, is that he is a sentimentalist who creates tearjerkers, or that he is one of the great humorists of his age with his great sense of comedy, cheeriness, or zaniness. All these features of his writing continue until the very end. But as Dickens got on in his career, towards the end of the 1850s, there is a darkening of his vision. He gets concerned about where the world is going and particularly about where the contemporary urban world is going. One last word about Dickens and metaphor: there is no formula for works of genius. On the one hand, there is someone like Flaubert, who honed Madame Bovary from over 2000 manuscript pages, constantly agonizing over every word choice until he got it perfect. On the other hand, there is Dickens, writing serial publications at great speed, amounting to a sustained and brilliant improvisation. About the metaphor: Dickens is the great master of metaphor in English literature after Shakespeare. The metaphor becomes a cognitive instrument by which Dickens can show that he might have known more than he realized.

In the novel Bleak House, most people remember the fog, which he insists upon with great rhetorical flourish. But there is something more environmental about this novel. For example, “Smoke lowering down from the chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun.” The chimney pots, of course, are in the houses that could afford them, each room being heated by a fireplace with a chimney on the roof. The hearths burned soft coal, which was an appalling source of pollution, and incidentally the same material burned in East Germany under the communists that melted the façades of buildings. That acute notion, technically called conceit, is more than just conceit. There is a spooky sense in the way that urban reality has altered the environment and threatens extinction. The order of nature has been radically reversed. The death of the sun is also an idea that was current in the nineteenth century, in the works of the astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace, for example. When you introduce the idea of the death of the sun, you get into the borderland of apocalyptic thinking.

In the novel Our Mutual Friend, which was Dickens’ last completed novel, he tries most fully to come to terms with the new urban reality. I would like to mention two features of the plot. There are two related manifestations of the cityscape that are at the center of the plot. One is the dust heap, dust being a euphemism for garbage. The family at the center of the novel has reaped a fortune from scavenging, finding value in the vast pile of refuse. You have this notion of wealth extracted from filth. There is something else that needs to be mentioned: in these new compacted cities with large populations, one very practical problem is that of garbage disposal. So, the dust heap became one central image. The other image is that of the River Thames. What I want to underline here is that the river is filthy, and in the first scene, you have a sordid character and his sweet daughter fishing for dead bodies. In Our Mutual Friend, Dickens gives a description of the Thames at dawn:

The white face of the winter day came sluggishly on, veiled in a frosty mist; and the shadowy ships in the river slowly changed to black substances; and the sun, blood-red on the eastern marshes behind the dark masts and yards, seemed filled with the ruins of a forest it had set on fire.

You can see how the figurative language takes the novelistic account to a surprising place. Not just a decorative description, or a vivid image of the red at dawn, but an apocalyptic description. These masts sticking up are flipped back from the forest from which they came and the forest is enflamed. You get a real sense of the power of Dickens’ metaphorical imagination.

Let us look at three longer passages:

The city looked unpromising enough, as Bella made her way along its gritty streets. Most of its money-mills were slackening sail, or had left off grinding for the day. The master-millers had already departed, and the journeymen were departing. There was a jaded aspect on the business lanes and courts, and the very pavements had a weary appearance, confused by the tread of a million feet. There must be hours of night to temper down the day’s distraction of so feverish a place. As yet the worry of the newly-stopped whirling and grinding on the part of the money-mills seemed to linger in the air, and the quiet was more like the prostration of a spent giant than of one who was renewing his strength.

This passage is mostly self-evident. The kind of activity that Dickens imagined is not meaningful activity like building a table or planting a field and then reaping the harvest at the end of the year. It is a constant, maddening, cyclical and frenetic, feverish activity that never ends. It is the great giant who is spent (a pun, meaning “exhausted” but also “spent money”—characteristic Dickensian fairy-tale image), but the fairy tale is the terrifying aspect which illuminates the terrifying aspect of reality.

A grey dusty withered evening in London city has not a hopeful aspect. The closed warehouses and offices have an air of death about them, and the national dread of colour has an air of mourning. The towers and steeples of the many house-encompassed churches, dark and dingy as the sky that seems descending on them, are no relief to the general gloom; a sundial on a church-wall has the look, in its useless black shade, of having failed in its business enterprise and stopped payment for ever; melancholy waifs and strays of housekeepers and porters sweep melancholy waifs and strays of papers and pins into the kennels, and other more melancholy waifs and strays explore them, searching and stooping and poking for anything to sell. The set of humanity outward from the City is as a set of prisoners departing from jail, and dismal Newgate seems quite as fit a stronghold for the mighty Lord Mayor as his own state-dwelling.

On such an evening, when the City grit gets into the hair and eyes and skin, and when the fallen leaves of the few, unhappy City trees grind down in corners under wheels of wind, the schoolmaster and his pupil emerged upon the Leadenhall Street region, spying eastward for Lizzie.

You can see here that there is not much room in the haze and fog. The other thing to remember is “in its useless black shade of having failed in its business enterprise and stopped payment forever…” We are talking about a sundial and what would happen were it to stop payment…it would be the apocalypse. In the next line, we see a sentence that expresses the feeling of actually, physically looking into the city. Next, Dickens introduces the idea of the residue that haze can leave on your skin, the same sort of film that you might get from spending too much time outside in New York or Los Angeles.

There is still more evidence of an environmental hazard in the last quote, when one of London’s most recognizable symbols, St. Paul’s Cathedral, becomes invisible to the eye through the fog:

It was a foggy day in London, and the fog was heavy and dark. Animate London, with smarting eyes and irritated lungs, was blinking, wheezing, and choking; inanimate London was a sooty spectre, divided in purpose between being visible and invisible, and so being wholly neither. Gaslights flared in the shops with a haggard and unblest air, as knowing themselves to be night-creatures that had no business abroad under the sun; while the sun itself when it was for a few moments dimly indicated through circling eddies of fog, showed as if it had gone out and were collapsing flat and cold. Even in the surrounding country it was a foggy day, but there the fog was grey, whereas in London it was, at about the boundary line, dark yellow, and a little within it brown, and then browner, and then browner, until at the heart of the City—which call Saint Mary Axe—it was rusty-black. From any point of the high ridge of land northward, it might have been discerned that the loftiest buildings made an occasional struggle to get their heads above the foggy sea, and especially that the great dome of Saint Paul’s seemed to die hard; but this was not perceivable in the streets at their feet, where the whole metropolis was a heap of vapour charged with muffled sound of wheels, and enfolding a gigantic catarrh.

Dickens is at once both a visionary and a fantastically precise overseer. Comments and preconceptions might lead one to believe that those two things are opposed, but not in Dickens. What he is describing in this quote is what we refer to as smog, and notice how precise his description is. The natural fog in the countryside slowly gets tinged with brown the closer one gets to the city, until in the middle of the city it is a dark and deep brown color. This passage ends with two associated images of drowning. One of the whole city in smog, with only St. Paul’s bravely struggling to keep its dome above the surface, and then wheezing with irritated lungs and choking that ends with a giant catarrh, or inner drowning.

Question: Was there any connection between the human elements of creating the poor environment, or was it dissociated? Was there any evidence of people saying that we need to do something about it?
Answer: I think that Dickens’ treatment of the environment is not programmatic, the way that it is in Oliver Twist, inveighing against poor houses…here it is more direct. It helped to raise consciousness and add to the few voices already talking about urban planning…by the 1880s and 1890s, various schemes of planning had been implemented, but there was no clear sense of the sources of pollution. They did have an idea that these were not habitations fit for human beings. I mentioned a few minutes ago Hampstead: around 1890, some city planners created Hampstead Garden suburbs (no part of this massive city of London) and these are orderly row houses which have their gardens and heath alongside, so there was grass, fresh air, greenery, so people began moving a little faster.


One could make the case that, well, isn’t this all apocalyptic: the city drowning, the death of the sun, etc.? Isn’t this rather extravagant or extreme? Of course it is, and of course there are alternatives to dying in cities. However, I don’t think it is the job of an imaginative writer to strike a perfectly reasonable balance. The visionary impetus that you feel in Dickens’ metaphorical language is such that it opens up a perspective on the worst-case scenario. It makes the reader realize how we have pushed things to such a point that maybe the city is not going to be viable as a place of human habitation. It is going to be the death of human civilization. But it is well for us to be warned of this.

Question: Before cities became big centers, metaphors were usually associated with nature. Does metaphor become more city-oriented, do we see authors going away from metaphorical language associated with nature as the death of nature?
Answer: Dickens feels very clearly that the city is alienation from nature…one element of the plot is that when you go up the Thames away from London in certain scenes, the air is clearer, there are trees and grass, and redemption comes to a character who nearly drowns but doesn’t, saved by nature; but in the city you are cut off from nature. Anti-urbanism also has a long history, and it goes back to the book of Genesis. Think for example of the story of the tower of Babel, and that is really an anti-urban fable, an argument against Mesopotamian culture where they have these big cities and ziggurats going up into the sky—say the Babylonian equivalent of skyscrapers. The Israelites were these agricultural people—yes there was Jerusalem, and a few others, but these were sort of hick towns. You can see in the Babel story and elsewhere a sense that those writers had that the city alienated you from God and from the way that you were supposed to be in the world.


Motion, Mechanization, and Migration: The Urban Experience in Walther Ruttmann’s Weimar Film Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927)
Noga Wizansky, Institute of European Studies, UCB
(Summarized by Robert Nelson)

A silent version of the film can be found at:

This film is a black and white silent film from 1927 Weimar Germany. Weimar Germany is the name by which we know the German Republic that governed after World War I and before the creation of the Third Reich under Hitler. Walter Ruttmann , who wanted to show the cross-section view of a single day in the city of Berlin in the 1920s, directed this film. The film chronicles a day from dawn to midnight, divided into five movements. Three cameramen, who were working in documentary format, shot it. Almost none of the scenes were staged or plotted. Often, they worked with hidden cameras for more candid shots. All this was condensed into a film that is 62 minutes long, and is meant to represent one day.

At this time, the mid-twenties in Europe, people were intensely interested in urban spaces and their effects on city dwellers. This is a long-standing interest that dates back at least to the beginning of 19th century, and persists in this post-war period, in ways that were specific to the period. You can find this in numerous texts from a wide range of fields at this time—sociology, psychology, engineering, medicine, general cultural criticism, and daily newspapers. This interest manifested of course in the visual arts as well, including films of all kinds—narrative, sci-fi, documentary; a few of these that come to mind are Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Chaplin’s Modern Times, Taxi Tangle (an American film set in New York), and Ernst Lubitsch’s The Last Laugh. What distinguishes Berlin: Symphony of a Great City from these films is that the city it represents doesn’t serve as a backdrop or even a setting for a story about people, whose lives we follow and get involved in. It is the city itself which is both the film’s subject and, I would go so far as to say, its main actor. And, given how the film blurs the boundaries between people and inanimate things, I think that it is appropriate to call the city an actor.

Guide Questions:

1. What did the filmmakers choose to show about Berlin in 1927?
2. What aspects are most representative?
3. What informed the filmmakers’ choice of material?
4. What attitude does the film project?
5. What can these questions tell us about perceptions and ideas about urban life in mid-twenties Germany?

The city was viewed as the epitome of modern life, or what was most modern about modernity. There was still a heightened awareness about modernity, and city inhabitants wore that awareness very self-consciously. Time was moving faster in the interwar years, and the changes arising from modernization at home, in the public sphere, and in political culture were happening more quickly and visibly. There is a historical context to this perception, which we don’t have time to explore today, but I will put it out as an interesting one.

The city, as the most modern landscape, emerges at this time in the West as a space and force that had a deeply transformative influence/impact on human beings living within it. Furthermore, this transformation occurred at the psychic level. So, while city life manifested itself in all kinds of ways that were visible on the surface (which to a large extent we still recognize)—in dress codes, profuse and ever-changing fashions, display windows; new technologies and mass cultural forms—movies, radios, cabaret, sports, traffic—these things were understood by and large as both inducing and reflecting deeper structural changes in the very psychic make-up of urban dwellers. People were critiquing and representing the city as a landscape that both destabilized and radically reshaped one’s very identity, core sense of self, and relationship to the surrounding world. By 1927, Berlin was widely regarded as the paragon of urban living, or Europe’s most modern city. As you can imagine, opinions about the quality of life in the city varied widely. On the one hand, it was exciting and innovative, it embodied the dawn of the modern age, it saw experimentation in art, changing social and gender identities, fashion and new cultural norms. On the other hand, it seemed chaotic, alienating, utterly dehumanizing to some, and these kinds of critics saw Berlin as the pinnacle of decadence, and the locus of the decline of traditional morals and with it, civilization.

Movie Sequence, Act I

The filmmakers position the spectator in the position of the passenger looking at the speeding landscape from his or her eyes (given that gender-neutral subjects were coded male, I would have to say “his”) so the passenger is looking out frequently at the landscape. From the very start, Ruttmann draws our attention to the profound relation between the cinema and modern urban life, and he will do this many times through the film. Here, he draws an analogy between the experience of watching the landscape flying by and a movie itself. When the train arrives and stops in the station, the passenger disembarks and begins to walk through the city. It is through his or her eyes that we see Berlin. Who exactly this is supposed to be, we will turn to at the end of the talk. The city is beginning to wake up here.

Movie Sequence, Act II

The city-waking-up theme continues. Now it is a different social sector, but we begin to see the curtains being pulled back, stores raising their guards, more workers, and this time, more women in secretarial or clerical jobs such as nursing, teaching, or gardening.

Movie Sequence, Act III

This is about 10 a.m. More people are crowding the city streets, doing a variety of things. In this act, we have a more varied scene: magicians, street vendors, thoroughfares, and a brawl. It introduces a very strong theme: namely, the tension between percolating chaos and the enforcement of order. The crowded, jostling bodies all threaten to become chaotic, escalating into mass political protest or a simple traffic collision. All of these potential eruptions are kept under control by the law enforcement, which directs traffic, breaks up speeches, and intervenes in brawls. Think about the beggar who picked up a cigarette butt. This points to a larger issue that is a longstanding process in western cities: the widening of the gap between the well-to-do and the impoverished, and certainly the swelling of the latter group. A potential political statement occurs when the frame immediately cuts to the policeman, who is positioned in the space to keep order in traffic matters, but also waves the viewer past this scene and on to the next. We are reluctant to dwell on such poverty.

Movie Sequence, Act IV

This act shows relaxation time at lunch. It also picks up on the tension between crisis and control; the suicide is the most extreme example, and probably the only staged event in the film. It depicts an individual at the moment of the most extreme personal crisis and collapse, who jumps and draws an excited and excitable crowd. The moment is drawn away from us, as the body is swept away by water. It doesn’t reappear.

This film constantly challenges us visually. It sends a steady stream or march of images that you have to recognize, register, and understand, but it gives you very little time to do so. It gives you images, and replaces them over and over again for 62 minutes. The viewer, like the characters, are anxious and disoriented, and after a while, somewhat numbed and assaulted by so much information. The diversity of objects and exchanges begins to feel the same. Instead of fighting this feeling, you should use this as a departure point to understand this particular view of the city and the filmmakers’ perspective on the city. Like a symphony, this film takes many individual shots and notes and spreads them out. It also treats a few common themes, like motion, crisis and control, and mechanization and rationalization.


The film shows a lot of items and people in motion—it opens up with the train hurtling through the city, people walking and playing sports, animals, dancing, and eating. The film takes these discrete examples of whole or partial figures and composes them into segments that underscore motion and constant flux into things that are intrinsic to modern life. The cuts from shot to shot are rapid and visible, and even the scenes of leisure are not allowed to remain leisurely to the viewer. The pace of the cuts propels us from image to image. Film narrates in time, and the motion of the filmstrip controls our viewing experience. Film was at this point the most modern visual form, and still relatively new. It is quite likely that Ruttmann was highlighting the historical relationship between cinema and the modern city through rapidly punctuated motion.

Crisis and Control

Acts Three and Four show the tension between underlying stress and forces of order and control. Berlin was made approximately seven years after WWI, during which period Germans had experienced traumatic defeat, harsh and humiliating reparations, abrupt dissolution of a powerful monarchy, an attempted revolution (brutally suppressed by the SPD and military aligned to prevent Bolshevik Revolution), a damaged economy, massive material shortages that continued after the war, rampant inflation that escalated in 1923, and a young democracy that was still fragile and in its infancy. To put it mildly, this period was one of extreme turmoil and dramatic change, and it fostered a sense of instability and fear of chaos that was threatening to bubble over into the political, economic, and social spheres. In 1923, the government gained a handle on the massive inflation, and subsequent international investments caused a period of relative stabilization. At that point, nobody knew what was to come, but the memory of past violence, stress, and national shame was still alive. The SPD had not yet won firm public support, there was extremism on the left and the right, and most hardships were not resolved at this time. Germans lived in tension between chaos and tenuous stability in their daily life, and it is this climate that underpins the theme of crisis and control.

Mechanization and Rationalization

This film is permeated with machinery and rationalized processes. On the one hand, machines served people, produced for the city, and provided entertainment and light, and the film displays mechanization as something beautiful and entertaining. But in this film people also service machines. There is a fine line dividing people and machines, and it is frequently blurred. Humans are juxtaposed to machines in a way that doesn’t quite separate the two. For example, machines like the locomotive pant and sweat like humans. And so while city dwellers aren’t ruled or suppressed in the same way as in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, it is not entirely clear that humans are autonomous physically from the machines they work with and the city’s regulated and machine-like pace. The relationship between individuals and technology is a central theme in Western history, and continues into the twenties with the memory of the most technological and destructive war ever fought not far in the past. In the ordinary realms of production and work, German companies were enthusiastically embracing rationalized production techniques developed by Henry Ford and Frederick Winslow Taylor, and melting work down to a science. So public awareness of the theories of rationalization in the workplace was quite high, and the public was also exposed to varying opinions on the actual process. The same public that went to see movies most likely recognized the ambivalence of the nature of the relationship between technology and rationalization in human beings.

Juxtaposition of discrete shots that aren’t continuous in space and time, but are made continuous in the film

Ruttmann uses this technique to make interpretive visual comments on city life. For example, we have already discussed the class difference in the cigarette-throwing scene. Another juxtaposition in the first act took place when there was a sequence of legs, which cut to a picture of cows, and then back to people, then to soldiers. There are a number of issues like motion and regulated life, but there is another issue that has to do with public feeling, resentment, trauma, and anger towards the recent war. The cattle are symbolic of that slaughter, captured in the German word schlachtvieh, which literally refers to cattle going to slaughter but was used during WWI and after to refer to German soldiers and young men who had been grossly misled into war and then led to slaughter. The juxtaposing of discrete and non-continuous shots is called montage, or “putting together,” and refers to the editing and cutting of yards and hours of footage and joining them to make a new film-strip. The differences come down to the degree to which the montage is highlighted. For example, the filmmakers use a montage technique called “memento,” in which the viewer sees a very visible montage which distorts our sense of time, space and progress.


In the late 1900s to the early 1920s, cultural discussions in Europe centered upon modern life, and in particular how it had become so dense and confused and, consequently, difficult to explain. In Germany this sense had become heightened, and within this climate there was a great suspicion of linear narratives, ones that have clear beginnings and ends with understandable characters and clear visions of life. Critics on the left called such narratives deceptively dangerous and illusionist. The visual arts saw a rejection of naturalistic representations and a dissatisfaction with anatomically correct figures and the rejection of stable spaces and single moments in time. These are the same sorts of techniques used by painters in the late nineteenth century. German filmmakers and critics liked complexity, and turned to montage. It emerged first in the Soviet Union, in conjunction with post-Revolutionary art. Montage became more than an expensive crafting tool. A refusal to use linear narrative and instead to accurately represent the fractured and fragmented quality of modern life became a widely used technique. Montage made analytical and critical commentary, and demanded the analytical and critical attention of the viewer, as well as an awareness that the story was artificial and selected. A film put together with visual montage could show images and ideas, which are more malleable than simple images. It could demonstrate the power of the individual to narrate new stories and to reconstruct social and cultural life. Advocates of montage despised films with narratives (Hollywood films), which lulled people into passivity with seductive, beautiful characters and dramatic, resolved lives.

In making such deliberate and visible use of montage in Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, Ruttmann was demonstrating his familiarity with these theories and practices. The film was harshly criticized, however, by German critics interested in social critique and sympathetic to soviet montage theory. I want to read you one piece, by a critic named Siegfried Kracauer, a regular contributor to a major Frankfurt newspaper, in order to illustrate the investment that people had made in montage—as a means of social criticism, to illustrate how important it was to them as a critical tool, and how important they felt it was to get it right:

Ruttmann, instead of penetrating his immense subject-matter with a true understanding of its social, economic and political structure . . . records thousands of details without connecting them, or at best connects them through fictitious transitions which are void of content. His film may be based upon the idea of Berlin as the city of tempo and work; but this is a formal idea which does not imply content either and perhaps for that very reason intoxicates the German petty bourgeoisie in real life and literature. This symphony fails to point out anything, because it does not uncover a single significant context.

Kracauer thought that Ruttmann had squandered montage’s potential for making meaningful political statements about the social facts he assembled on the screen. Instead of using its discontinuous effects to cut through the myths of appearance and make a statement, he had taken segments that documented the harshness of the city and reassembled them back into a film that was purely formal—he had made abstract music out of concrete social realities. He was more interested in evacuated formal rhythms than in actual content.

Another way to see this is through the lens of Georg Simmel. Simmel is considered by many today as one of the early figures of cultural studies. He wrote many very interesting essays about aspects of modern life, one of which is reproduced in your reader, called “The Metropolis and Mental Life.” His concern in this essay was with the effect of city life on the individual’s psychic state. With the emergence of psychoanalysis in the late 19th century, there was an increasing tendency to perceive and analyze the mind as if it were another mechanism. Like Kracauer, Simmel perceived the city as having a deeply transformative impact on the structure of people’s psyches. His argument in a nutshell goes as follows: The core problem of modern life was the struggle of individuals to maintain personal independence within social structures—to resist “being leveled, swallowed up in the social-technological mechanism” (324). The most intense characteristic of urban life was the relentless flow of stimuli/sensory stimulation that assaults individuals daily, throughout the day—“with every crossing of the street, with the tempo and multiplicity of economic, occupational and social life…it creates a deep contrast with the slower, more habitual, more smoothly flowing rhythm of the sensory-mental phase of small town and rural existence.”

In order to protect themselves against the onslaught, urban individuals developed a mental shield between their outer and inner lives, and this shield is manifested in a blasé attitude. People were antagonistic and distant, and related to one another in rational, calculating, and intellectual ways. At the same time, this attitude granted people a higher degree of personal autonomy and independence from old social traditions—independence from constrictions of habit and ritual. It allowed people the space and freedom to deconstruct and reconstruct the complex, modern world and determine one’s place in it. It enabled modern urban dwellers to adapt. We don’t know whether Ruttmann read this essay. We do know however that it was widely read, Simmel was well known, and that he too was part of a broader discussion about the City, in which ideas of this kind were circulating.

I’d like to suggest thus that the neutralized, deflective feeling of this film might be understood in relation to this idea of the blasé urban demeanor. While Kracauer saw the pace of editing as something that disabled the film, that distanced viewers from the reality it represented, we could also read it as a technique that in effect reproduced the effects of the mental shield, which Simmel saw as a protective mechanism, as a way for individuals to distance themselves from environmental stimuli—not necessarily as an escape from reality/modern life, but as necessary stage of adapting to it.


Paris of the Impressionists
Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, Art History, UCB

(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)

(The following write-up will best be followed by viewing the corresponding paintings listed throughout: paintings in bold)

We will start with two paintings that are indicative of the kind of paintings you think about when you think about impressionism.

Claude Monet, Regatta at Argenteuil, 1872
Edgar Degas, Backstage at the Ballet, 1870s

What appeals to viewers and what is famous about these paintings is that they are exciting, vital representations of scenes of pleasure and entertainment. The pleasures depicted are self-evident and on offer in these two. In addition, a viewer can quickly see how the pictures were made, creating a connection with the painting. However, in teaching these paintings it is useful to ask whether they have become naively cheerful. While it is still easy to fill a class on the impressionists, students may not connect with these paintings in the way they once did.

Now, let’s compare these paintings with one by Jacques Louis David, the kind of painting undergrads know they should not want to study.

Jacques Louis David, Oath of the Horatii, 1785

This painting captures what painting used to be like. Seen from slides one may miss the comparison of size between this and the two impressionist painting, but the Oath is huge while the Regatta is much smaller. David’s painting stands for hierarchy, both social and aesthetic. Traditionally, the hierarchy of genres was: history painting, genre painting (scenes of everyday life), landscape, still-life, and portraiture. David’s painting conveys a historical lesson. Men swear a dramatic oath while women grieve in the background. You can tell that he is telling a story and more importantly, one with a moral imperative. It says something about loyalty to the larger good, family, and sacrifice.

So why are we not talking about Monet? Narrative is not exactly the strength of Regatta. It shows a scene where the wind blows and the sun shines, but it is more descriptive than narrative. Monet’s painting describes the world as a natural place and captures man’s human activities, such as recreation and pleasure. This is a primary reason why impressionist paintings can be alienating to some. At the same time, they are radically less alienating than a painting that requires you to know something and can make you feel stupid in the process for not knowing. The hierarchy of painting in the past required knowledge of the great stories, and painters and the upper class alike needed to know them like the epic poets.

This means part of what impressionism entails is turning its back on this hierarchy. The historical painting has been unable to survive modernization (the French Revolution, industrialization, etc.) and painters recognize they can paint their moment rather than history. This makes painting a smaller and more casual affair involving easel size paintings, paintings that could be bought and put over your couch.

The lesser genres of everyday life could now be the subject for modern painting. This is not to say this transition comes easily, but rather painters such as Monet come to this realization kicking and screaming. Monet started his career trying to do 60-foot paintings, but found this hard to mesh with scenes of everyday life.

The 60-foot epic painting also clashes with the style of impressionism. Monet’s and Degas’s brush strokes show us the easiness of paintings. In general people like the feeling that “I can do that”; and this is not the case with 60-foot monstrosities.

Monet, Boulevard des Capucines, 1873.

With Monet, one often thinks of suburbs or nature. The impact of the city on Claude Monet is to send him out into the countryside and make him the “Sierra Club” of painters. He recognized recreation in nature as a way to leave some of the greater tensions of the city and modernization behind. While this painting is of the city, it captures some of his wariness with this modernity. When he paints the boulevard he does so from a distance, capturing a misty row of trees and recognizable homes, but the crowd from a distance. This distance allows him to avoid social descriptions and picture the crowds as peaceful and non-contentious. Class, social, political, and economic differences disappear and the inhabitants seem highly alike. He actively views them as a crowd rather than individuals.

Hippolyte Flandrin, Napoleon III

This picture of Napoleon III is a good entry into a period of powerful, violent, dramatic urban transformation, also know as Haussmannization. When Napoleon III came to power, he decided to change Paris and make it a modern city. Together with Baron Haussmann, he created sewers, public transport, and grand boulevards, which conveniently were also hard to barricade. This was a modern city and governable city, in essence creating a social contract; residents of Paris got things like sewers and lighting, but in exchange accepted the legitimacy of the Second Empire.

Charles Marville, “before” photograph (before 1862)
Marville, “after” photograph, Boulevard St. Michel, 1870s

Two contrasting photographs by Marville do a good job at capturing Paris before and after Haussmannization. Marville was commissioned to document the transition of Paris. In looking at his photographs it is important not just to understand the images, but also to understand the process of photography and how the images were created. Marville used a long shutter that effectively eliminates the human presence in Paris, as transitory people won’t register on plate. That doesn’t mean there are no signs of humans. The sewage slowly moving down the street in the before photo shows this is an inhabited city. Marville creates a sense of history with dark winding streets and a high level of texture and grit.

The after photo captures the incredibly changed Boulevard St. Michel. The angle of the shot at a crossroads emphasizes the wide boulevard and obscures the architectural specificity of Haussmannization. During Haussmannization all of the buildings were built in identical style, with the same height and same stone, imposing a uniformity that tourists love when they visit Paris today. However, this cohesion was not entirely aesthetic, it was also way of raising money. The stone was one they could tax and had to be brought from outside Paris. Corruption was a part of the narrative of Paris as well.

So what do painters do to capture this period?

Degas, Place de la Concorde; Vicomte Lepic and his Daughters, c. 1873

The next Degas painting of the Place de la Concorde, which was unfortunately destroyed in WWII, provides an excellent starting point. One choice for painters, like Monet, was not to paint the city, but rather go out into the country and paint the sailboats. An alternative response, however, was to take it on and try to convey an attitude of the period.

One pedagogical side note: slowing down and comparing what can be conveyed in artwork should not be missed. Many students love the act of translation between a visual medium and words.

Comparing the Degas to the David we find symmetry vs. asymmetry. The David is a box-like space with figures organized into component units — parallel lines, etc.). In contrast, the Degas is extraordinarily asymmetrical. The figures are oddly pressed to the edge of the composition and you cannot see their full bodies. The man at the left edge is wholly bisected. Looking at this painting the observer can revel in the pleasure of cropping and its implications. This is a moment, a contingent passing moment that we suddenly have access to and there is a feeling that these figures were not organized for self-presentation, these aren’t models posing. The David is based on preparatory drawings, while the way the Degas is painted makes it more transitory. This does not mean that less is conveyed. We see a father going the opposite way from daughters in surprising lack of coordination and may recognize what he does not.

Looking at Degas’s perception of the city, there is an emphasis on the huge space and emptiness of Place. The theme of random movement in the larger group space is a common one of the period, as painters were interested in the psychological implications of this disorganization: the momentary matters.

Charles Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life,” 1863:

The crowd is [the artist’s] domain, just as the air is the bird’s, and water that of the fish. His passion and his profession is to merge with the crowd. For the perfect idler, for the passionate observer it becomes an immense source of enjoyment to establish his dwelling in the throng, in the ebb and flow, the bustle, the fleeting and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel at home anywhere; to see the world, to be at the very centre of the world, and yet to be unseen of the world, such are some of the minor pleasures of those independent, intense and impartial spirits, who do not lend themselves easily to linguistic definitions. The observer is a prince enjoying his incognito wherever he goes. The lover of life makes the whole world into his family, just as the lover of the fair sex creates his from all the lovely women he has found, from those that could be found, and those who are impossible to find, just as the picture-lover lives in an enchanted world of dreams painted on canvas. Thus the lover of universal life moves into the crowd as though into an enormous reservoir of electricity.

The above quote by Baudelaire captures a new model of the artist’s job that is completely different from a Davidian conception. Here we get the notion that literally wandering the streets is the job and the privilege of the artist, the flâneur as artist. An artist can move through the streets and social classes incognito. You may notice that the above quotation does not once refer to painting or that painting isn’t the same as looking. The separation of these concepts is suppressed during impressionism. Suddenly there is a notion that looking makes their art. Impressionists are free to roam the social world of the new city and what they see there is what they can deliver up to art as prince incognito while the observer is not necessarily observed.

Gustave Caillebotte, Rainy Day, 1877

Caillebotte’s Rainy Day is in many ways a strange painting to talk about in the context of impressionism. Caillebotte was in many ways too industrious to be a true impressionist, a trait afforded him by his class as an aristocrat, which allows him to align himself with hard work, a description many impressionists tried to avoid. In addition his style was non-impressionist, using studies and painting large.

Putting these differences aside, Rainy Day provides another view of Haussmann’s Paris. You relate to people of the sidewalk as if you might be on the sidewalk, seeing the space and the boulevards. The place is a space of atomistic umbrella-defined wandering; how bourgeois can you get? Each person in black has a space that is his or hers. The painting also sets up a little bit of social tension as the sidewalk cuts across the picture and forces us to feel ourselves negotiating this sidewalk. Who is going to get by whom is still in flux and we know that one of the two parties is going to have to give. We are brought into that when we see the picture. These are the types of interactions Monet ignores in his painting. From Caillebotte there is a sense that public spaces are about negotiation and he paints this with a refreshing playfulness: he uses lines to paint a man hanging from an umbrella and the decapitation of a carriage driver, enjoying the pleasures of this funny city.

The following quote by Mallarmé describes the modern pleasure that is randomly cropping the world and creating visual games as an observer. The site of our new art lies in suddenly looking, and in doing so one finds surprising juxtapositions.

Mallermé, “The Impressionist and Édouard Manet,” 1876:

The secret of this is found in an absolutely new science, and in the manner of cutting down pictures, and which gives to the frame all the charm of a merely fanciful boundary, such as that which is embraced at one glance of a scene framed in by the hands, or at least all of it found worthy to preserve. This is the picture and the function of the frame is to isolate it; though I am aware that this is running counter to prejudice. For instance, what need is there to represent this arm, the hat, or that river bank, if they belong to something exterior to the picture. The one thing to be attained is that the spectator accustomed among a crowd or in nature to isolate one bit which pleases him, though at the same time incapable of entirely forgetting the abjured details which unite the part to the whole, shall not miss in the work of art one of his habitual enjoyments…

Caillebotte, Bridge of Europe, 1876

Another Caillebotte, Bridge, provides another celebration of Haussmannization. It uses orthogonals to create a sense of plunging of down to the horizon. The bridge is a celebration of engineering. The painting also captures a modern city of different classes and species (he added a dog late in the painting). We see a smocked worker looking down over bridge at what would be a railway line and a top-hatted man and a woman behind or next to him. The top-hatted man is very much the flâneur/observer of Baudelaire. Caillebotte is painting the very guy who is supposed to see, not be seen, and this may be a bit of a self-portrait.

This painting also heightens our notion of women in this new city space. The woman in the painting is by but necessarily with the man. How close is she? Is she five feet away? The perspective and the plunge make this distinction more difficult to discern. Given temporal social conventions, a woman dressed like this should not be wandering the street if she is a good bourgeois woman; therefore, is she a prostitute? Prostitution and the availability of women are dominant themes of this era. Are women wandering on their own available or unavailable? Good women should not be wandering around by themselves, period.

This is heightened because Paris has become a city of boulevards and cafés that is about spectacle and walking to be seen.

Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863

Manet’s Olympia is another step in the development of the sexualized female. Manet’s painting spices up the staid genre of the female nude. In the past painters could get away with painting nudes by pretending they were historical and Greek, though there is no doubting the modernity of Olympia, even with a historical Greek name. For one thing, she is highly conscious! The painting pushes a sense that modernity was not a place were you could sustain these anachronistic illusions, and ties modernity with the notion of an illicit seizure of power by a modern sexualized woman.

Émile Zola writing about Haussmannization plays up the illicit use of female sexuality during this period.

Émile Zola’s novel The Kill was serialized in a newspaper in 1871 (Sept. 29–Nov. 5) and then stopped by the government, then published as a book in 1872:

It was a tremendous gamble: the new neighborhoods were speculated in as one speculates in stocks and shares. Center ladies were involved, beautiful women, intimately connected with some of the prominent officials; one of them, whose teeth are world-famous, has eaten up whole streets on more than one occasion. Saccard was insatiable, he felt his greed grow at the sight of the flood of gold that glided through his fingers.

Degas, At the Ambassadors, 1877
Degas, The Glove, 1878
Degas, At the Café-Concert; Song of the Dog, 1875–77
Degas, Women on a Café Terrace, 1877

Degas is the artist who most clearly embodies the flâneur spirit. Degas roamed around documenting modern Paris. In the Café-Concert he captures women singing vulgar working class tunes and sought access to all sorts of women’s working class bodies and entertainments. There is a sense in his paintings that he can move up and down the social hierarchy and he sees it all from solid workers to prostitutes (Women on a Café Terrace). This final painting is a space that is full of the same kind of compositional surprises we see throughout this time period. There is visual dynamism, visual tension, and vitalizing surprise. Degas is riding on the starkness of his visions and the innovations of the art and the subject go hand in hand.

Berthe Morisot, The Mother and Sister of the Artist, 1869–1870
Morisot, View of Paris from the Trocadero, 1872
Morisot, Summer’s Day, 1879

Mary Cassatt, At the Opera (Woman in Black), 1880

Berthe Morisot, who was the sister-in-law of Manet and brought him into impressionist circles, was one of the few women who showed with the impressionists. However, she was a good upper-class women and so the flâneur model from Baudelaire was not available to her. She was in a sense shackled by chaperones.

Another painter of the time, Marie Bashkirtseff, wrote in her diary at the time:

What I long for is the freedom of going about along, of coming and going, of sitting in the seats of the Tuileries, and especially in the Luxembourg, of stopping and looking at the artistic shops, of entering churches and museums, of walking about old streets at night; that’s what I long for; and that’s the freedom without which one cannot become a real artist. Do you imagine that I get much good from what I see, chaperoned as I am, and when, in order to got the Louvre, I must wait for my carriage, my lady companion, my family?

As this lament shows, this was an inhibiting period for female painters. Consequently, Morisot does a lot of paintings from the suburbs where she lived looking out toward Paris. Looking with a longing view from a distance. Morisot was the opposite of the flâneur as she tried to be proper, which foreclosed her options. If there was one artistic benefit of her upper-class status, it is that she did not have to sell her paintings for a living in the way that Monet had to sell, which allows her to experiment with a more reckless/audacious style.

Our final painter is Mary Cassatt, who is largely exempted out of the rules concerning female painters. As an American, extremely wealthy, who never married, living in Paris, she had the liberty/prerogative to take on things Morisot couldn’t. Her painting, At the Opera, shows a woman exercising the look over the crowd, while another man looks at her in the same way. He hangs over his box, staring at her with the same glasses she uses to watch the show. Looking in the painting and during the period is something that is highly charged and highly gendered, surprising for something we take for granted today. During Haussmannization, all of Paris was been made into a platform for this type of interaction (the Opera was built during this time period).

Q and A:

What should we tell students who ask “Why Art history?” Why can’t we just look at it because it looks nice?

For the same reasons it’s important to learn and understand history, you need sense of historical difference and to give context. There is also a great balance between the power to read visual things and at the same time the humbling notion that their visual sense isn’t enough. You can’t just use your interpretation and feeling to understand historical paintings. They are an incredibly rich form of historical evidence that requires a different language to talk about.


Extreme Urban: Mumbai – City in the Developing World
Tanu Sankalia, Visual Arts, University of San Francisco
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)

A discussion of Mumbai can be organized into a series of themes or guiding questions, which in turn allows application and comparison to numerous other contexts. The first theme concerns the formation of a city. Within this theme we should think about a number of sub-questions, including:

  • Site and Situation
  • The Fort — Walled City — Military Town
  • Surplus and Trade — Port City and Hinterland
  • The Native Settlement and the European Town
  • Industrialization, Modernity and the Growth of Cities
  • Casting Empire — Colonialism and State Power

The second theme involves the imploding center and expanding periphery. In Mumbai, this theme corresponds with the period starting in the 1940s and continuing into the 1990s. More precisely, the beginning of this theme can be linked to India’s emergence as a nation-state in 1947 and continues in the present. One useful theory in considering this theme can be borrowed from the Marxist geographer David Harvey and posits that capitalism focuses on certain spaces, leading to unique visions of growth. Other sub-themes within this section include:

  • Uneven Geographical Development
  • Center and Periphery
  • Urban Migration
  • Housing and Transportation — the Backbone of Cities
  • Grand Plans and Urban Expansion

The final theme is that of the Globalizing Megacity. For Mumbai, what happens starting in the late 1980s and the early 1990s until the present? As developing economies such as India have opened themselves to foreign direct investment (FDI), the associating economic pressures have completely changed the economy, society, and cities. More generally, what does globalization do to cities? What makes a livable city? Can livability be measured? How much space is enough? How do we get to work? What kind of air do we breathe? What food do we eat? Others include:

  • Neo-Economic Liberalization and its Impact on Cities
  • Spatial Polarization
  • Globalization and its Discontents
  • Density and Livability

Theme 1: The Formation of a City

Let us begin with the first theme, the formation of Mumbai. Locating Bombay/Mumbai shows a city on the Arabian Sea. One important initial observation is that the city is a colonial city, not an ancient Indian city, though it has ancient beginnings. The site’s favorable location as a natural port has made it useful to traders for years. There is evidence of the site as an ancient port as far back as 2500 BCE. During the time of Alexander the Great (300 BCE) it was a Greek trading port named Sopus (now Nalla). Part of this is a result of the prevailing currents. One can easily get on a dao (a local boat) in Oman and get to Bombay very easily. You can also arrive from the Southwest. These favorable conditions have long made Mumbai/Bombay an integral economic cog of numerous earlier empires.

Before going further, it may be useful to ask why all of this confusion over the two names? When the Portuguese took over management of the site in the 1500s, it was little more than a series of fishing villages. The locals knew the region as Mumbadevi, after the local goddess. The Portuguese, attempting to cast the name in their own image, called the port Bombaim. This is quite similar to the name used for the city in Hindi, Bambai. When the British gained control of the port from the Portuguese, they changed the name to Bombay. This name stood until 1995, when right-wing Hindu-militants gained political power in they city and changed the name back to Mumbai, which is derived from the local language, Marathi. Nevertheless, both are still used, and Bombay is frequently the preferred term in Hindi Bollywood songs.

The story of Mumbai starts to gain speed in the early 1500s, when the Portuguese acquired the site from the Sultan of Gujarat. In addition to its use as a port, the site contained numerous religious and cultural features, including the Elephanta caves and the Walkeshwar temple complex. Mumbai was originally a series of seven different islands, which have been pieced together over time.

Bombay was given to the British in 1660 as a part of the dowry chest from Catherine de Braganza to King Charles II. This was not the only city transferred as a result of the union, as the British also got Tangiers in the deal. It was almost immediately leased to the British East India Company, which had been granted a royal charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600. The company quickly began trading in the region. While other nations had territories in South Asia, the British dominated the region during this period.

The next sub-theme in the city’s history is the formation of a settlement. In general, we can ask how settlements form and what direction do they take? Why do people choose certain methods of development? Spiro Kostof has created a typology of settlement development, in which Bombay is classified as a natural harbor. The potential for Bombay as a harbor was missed for a while, but after gaining control the British quickly wised up to this fact. From Bombay they could trade and dominate the hinterland, acquiring goods from inland to ship back to Europe.

After its development as a natural harbor, Bombay morphed into a fort/walled city. The combination of natural harbor and fort was really the genesis of Bombay as a city. We can connect these beginnings with different European cities of the time, asking how were other cities being created during 1800s? Bombay during this period has many of the same features of other cities. Looking at Copenhagen in the 1800s we see a further fortified site within a larger fort, similar to Bombay. This means that Bombay was based on what the British were used to seeing. It fulfilled the concept of protection of trade and allowed the settlers to guard what they had obtained from inland. Another feature of note in the early city is the field that separates the walled city from everything around it. A fort with a surrounding green (esplanade) allows space for cannons to fire in case neighboring populations challenged the fort. This esplanade concept is also repeated numerous times in other cities of the period.

Returning to Bombay, we see the creation of space to separate the natives from British. Skipping through the century of the 1700s, we find a Bombay with a fort and a lively trade in opium and cotton (opium to China, cotton to Europe). From 1861 to 1865 the American Civil War caused American cotton production to drop, providing a boost for Indian cotton, though this boom was followed by a predictable bust when the Civil War ended. Bombay also possessed trade in other commodities, such as spices. Along with trade, we must present the idea that there is surplus, and it is the surplus that is generated that starts the economic engine of the city: surplus allows the city to grow.

An illustration of the city during the period from Malabar Hill shows the fort and gives the impression of the city as the focus of the surrounding hinterland. This view is similar to illustrations of San Francisco from the same time period. In California, the Bay Area was a similar locus of surplus in commodities, primarily gold, and a natural gathering space for people coming to make money in the bay. Both cities show the necessity of understanding the notion of hinterland. Both Bombay and San Francisco develop based on their surroundings.

The relationship of city and hinterland is not exclusive to bay cities, as we see comparable dynamics in inland cities as well, such as Chicago. In William Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis, he describes how grain, lumber, and cattle from outlying areas make Chicago the city it is. In many ways Chicago parasites off the hinterland, but at the same time both are mutually dependent. At one point in Chicago’s history, the Montgomery Ward building was the largest in the world, a market for goods from surrounding areas. Bombay has this parasitic, dependent relationship with hinterland in much the same way.

From 1800 to 1850 we see a clear separation of fort and town, essentially two unique spatial formations in one geographical area. Elsewhere in India, the same thing happens in New Delhi where the new and old are separated by a swath of open space. Looking again at temporal images of Bombay we see the mint off to the side (the city must make money from all the goods coming in) and a plethora of ships in the port. How this space is used changes over time.

During this period there is still a clear separation of the old fort area of town and the growing surrounding areas. This separation is forcibly achieved through ramparts and a moat. The buildings inside the enclosed fort look very European with small Indian touches, which are mostly climatic adjustments. The streets have sidewalks and other subtle amenities indicative of what you get inside the fort. In contrast, in the native part of town there are no sidewalks, the roads are not paved, and the city is much denser. This breeds questions about how these separations occur and what kinds of spaces are perpetuated on each side.

Also during this time Bombay was a focal point for a diverse group of people flocking from the hinterland. These groups spanned numerous religious and ethnic divides, including Jews, Hindus, Muslims, East Indians (many of whom where Catholics), Berbers, Manashtu, and Brahmans. All of the ethnic and religious diversity contributed to an increasingly cosmopolitan city.

A big shift in the city occurred in 1857, with the transfer of India to the crown and the end of the British East India Company’s power in the region. Thereafter, Bombay experiences a more colonial relationship of empire and dominance. This power shift was in response to an attempted Indian mutiny, which the crown deemed unacceptable. The changing power structure contributed to tangible changes in the city. The walls that had once separated portions of the city came down and the city began encroaching on the oldest sections. In place of the fort walls the empire built massive edifices, impressive buildings to the glory of the empire. These buildings included the Gate of India to welcome King George V to Bombay — Bombay University, the High Court, Victoria Terminal, the Central Telegraph Office, the Prince of Wales Museum, the Municipal Corporation Building. All of these buildings were grand and contributed to Bombay’s new place in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a powerful and wealthy global city. The shift did not really open opportunities for Indian businesses. As the empire took over from the East India Company the economics of the region became less mercantile and more top down

Many of the grand buildings adopted a Saracenic style of architecture. Europe was currently experiencing a Gothic Revival architectural movement and this was blended with more local styles, creating a unique and grand style.

Economically, the control of the crown led to an increase in manufacturing also in India. The empire set up numerous new mills and in the late 1800s textiles were the economic engine of Bombay. Industrialization goes hand in hand with cities and as manufacturing moved out of Britain smokestacks began to spring up across India. In later sections we will discuss how these smokestacks are today being replaced by high-rise residential buildings. One resource for understanding this time period is The Condition of the Working Class in Manchester, by Friedrich Engels, which while written about Britain mirrors what is happening in Bombay during the period.

The architecture of Bombay continued to evolve during this period and by the 1920s–1930s Art Deco buildings had replaced the Saracenic style as the dominant form of new constructions. The Marine Drive Slide was built (an iconic waterfront space of Bombay), also called “The Queen’s Necklace” after Queen Victoria due to the lights’ resemblance of a string of pearls at night. Bombay continued to thrive, and had become a global financial and trade center.

Theme 2 — Imploding Center, Expanding Periphery

Starting in 1947, the creation of a new secular democratic nation state created a whole new set of issues. A diagram of city growth shows the explosive expansion to the north of the city. This growth is in opposition to income levels and property values, as the old south (old town) continues to be the wealthiest portion of town. This relationship structures many features of the city’s dynamics, for instance, the commute always occurs from the north to the south, creating numerous hardships in travel to the south. These differences are only exacerbated by policies and urban planning during this period as an urban-periphery divide continued to grow. Workers travel every day from far-away towns like Kalyan and Bhiwandi, similar to commuters from Martinez to San Francisco, but under much harsher conditions.

Photographs from the 1930s and 1940s show a Bombay with lots of planned areas and slums to the north. They also show in the north Mahime Bay, which was surrounded by fishing villages. This traditional arrangement ended with the damming of the bay and the fishing folk lost their livelihood as it dried up. Almost immediately different migrant groups moved in and took over this space.

During the early periods of independence, there were also numerous attempts to create a system of public housing. These buildings are by and large in terrible condition today. Modern and period photos show some of the problems with this growth. Water pipelines designed to carry water to the wealthy southern city developed surrounding slums. In general this period was marked by the inability of the city to cope with the massive migration that took place. This was in many ways true of India more generally, which struggled with modernization. Indicative of this was India’s inability to remain self-sufficient agriculturally and the corresponding wheat loan from the U.S.. To this day the Library of Congress still gets every book that comes out of India as one part of the repayment of this loan.

While Bombay still has poverty, it is rarely as hopeless as it was during this period. A Fine Balance is a book that captures the hopeless poverty in the villages during the 1950s–1970s and the seeming hope of the cities.

A following theme of the 1970s and 1980s was deindustrialization. This theme was punctuated by a strike in 1982 that put many of the mills out of business. Manufacturing began to shift elsewhere in Asia, to Taiwan and other developing nations. Simply put, Bombay could not compete and this created a derelict and scary inner-city landscape with thoroughly depressed areas replacing the mills.

Many workers live in chawls (worker housing), which are in many ways very nice. While small, long corridors with rooms all along them allow breezeways and social spaces. However, what happened to these in the 1970s1980s was not very nice as many fell into disrepair and squalor. Later example of chawls in 1970s are often built out of mortar and brick, which means less breeze and poorer living conditions.

During this period, the island city of Bombay continued to increase its density, which has risen to around 15,000 inhabitants per square mile. This means space is at a premium and interior design is a hot industry in Bombay. While many rapidly constructed buildings are ugly outside, they are usually very nice inside, putting even Pacific Heights to shame!

Looking at urban migration, many migrants move to the center of town, erecting slums wherever they can find space. The disparity between north and south has been only worsened by policy. The southern regions have consistently received funds for investment, reclaiming land and creating development and infrastructure. This means that northern commutes have only gotten worse. Since jobs are heavily based in the south, all of the staff workers must come from far to the north, primarily by train. Executives and directors commute by car, normally from short distance in the south.

What is development? It is not only a physical process, but also a mental state. In Bombay packed trains from the north often carry passengers outside and workers scramble across the tracks to find places. Annually, 1500–2000 people die from train-related accidents. (At the same time, Bombay has a lower homicide rate, in total numbers, than East Oakland.) How is the city willing to tolerate this?

Trains are not the only types of commutes. Cars are also present, often in familiar models. From 1950 to 1990 European cars were nonexistent and only two cars were produced in India, the Ambassador and the Fiat — “the premier..” With FDI and globalization, this has changed in the last 20 years.

Photos over time show this incredible transformation of the city. Reclaimed land pushed government and white-collar jobs to the south. Many planners suggested they should move to the East, but why would the government want to leave to south? Other plans suggested the idea of creating a twin town to the south, but this was by and large ignored. One thing that did move was that port and container traffic now largely occurs across the bay, much in the same way the port moved from San Francisco to Oakland.

This was not the anticipated vision of Bombay. Le Corbusier, theorizing about the form of the modern city, correctly captured the idea of high-rises, but missed the idea of slums. Much of this oversight is a structural blindness. Since the educated made the plans they often missed the slums in their conception of society. One thing that was created was a basic model of construction, concrete slabs with concrete pillars, which has become landscapes of deindustrialization and begun to replace the derelict industry.

Theme 3 — The Globalizing Megacity

An Office of Metropolitan Architecture map shows population change per hour, with Bombay increasing by 43 inhabitants every hour. How is this influx coupling with globalization to change the city?

For one, the mills are leaving and massive residential towers are taking their place. The older fort area is now filled with mixed-use buildings housing Western institutions like Citibank and McDonalds. Mumbai has become “One City, Two Worlds..” In a good building an apartment costs a million dollars, while at the same time slums spring up overnight. Looking at Mumbai today, you get two worlds — slums and riches — and the cranes replacing the mills signal more to come. The chawls are still there, but the gentrification of the inner city continues unabated.

This is not to say there are not anomalies. For instance, the dhobi colony in the heart of the city, workers who do lining washing, marks a system that has persisted for years in the heart of Bombay, despite development.

However, more common are sights of the gleaming city in the south, such as the cricket club and other extreme examples. One example is the slums of Dharavi. Some people want to just knock them down and put in high-rise buildings. If this happens, what is going to happen to the jobs contained within? Looking at a satellite photo of Berkeley versus one of Dharavi taken from the same height shows contrasting populations of 20,000 and 2.5 million.

In the last fifteen years modernization has also fostered extreme and divisive politics. Hindu right-wing parties seek to push people out and religious tensions abound. The book Maximum City (though a bit of sensationalist gonzo journalism) does an admirable job of walking an observer through the city sociologically. It finds despite all of the problems a strong thriving spirit. Markets pop up all over the city and commerce is thriving. While life is tough, people not only make do, they are excited to do it.

One final thought on globalization and the city turns closer to home. In the coming years, San Francisco will change too. Already, the transit (Muni) does not work and there is no parking, yet people want to add more high-rises. In many ways we are facing the same sorts of issues as Mumbai. Both cities must grapple with globalization and the image it casts our cities in. How do we view it? How do we face it?


Modernization of Seoul, Korea
Hilary Finchun-Sung, Institute of East Asian Studies, UCB

(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)

Most Americans do not know much about Korea and if they know something, it is about the Korean War. This means education about both the history and modern conditions in Korea are important to give more context to Americans’ knowledge.

The Korean peninsula, which the Koreans think of as shaped like a rabbit, is both very mountainous and beautiful. Today South Korea is wholly unlike the desolate world most Americans expect given the war. One veteran at the U.S.O in Korea was surprised to see trees because he did not think they were indigenous to Korea.

Looking at a night view of the Korean peninsula two features stand out. The first is the extremely bright patch in and around Seoul. The second is the nothingness in North Korea.

Basic Facts about Seoul

  • Seoul is the Capital of South Korea and has been a capital for about 600 years, since 1392
  • It is on the Han river
  • Located 30 miles south of the DMZ
  • A population of approximately 10 million within 605 sq. km
  • Has always been the seat of power on the Korean peninsula
  • One of the world’s most densely populated cities; also one of the most wired
  • The greater Seoul metropolitan area includes the major port city of Incheon and has almost 23 million inhabitants
  • Almost one-fourth of SK entire population lives in the Seoul national capital area, and nearly one half in the greater Seoul area, making it the country’s political, cultural, and economic center
  • Divided into 25 administrative wards (gu)

Each region of Korea has its own image, accent, and prejudices/stereotypes of other regions.

Korea is a rapidly changing country. One anecdote to show the range of this change concerns deodorant. While deodorant was nearly impossible to find in Seoul even 10 years ago, today ads for new deodorants permeate Seoul. Similarly, tastes and products in a variety of realms are rapidly changing.

Seoul is the center of this rapid change and has become a dense, vibrant city. The lights of Seoul are so bright that within the city you cannot see the stars at night.

Geographically, the city is bisected into north and south regions by the Han River. While the northern half is the older, more traditional part of town, the southern half is now more affluent. Two gu capture the extremes of the north and the south: Gangbuk-gu and Gangnam-gu. Gangbuk-gu is in the far north of the city and is indicative of the older and impoverished inner city. In contrast Gangnam-gu is wealthy and developed, but looks more Western than Korean and has been criticized for an apparent absence of traditional Korean aesthetics.

The History of Seoul

The birth of Seoul occurred in the 14th century when Yi Song-gye and his compatriots designated it the site for the capital of their new dynasty, the Choson (also known as the Yi Dynasty). The Choson Dynasty arose after the fall of Koryo Dynasty, which lasted from 918 to 1310.

Why did the Choson dynasty need to create a new capital? The Koryo Dynasty was quashed; the new leaders of the country needed to discredit the old regime while simultaneously establishing their own power. Part of this process included separating the two eras geographically by relocating the capital.

The new capital was a symbolic move in creating a new government, which was neo-Confucian (the Koryo dynasty was primarily Buddhist). Since this point, Korea has been in many ways more Confucian than China. Confucian ideas were taken very seriously in Korea, and during the Choson dynasty men dominated and a caste system developed, though this happened gradually. This new Confucian caste society developed with its center in Seoul, and placed men and first-born sons at the fore of Korean society.

The site for the city was chosen for its excellent location — the mountains to the north and the Han River to the south. This allowed the Choson royalty to look down on the country, both literally and figuratively, from the mountains. With the mountains to the north the city was also highly defensible. The main royal residence, Kyongbokgung, faces south “with the city at its feet..”

A wall was erected to enclose the city, primarily a royal residence and seat of government power. The wall housed a series of gates, many of which were reserved for state functions. The three main symbolic gates were erected to the north, south, and east.

The city was called Hanyang for centuries, while the name Seoul is new and derived from the Korean word seorabol meaning “capital city.”

Kyongbokgung, the royal residence, existed as an important symbol of the power of the royalty during the dynasty. The traditional heart of Seoul is in the valley of the Cheonggyecheon, a stream that runs from west to east between Pukhansan and Namsan before emptying into the Han River. The residence and palaces are built in this central area, which also houses most government and corporate offices. This is still where foreign embassies are today.

The landed aristocracy, the yangban, were dominant during the Choson dynasty. Except for the royalty, they were the highest rung in the caste system, and they owned all of the land. One could only become a yangban through birth, which was also true of chungin, or government employees. In China you could advance to government service based on merit, but not in Korea. Below the yangban and chungin were sangmin, who were laborers/peasants and chonmin or slaves.

At the height of the Choson the yangban dominated Korean life. However, with invasions and a general weakening of the class structure, peasant culture and the merchant class both rose to replace the dominance of the yangban.

Korea in the Choson was a neo-Confucian system that practiced primogeniture and a patrilineal succession system. Accordingly, if a family was not blessed with a son, people would adopt males (either orphans or favorite nephews) in order to have male heirs. Early in the Choson yangban men would have two or more wives, the first of which normally would be an aristocrat (a first wife must be yangban), while the second wife could be from the lower classes. Succession went from father to first-wife’s son, although, in rare cases, second sons were chosen to inherit a family’s property. Normally, the second son would become a civil servant.

Developments during the Choson

The new Confucian Choson Dynasty took about 200 years to catch on. In the 15th century under King Sejong, Korea experienced a cultural renaissance. A unique system of writing and music was developed and scholarship flourished. This renaissance came to an abrupt end in the late 16th century with Hideyoshi’s invasions from Japan. The Japanese wanted to get to China to gain influence and open trade and the Koreans were not interested in being used as a stepping stone. While the Koreans eventually succeeded in repelling the Japanese, it was not without great cost. In addition to the cost of the war, the Japanese captured numerous Korean scholars and musicians, taking them back to Japan.

The Japanese invasions of the 16th century were followed by Manchu Chinese invasions in the early 17th century. While up to this point the Koreans had shared a special relationship with the Chinese; the Manchu invasion ended this and afterward the Koreans viewed the Chinese as rivals more than friends.

In response to both sets of invasions, Korea adopted an isolationist policy. Korea became a veritable hermit kingdom during the period, not altogether different from Japan’s policy established at about the same time. An example of the great lengths Koreans went to in sealing their kingdom came when a Dutch merchant, Hendrik Hamel, crashed on the coast of Korea and was not allowed to leave for 20 years, eventually escaping. He became the first westerner to write about Korea and her people.

Throughout the Choson, there occurred a weakening of the court and the aristocracy with a corresponding increase in the power of the merchant class. This shift in social hierarchies unfolded primarily because the aristocracy, although learned, did not have the practical knowledge about issues such as land development that was required to strengthen the country. Many merchants at this time, as well, surpassed many yangban families in income level and influence. The Japanese and Chinese invasions also indirectly supported the rise of a middle class. Since the invasions caused numerous social problems such as famine and the destruction of villages, displaced peasants flocked to the capital where the government provided food aid. Slowly, a middle class grew up to support these people and a merchant class provided goods for the city. The wealth earned by these merchants turned society on its head. While some yangban were impoverished, merchants could support and thrive in a market economy.

Seoul at the end of the 19th century was a growing city of mostly small thatched-roof houses. It was a vibrant community of people, although most women were not active participants in social life outside of the household. Constantine Taylor, a westerner who visited Seoul during the 1870s and 1880s, producing drawings of her visits, and depicted women covered head to toe when out of the house. Streets were not yet built up during this time and it was common to see small streams running through town. These streams served as an important part of social life; a place where women met to do laundry and collect water for the needs of their households.

Modernization of Seoul

The modernization of Seoul, and Korea more generally, took off like never before during the reign of King Kojong, who took the throne in 1863. King Kojong implemented an aggressive policy of modernization to increase commerce, widen the streets, pave roads, and clean Seoul. Seoul had begun to expand at this point and now extended all the way south to the Han.

Isabella Bird Bishop, who visited Seoul in 1894 and again in 1897, was amazed by the dramatic upheaval in Seoul. From her first visit to her second it went from being what she perceived as a cramped, smelly, provincial little town to a bustling, clean city. During this period electric wires were built up, cable car tracks laid down, and the streets widened.

She said:

Seoul, in many parts, specially in the direction of the south and west gates, was literally not recognizable. Streets, with a minimum width of 55 feet, with deep stone-lined channels on both sides, bridged by stone slabs, had replaced the foul alleys, which were breeding-grounds of cholera. Narrow lanes had been widened, slimy runlets had been paved, roadways were no longer “free coups” for refuse, bicyclists “scorched” along broad level streets, “express wagons” were looming in the near future, […] shops with glass fronts had been erected in numbers, an order forbidding the throwing of refuse into the streets was enforced […] and Seoul, from having been the foulest is now on its way to being the cleanest city in the Far East!

Similarly, according to Angus Hamilton in 1904, “Seoul was the first city in East Asia to have electricity, trolley cars, water, telephone and telegraph systems all at the same time.” Much of this was due to trade with the United States, and the Seoul Electric Company, Seoul Electric Trolley Company, and Seoul Fresh Spring Water Company were all U.S.-owned.

This trade was spurred for a number of reasons. First, led by Kojong, Korea, although initially forcibly opened, sought modernization by interaction with foreign countries eager to invest in the peninsula. Next, it held numerous natural resources. Finally, it held a geographically strategic position between China, Japan, and Russia, serving as the trading post of the Far East.

Significant dates in Seoul’s modernization process:

  • First telegraph in 1885
  • Electric lighting in Kyeongbok Palace in 1886
  • Tram service in 1899
  • Streetlights in 1900
  • Commercial telephone service in 1902
  • Train line (Seoul-Incheon) in 1899
  • By 1906 one could travel from Sinuiju to Pusan by rail via Seoul
  • Public water system in 1908

Markets have always been a hub of community in Seoul and the Namdaemun market (by Namdaemun gate) is the longest running open-air market in Korea. While the shape of these markets may have changed, their function was largely unaffected by modernization.

The question “Whose modernization is it?” is a thorny one among scholars and Koreans alike. Since Japan established a protectorate in Korea in 1905 and annexed Korea from 1910 until 1945, the Japanese certainly played a role in Korean modernization. However, looking at the dates above, clearly a lot of development happened before the Japanese annexation, partly as a domestic response to growing Japanese ambition in the region. Even Namdaemun market was unrecognizable after the Japanese “improvements,” with streetcars, electric wiring, and removed walls.

Richard Kim has written a novel, Lost Names, about the Korean experience during the period, which is an excellent resource for more information.

During this period, Seoul became a densely populated city. To compensate for the burgeoning population, construction occurred both above and below ground. Underground markets developed as planners used space in both directions. While by 1912 the city boundaries remained above the Han River, this was about to change radically.

The Korean War and “The Miracle on the Han”

The Korean War changed everything. When the North crossed the border Seoul emptied out as nearly everyone fled to Pusan for much of the initial years of the war. During the war, many of the monuments and historical buildings in Seoul were flattened.

After the war, there was a focus on rebuilding, which was especially intense in the period from 1953 to 1961. During this period, modernization was conceived of as synonymous with Westernization and things that were traditionally Korean were considered to be base, including traditional dance and music. These vestigial cultural elements were seen as antithetical to modernization. At the same time the strong involvement of missionaries in addition to that of the U.S. government led many Koreans to embrace Christianity.

The primary leader of Korean modernization after the war was Park Chung-hee, who ruled as an authoritarian president from 1961 until he was assassinated in 1979. While many Koreans disagreed with Park Chung-hee, he is still seen by many as a savior. Park Chung-hee developed industries, increased income, built highways, normalized relations with Japan (which was important to develop regional trading relationship, although problematic since he was accused of being a sympathizer), and was the leader behind the “Miracle on the Han.”

At the same time he had an authoritarian style of ruling, legalized tyrannical dictatorship, sent troops to support the U.S. war in Vietnam, and limited personal freedoms.

The building up and tearing down of Seoul continued unabated during his rule. Traditional thatched-roof family dwellings were not seen as modern. The New Village movement encouraged all families to replace their thatched roofs with tiles. Many historical structures were torn down in large numbers to be replaced by new, modern buildings.

During the 1980s, high-rise apartment building began to dominate the horizon of Seoul. Socially this meant that the nuclear family has come to dominate Korean family relations, even though traditionally multiple generations had lived under one roof. Today, this is unusual. In addition to housing, big business began to dwarf traditional sijang (markets), shifting the interaction locus of communities.

Given the massive upheaval of modernization, the government decided to pass cultural properties legislation to balance the intense growth with the preservation of traditional cultural heritage. Specialists were designated to preserve culture in both intangible and tangible forms.

Modern Seoul

Today Seoul is a modern international city full of high-rise buildings. At the same time, many of the traditional foundational buildings have been preserved and reopened for residents. The palace remains and Seoul has recently reopened Namdaemun gate, which had been closed for 100 years to pedestrian traffic. Life in Seoul is a high-rise lifestyle, with families very condensed.

In older parts of town, urban decay has created a conflict between remembering the roots of traditional Korea while still modernizing. In older parts of town winding crowded streets with cramped apartments and older houses are more common. The city is full of churches and temples as about 25% of the population is Christian and another 25% Buddhist (50% claim to remain uncommitted to religion).

The amazing growth of the city can best be captured in its relationship to the past. Namsan, the mountain that used to mark the outskirts of the city, is now in the middle of Seoul and is dominated by Namsan Tower (called Seoul Tower). The Seoul subway is massive and it takes about two hours to go from one edge to another.

Looking at direction for the future, programs have been established by the city government to create “a clean, attractive, global city.” This includes a 4-year plan that espouses goals such as a “citizen happiness upgrade.” The 4-year plan focuses primarily on creating a green city that still has productivity, promoting a family environment, and fostering cooperation between the public and private sectors.

Seoul is also one of the most wired cities in the world, creating the potential for unusual developments. One of these is the creation of a “U-City” or ubiquitous city — a digital city where residents lead a wired life. Each resident would carry a card that allows you to be recognized everywhere and gives you points for various activities. While Americans quickly shudder at the lack of privacy Koreans find this prospect exciting and an important way to prove Seoul’s place in global society as a technology forerunner.

The New Town development project seeks to solve interregional disparity (like Oakland’s). City planners are trying to balance development between the northern and southern parts of the city, which is difficult given the crumbling areas of town. Social problems such as street children (abandoned by families), floating communities of merchants, and slums exist throughout the city. Projects such as the New Town Development project aim to resolve these problems and return traditional values to the metropolis.

One way the city hopes to achieve a balance between modernization and tradition is the revival of markets, specifically Namdaemun sijang. Another sign of this balancing is the reformation of Cheonggyecheon. Cheonggyecheon was a filthy stream poisoned by development that city planners paved over and built a highway on. The development of the highway was unsound and it eventually developed cracks and threatened to collapse, a result of the “get it out” culture promoting development as fast as you can despite the cost. Today, Seoul has recreated the stream, promoting it as a green project. As always development has its costs, and squatters who had lived over the stream needed to be persuaded by the government of the stream’s benefits and relocated. It remains controversial and is unclear how green it is, but many residents are proud of its new look. Fish are coming back and the temperature in the area has dropped several degrees.

While this does not necessarily apply to Seoul currently, one concern in East Asia given current demographic trends is the “Shrinking Cities Phenomenon.” For more on this topic visit:


From Paris to Phnom Penh: The City as Archive
Penny Edwards, South and Southeast Asia Studies, UCB
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)

The genesis of this talk about cities was Professor Edwards’s underlying interest in national and racial identity. As she began to view colonial cities, she began to see colonial examples in which the way cities were laid out and planned in the colonial period would have a critical impact in the way in which people came to think about identity, race, and religion.

This way of thinking can be thought of as “material culture”: the way in which people move through spaces habituates them to seeing in a particular way. In colonial spaces, the potential of this method of thinking is particularly dynamic.

Background Information: Cambodia

Cambodia was a French protectorate from 1863 to 1954 (along with the colonies and protectorate of Vietnam and Laos, all part of “French Indochina”), though each bear different imprints of French power and remember colonialism in different ways.

Many scholars gained an interest in Cambodia less because of French colonialism and more because of the Khmer Rouge. From 1975 to 1979, a small Communist party took power and dramatically changed the landscape of Cambodia. On gaining power on 17 April 1975, Pol Pot’s first move as leader of the Khmer Rouge was to drive everyone from the city of Phnom Penh out into the countryside. The Khmer Rouge entered power with a burning hatred of the city. They saw city dwellers as corrupt and indicative of the bourgeoisie.

This makes Phnom Penh unique within Southeast Asia as a city that has been emptied. Except for political leadership, the city pretty much stayed that way for three years. It was only when Pol Pot fell from power that people eventually began coming back.

What is striking today is the rate at which the city, country, and region are becoming modernized. However, none of the other cities in the region have had this experience. This is especially tragic given that in the 1960s Phnom Penh was known as the “Pearl of Asia” and Singapore looked to it for a model of development. It was not the only region set back in this way: Burma also went from leader to laggard during the late 20th century. Fast-forwarding to what is going on today in Phnom Penh, we find people working in buildings that were modern and cutting-edge in the 1960s and are now slums or crumbling.

Today, we can go back through the colonial history of Phnom Penh to study the notion that urban planning has an impact on the way people come to look at national identity, race, and culture. Phnom Penh was created with segregation in mind, something that has left its imprint on the city. As a comparison, Singapore was originally planned in a similar way.

Phnom Penh has been the capital of Cambodia since 1434. One reason it was selected was its strategic location at a confluence of rivers, including the Mekong. It covers around 375 sq. km and is organized into 7 districts. Today it has a population of more than 1 million.

Watching a propaganda video put out by a recent government gives a sense of how much Phnom Penh has modernized in recent years and how far it still has to go before it should be seen as a truly modern city. The video makes a point of bragging about the newly created sewage system!

The politics of Phnom Penh cannot be taken as separate of the urban planning. Regime change is often a determining factor for which buildings are saved and what style of buildings continue to be built.

After watching the video, a distinct sense of Phnom Penh emerges:

  • It is an open city with a low population density
  • It seems fairly non-distinct in planning until more closely inspected
  • The parks have numerous European accents (lamp posts etc.)
  • Cambodians want to put forward an image of a clean city. Every few years, no matter who is in power, the regime promotes a beautification program. In Cambodian, the words and conceptions for clean and beautiful are the same, so they see cleaning as a way of beautifying
  • Phnom Penh is a very low city without a lot of high-rises. For long periods, there were regulatory limits on heights. However, the new government has a new conception of the modern city and the inspirations for Phnom Penh are now Singapore, Hong Kong, and Chinese cities. Indicative of this, the government has announced a competition to build the highest skyscraper.

Other points to consider when viewing Phnom Penh:

  • The road system has been completely reworked and is now highly effective
  • The snakehead theme (nagas) often with five or seven heads is a common one, with sculptures throughout the city
  • There are lots of associations with luxury goods and France. The Eiffel tower is ubiquitous and is used to promote goods such as cigarettes and liquor all the time.

Looking at a photo of Phnom Penh in 1906 shows a canal that separates the European quarter from the Chinese business district and a bridge spanning that canal. Today, the new mayor of Phnom Penh has a plan to rebuild this bridge (though thecanal has been filled in). This part of Phnom Penh hasn’t changed much. A turret long seen in the European quarter is still standing and now part of the oldest building in Phnom Penh.

In order to understand the past we must understand the ways in which cities have developed and changed. Studying this change in the past can help us understand the present and the possibilities for the future. History is not just text and documents and traveling through cities provides clues to the past to supplement these. The geology of the different parts of Phnom Penh can be seen in architecture and zoning. These are particularly interesting in Phnom Penh due to the numerous radical regime changes and the corresponding changes in planning style. For example, for Pol Pot, beautification meant nature. In addition to getting people out of the city, the Khmer Rouge planted plantations and trees all over the place. To this day you still see coconut trees and bananas throughout the city.

As we begin to study the history of the city, numerous questions arise. Were the characteristics of modern Phnom Penh present before colonialism? If not, what was the impact of Europeans moving into Southeast Asia with their particular conception of the city? Did this really change the way in which spaces developed in Cambodia? In asking this, we must look not just at the buildings for evidence, but also the zoning, shape, and direction of the city.

One thing that comes up constantly today throughout Southeast Asia is the idea of the urban and rural as separate concepts. However, this is a Western, not a Cambodian, idea. The idea of organizing a city to keep certain things separate originates with colonialism. Reading French accounts from the 1880s shows some of their horror that there could be a pig, or even a vegetable garden, in the city. Obviously this notion is changing today, even in the West.

However, in Cambodia, then and even in the 1980s, this wasn’t true and a pig might wander around the city as easily as a person. By contrast, this was certainly not true of Singapore in the 1980s, though it was in the 1880s.

So what impact did colonialism have on city life?

Cities such as Rangoon and Phnom Penh were originally developed as military cities. In the first stage of colonialism, cities were developed as military centers. This meant that cities must be able to provide strategic advantage and surveillance. Colonizers needed to be able to survey and dominate the hinterlands. In Rangoon, the most obvious place to do this was a sacred pagoda on top of a hill, which allowed surveillance and controlling presence of the surrounding region.

Consequently, in 1824 and again in 1852, the British took this over this pagoda, a very sacred site for Buddhists. Of course, the British occupation led to high levels of tensions. What is interesting is that these tensions changed the importance of the site into a nationalist symbol and the Burmese nationalist movement was initially based from this site.

In Cambodia, the French sought a similar site and found it on a hill in Phnom Penh. After doing so they negotiated with the king to move the Cambodian seat of government to this site, which used to be near but not in Phnom Penh. Like earlier Cambodian leaders the French saw the strategic and economic potential of a site on a confluence of rivers.

If the initial phase of colonial cities is about commercial, naval, or military conquest, the second is about bureaucratic development. The most interesting thing about the second phase in Cambodia was its timing. Bureaucratic development occurred during a period in which urban planning was a fledgling concept. In the late 19th century new modernizing ideas were buzzing around Europe and reform movements, social ideas, and even the theory of evolution were being translated into city planning.

Angkor What?

The next picture we see is a model of Angkor Wat. However, it is not in Cambodia, but rather in a colonial exhibition in Paris around the turn of the century.

In Cambodia, Angkor Wat is a unifying theme, a motif that is used over and over, including on the national flag. In Paris during the early colonial period the French erected models of Angkor War for colonial exhibitions, wherein Cambodia often took center stage despite the fact that it wasn’t that important economically. This was due to its heightened strategic position. In addition to its proximity to Thailand (a British colony), Cambodia was a cultural and symbolic manifestation of France’s colonial empire. The French never quite forgave the British for winning in India and being able to use the Taj Mahal as a symbol of the colonial power. Therefore, the French used Angkor Wat as a response.

Because of its symbolic significance, when the French were planning Phnom Penhj, they intervened more in planning than in other colonies, especially in architecture. The French planners decided that all new buildings should have a Khmer character and include particular motifs. Bridges could only be a particular type. This elevation of Khmer culture in Phnom Penh’s planning was one supporting factor in the ideology of Khmer superiority and heritage adopted by the Khmer Rouge. Even though Pol Pot wanted to wipe out culture and start anew, he, like many of his followers, still held the idea that Khmers were superior. Many scholars, such as David Chandler, attribute this to his upbringing in the royal palace environment in Phnom Penh before going to Paris, an environment that reinforced the notion of Khmer culture.

This is not to say that Europeans always captured the essence of Khmer culture faithfully. When Europeans replicated Angkor Wat the result shows as many similarities to Notre Dame in its presentation as it to actual structure.

All of this begins to show the relevance of looking at buildings; architecture is a clue to cities and the mindset that makes them, though we should be careful not to assume that these universally impute governmental preferences, as individual influences often play a role. However, in a colonial regime the dominant mindset of the country may be played out in buildings.

One thing the French built was monuments. One of the earliest public monuments in Cambodia was built to commemorate Cambodians who died in WWI (it was built in the early 1920s). This monument differs from early Cambodian monuments in a number of ways. It looks very European (though it has touches of local style), it is a military monument, but most importantly, it is secular. The very idea of having a monument to people who are anonymous was very new, not only in Cambodia, but also in Europe and the U.S.. Previously monuments were normally erected for someone, however the WWI memorial was the first major secular commemorative monument in Cambodia. Again this is not unique to Cambodia, but part of a larger movement transmitted to Cambodia through their colonial government. A good deal of scholarly writing has examined this shift in monuments more broadly. We see it in places like France as well, from statues of Joan of Arc to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Throughout Cambodia, France invested a lot of time in museums and monuments, hoping they would develop good will. In contrast, the British in Burma did a lot less of this.

Urban planning also takes on numerous ethnic dimensions during the colonial period. Europeans left their mark throughout their colonial possessions with their obsession with race. Quarters populated primarily by a single ethnicity may occur as part of a process of natural gathering, but Europeans reinforced this segregation with laws and planning policies. In the 19th century, Europeans were obsessed with race and the colonial ideals about the superiority of the “white” race informed urban planning.

Sometimes these concepts went well beyond the bounds of good planning. Barracks for soldiers meant to protect the European quarter were kept outside the quarter since they housed colonial troops. Phnom Penh had French, Khmer, Chinese, and Vietnamese quarters. The European obsession with race in Cambodia was also reflected in architectural policy. The aforementioned monument from WWI, which melded European style with local touches such as with elephants’ heads, was criticized by plenty of planners due to its hybridity (though they certainly used nastier words). Many architects thought cultures should be kept apart and wanted cultures to be kept apart in planning as well as in style. Part of this reflects a colonial fear as a minority of being absorbed and lost in the more populous areas they governed.

Segregation was not limited to Europeans vs. non-Europeans or to planning policy and architecture. There existed legal segregation as well. Vietnamese and Chinese living in Cambodia had different rights from Cambodians (as Asians). Cambodians were tried in Cambodian courts. And while France was more tolerant in general on conferring citizenship than other colonial forces, Cambodia was a protectorate, so Cambodians did not automatically get citizenship.

Ethnically in Cambodia, the Khmer dominate, though there are numerous other presences including an Islamic presence (ethnically Malay), a Chinese presence, and Vietnamese. The non-Khmer ethnic groups were concentrated in the city, which fed anti-foreign views of groups like the Khmer Rouge. Many groups perpetuated these fears by staying distinct. The Chinese had their own schools, clubs, temples, etc. Consequently, in the early 1970s the Chinese language was banned (ostensibly for being Communist), and then again later by Pol Pot, for not being Khmer.

Q and A:

So how do Cambodians feel about the French today?

This is a complex question as sentiments are quite mixed and tied up with the politics. A lot of Cambodians left during Pol Pot, many going to France to settle, and many of these émigrés are now returning, as are those who went to the United States. Each group of Cambodians has different identities. The French Cambodians are associated with royalism (elite sense and status) and there exists a lot of resentment toward them, primarily due to a sense that they were not there in the 1980s when the country was rehabilitating and that they did not struggle (though this isn’t true).

Increasingly, the French are seen as commercially, culturally, and economically irrelevant, despite the French putting lots of money into French education through the Alliance Française. English and Chinese (especially) are becoming the most important languages to learn and parts of Phnom Penh are really becoming a Chinese city, including a Chinatown residential area. Politically, the new leaders are also tied more to China.

Why did the French glorify Khmer culture?

Partly because it was amazing. The French colonialists wanted to take the incredible sights of Cambodia back to France and educate people about them. They were often won over by the cultural beauty of Cambodia and it was quite radical to try to educate the French like this. Different people tried to bring to Paris a sense of what was happening elsewhere as well as showing off for the British.

The relationship in Cambodia was also less contentious than many colonial ones. Apart from one uprising in the 1880s, tensions were pretty quiet in Cambodia, hence the French did not need forts and esplanades and worried as much about canals and sewers. They did, however, want roads for rapid response outside Phnom Penh.

The complicated separation between cultural legacy and modern inhabitants is also an interesting theme. The discovery of Angkor Wat blew French minds so to speak. In response, the French had to build narrative that this was from time past. In addition, the French could then view themselves as rebuilding Cambodia to this time of glory. They held the notion that if Cambodians were descendants of this glorious past that Cambodia had gone to decay and ruin and that they could “uplift” the Cambodians. At the same time, they couldn’t completely uplift the Cambodians or the Cambodians couldn’t become modern, creating a complex and convoluted logic.


Dubai: A Local, Regional, and Global Perspective (Urban Research Panel)
Reem Alissa, Architecture, UCB
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)

The first speaker for the Urban Research Panel focuses on urbanization in the Arabian Gulf region, particularly on how the sudden and enormous amount of oil wealth has changed the urban landscape dramatically.

The United Arab Emirates is on the west side of the Persian Gulf. The UAE is part of historic Oman, and since ancient times served as an informal trading post; it was subsequently ruled by the British. Historically it occupied a strategic location at the edge of the Arabian Peninsula and the entryway to the Persian Gulf.

In the 1800s the region was primarily controlled by independent tribes. When the tribes chose to ally with each other the British saw this as a threat and the tribes were defeated. A series of treaties between the British and sheiks formed the basic foundation of governance and British rule in the region lasted until its independence in 1971. The UAE is now organized as a group of smaller sheikdoms. The peaceful transfer of territory allowed British firms to maintain control in the region, which was divided into two zones, Oman and UAE; the UAE’s smaller sheikdom has led to further segmentation and divergence of economic outcomes. The hierarchical relationships between and within tribes form the basis of the current power structure of the UAE.

Dubai was one of the sheikdoms to sign an 1820 treaty with the British and in 1833 Dubai split from the sheikdom of Abu Dhabi in political turmoil due to a power struggle. The tribe occupying the region around Dubai derived its wealth primarily from fishing and pearling.

Dubai’s strategic location quickly made it an important trading area due to its comparative stability in the region and its favorable tax structure. This economic prosperity also led to waves of migrations from all around the gulf. Dubai became a free port and abolished its 5% sales tax, making it more attractive to business. It was originally divided into two sections, mercantile and government. During its rise it replaced Sharja, a neighboring Emirate, as the seat of British power in UAE.

Dubai’s position as a center of trade was also furthered by British development projects, such as electrification in 1961. These projects were enacted in the expectation of oil, which was discovered in 1966. Upon the discovery of oil, labor was recruited both within and outside the region, and within 10 years 50% of the population consisted of foreign workers. When the British peacefully withdrew they ensured British oil contracts would remain intact and that British firms would be called in to help in various projects.

In terms of city planning, the narrow walkways flanked by extended family houses gave way to a new master plan in 1960 and a newer one in 1970 based on the potential of oil wealth. The 1960 plan called for a new town center and a system of roads while the 1970 plan called for a tunnel connecting the port with the city center.

Dubai currently has the largest man-made harbor in the world and is a free zone, providing an abundance of low-wage non-unionized workers for businesses. Dubai’s loose regulations also allow business to avoid high taxes and environmental regulations. These opportunities set the stage for Dubai to become a global economic center.

Present-day Dubai was built on initiatives due to declining oil resources. Dubai’s oil production peaked in 1991 and Sheik Mohammad Bin Rashid Al-maktoum spurred a major diversification movement. Oil now accounts for less than 10% of Dubai’s GDP.

Dubai is seeking to be a modern advanced economy, on par with Western Europe or the United States, by 2010. It is increasingly populated with modern high-value firms participating in tertiary activities or seeking higher-value-added manufacturing. In particular it is a hub of producer services, such as insurance, banking, and finance, though manufacturing and trade remain important. In the future, the tertiary sector remains the biggest growth arena (hotels, housing, construction). While Dubai has only 1.5 million people, it has the world’s second largest construction site and countless cranes dotting its skyline.

Sheik Mohammad Bin Rashid Al-maktoum is seen as the city planner of Dubai. While he officially just took power he has long been the driving planner of the city. His envisions Dubai as a hub for leisure services and products. Some of the important construction projects in Dubai include:

  • The Burj al-Arab Hotel. The hotel was built in 1999 and designed by the international design firm Atkins and KCA. It proclaims itself the most luxurious in the world and is built to represent the sail of a boat. Its 180-square-meter atrium space is the world’s largest
  • The Palms and The World are series of man-made islands in the shape of a palm tree and the world, respectively. They include residences, hotels, beaches, services, and shopping. The incredible success of the first Palms has given rise to two more.
  • Hydropolis is the world’s first underwater hotel, with a train that connects it to the mainland.
  • By end of 2008 Dubai will have the world’s largest freestanding dome, the Snow Dome, which will be used for indoor skiing in one of the hottest regions in the world. The dome harnesses solar energy for power.
  • In 2009 construction will be completed on Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building, the height of which is being kept secret for competition purposes. As designed by the architects Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, the skyscraper’s form is by the unraveling of a desert rose.

Dubai has also started building “Cities,” which house business communities, such as textiles, technology, etc. The Dubai Internet City is emblematic of Dubai’s Cities projects. It is located next to the main highway and comprises office buildings, gardens, and lakes, resembling a business park in any high-tech region of the world.

The Dubai marina consists of numerous residential high-rises and is built along an artificial marina. It is the region’s first “intelligent city,” with each home highly wired. The planners hope to create distinct neighborhoods within the high-rises.

Juxtaposed to these ambitious developments is the phenomenon of the “labor camp,” home of the expatriate construction workers, Dubai’s craftsmen, who are strategically disciplined to invisibility and forced to live in squalid housing conditions on the city’s periphery. Fortunately, human rights organizations have helped demolish many of these housing establishments and new ones of more acceptable standards have been built.

In addition to the large portion of Dubai committed to commercial space, Dubai also has a human space where social interactions take place. There are many consequences of globalization in Dubai as it fulfills a need that used to be met by Beirut as the financial, commercial, and economic bridge between east and west. Other cities in the region, such as Cairo and Beirut, have emulated “Dubai-type” development, resulting in the displacement of local residents, as the houses of the poor are often bulldozed for larger modernizing projects.

Increasingly, neighboring cities are feeling the “Dubai effect”— pressure to create unique niches to capture value from globalization. Doha and Abu Dhabi in particular have attempted to carve out space for themselves, Doha as the region’s “political center” and Abu Dhabi as a “cultural center.”

Dubai is often paired with Singapore or Las Vegas, as a port city in the former case and a city based on corporate-controlled mega-projects in the latter. These cities can be seen as “post-urban,” as they adopted the framework of marketability in the image of the city: the city itself is now a tool for attracting people and business.

One major difference between Dubai and Las Vegas is the illegality of gambling and of spectacular building explosion.

Singapore is the busiest port in the world and a main competitor of Dubai. Both serve as links between east and west, and Dubai is trying to rival Singapore and Hong Kong as a hub in a network of ports and transport links between the Far East and the West. As a part of this rivalry Dubai has been buying ports around the world. Its efforts in the U.S. were thwarted when political controversy forced Dubai to relinquish control of major U.S. ports.

To call Dubai an emerging global city is an understatement. At the local scale it comprises a global populace, as the presence of its expatriate population outnumbers the locals and these populations are served by various architectures. At the regional scale, Dubai’s relationship with its neighboring Gulf countries and greater Middle East is as the new playground of the Middle East, whose ostentatious forms of development are emulated regionally. And at the global scale, Dubai is emerging as a global competitor vis-à-vis Las Vegas and Singapore. These three scales of analysis formulate the framework for a socioeconomic spatial approach in which Dubai’s urban landscape is simultaneously exported to regional cities and imported from global ones.


Urban Informality in Lagos, Nigeria: A New Paradigm? (Urban Research Panel)
Joseph Godlewski, Architecture, UCB
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)

The second speaker for the Urban Research Panel centers his research on informal economies and the urbanization associated with it, particularly in Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos provides a violent contrast to Dubai, while it is in many ways similarn; while both are cities with a basis in oil wealth, port cities, and colonial cities, Lagos today looks nothing like Dubai.

In order to understand why this divergence exists, we need to look at the history of the city and ask how it arrived at this structural outcome. Lagos provides an intriguing example among the cities in the developing world which, while being celebrated by architects, face unique challenges as they move forward in the global environment. Lagos is spread out on a uniquely enormous scale, creating unique problems not easily solved on the basis of past experience.

One of the foremost scholars on Lagos is the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, who designed the world-renowned Prada store in New York City, the Seattle Public Library, and now teaches at Harvard’s “Project on the City.” This talk will be a critique of Koolhaas’s approach, both because of his belief that because architects can design buildings they can solve problems of the developing world, and because of his limited understanding of that world.

On a panel at the Harvard Design School that included information about Rome and Lagos, no one had anything to say about Lagos, while the Rome section was dominated with questions and anecdotes. This oversight is a product of Euro-American-centered architecture, which as far as the developing world goes understands the pyramids and little else.

Koolhaas and architects like him are often strangely positive about Lagos, inverting the traditional knowledge of the city. Koolhaas suggests that Lagos is a city at the forefront of modernity, offering a paradigm for the future of the modern city. However, at the same time he casts Lagos in the traditional role of the “other” for the Western observer—a city in the heart of deepest darkest Africa. He describes a city that is almost disconnected from the global system, distant and alien. This is problematic. How can a city be a new paradigm of modernity if it is the romanticized exotic other on the “dark continent,” outside of history?

Background on Lagos:

Lagos is in the southern part of Nigeria and is a port city. The name means “lake” in Portuguese and was given by a Portuguese explorer based on the region’s many lakes.

Lagos frequently comes up in international discussion because of its recent population explosion: it is currently home to 15 million people and will soon have 24 million, making it the world’s third largest city, behind Mumbai and Tokyo. For the sake of comparison, by 2015 Lagos will be the size of New York and London … combined!

Nigeria is currently the world’s tenth largest producer of oil, adding to the list of bad neighborhoods in which oil exists. While oil has brought tremendous wealth, the nation and the city are still in dire straits. Since the U.S. began needing to diversify its energy strategy Nigeria has come to the forefront of U.S. visions. In 2001 the National Energy Strategy report called on the U.S. to diversify to Nigeria. In many ways Nigeria is a microcosm of the scramble for resources under globalization and the military and economic changes that occur. Michael Watts (UCB Geography) thinks that Nigeria may very well be the next Iraq.

Tied into the population explosion, slum living in Lagos has expanded dramatically in recent years. The largest slum in Lagos is a patch of swampy land containing 1.5 million people. As with many colonial cities, the central core, Victoria Island, is the wealthiest and oldest part of town. Outside of this central region everything else is slum expansion on swampy real estate.

Since many of the jobs are in the center of town, this makes for a hellish three-hour commute for many city residents. In addition, slums and developments often clash: in 1998 300,000 slum dwellers were evicted. Where do they go? In general, they move to the edge of the city. While American cities have suburban sprawl, Lagos has slum sprawl.

One of the best teaching tools on Lagos is the book and corresponding DVD Mutations by Rem Koolhaas. While Mutations does a good job describing and showing the city, it suffers from Koolhaas’s problematic presentation. Koolhaas doesn’t exactly “engage” the city, as many of the pictures are taken from car or helicopter. When he “ventures out of his car” he finds organization and processes in garbage heaps underneath viaducts, where garbage is transformed and sorted.

In another instance he finds what appears to be a burning garbage heap but turns out to be a village. One thing Koolhaas focuses on is how organization works in this otherwise dysfunctional city, citing the conjunction of gridlock and the marketplace. The horrible gridlocked traffic of Lagos is filled with entrepreneurial self-promoting entities. Even in the face of huge traffic jams he sees this as proof that a city can survive and live under these conditions as they are colonized by market activities. However this approach has more in common with sound bites than with sustained empirical analysis.

One thing that is hard to miss in any account of Lagos is the informal economy, which is estimated at 90% of the total economy. This compares to a possible 15% in the developed world, though precise statistics are hard to compute given the nature of the subject. The Alaba Market is one of the largest of these self-organizing entities. It is the largest marketplace for electronics in West Africa, with $2.8 billion in goods exchanged each year. There are few stalls and no boxes for products, but it exists and keeps thriving. In the absence of government characterizing spaces such as these, the markets and the city have created their own institutions.

There are signs of more traditional commerce in Lagos, including a Prada store that fascinates Koolhaas. He sees the existence of this type of boutique as equaling progress, though Prada is a client of his, making his analysis suspect. In one of his few personal communications in the video he talks with a woman who states that while the city used to be about money, now there’s lots of money but no order and lots of crime. The only place the city works is Victoria Island.

This causes Koolhaas to believe that traditional planning may make little sense, given the self-organization of the city, and that any planning should work in tandem with this self-organization. However, his distance from and exoticizing of the city result in a lack comparative context and result in old conceptions of an Africa outside of history. No mention is made in the DVD of the city’s history, its ecological crises, oil production, or the structural adjustment programs made by the IMF and World Bank. It simply celebrates informal economy and self-organizing institutions.

Some final statistics may help give an impression of Lagos. The surplus rural labor living outside the city means that 80% of Nigeria lives in slums. Between 1975 and 2000, the number of people living on $1 a day has increased from 19 million to 90 million, while per capita income has declined by 15%. During this time Nigeria earned almost $250 billion dollars from oil.

Clearly, free market globalization and profit have not helped the average citizen. The city’s colonial period has made accumulation very individualized. Because of this, the informality of the city should not be seen as a new way of life, but rather should be viewed as a product of economic and social phenomena (such as globalization) that perpetuate income disparity and inequality. Informal self-organization is not a solution but simply a coping mechanism.


Istanbul: The Bridge and the Mosque (Urban Research Panel)
Kathryn Schild, Slavic Languages and Literatures, UCB
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)

Turkey, much like Russia, is a country stuck between Europe and Asia. So how does Turkey deal with this dual identity and adapt to its environment? One way to answer this question is to look at the past cultural claims on the city of Istanbul and examine how it deals with its mix of cultures today. Istanbul, or Constantinople, or Tsargrad, has had lots of names and rulers over time, each of which reflects the tension of this dual identity.

Nobel prize–winning author Orhan Pamuk, writing about Istanbul today, argues that the greatest modern tension is between the nationalist Turkish identity and Istanbul’s cosmopolitan identity. In order to understand the city, we need to look at its culture both through a Turkish lens and through a Western one, as the Turks are constantly asking how they are viewed from the West.

A Western speaker citing Pamuk pointed out recently that the best view of Turkey is from neither Europe nor Turkey but from a bridge between them. Turkey is full of people exactly like you, and we should view Turkey not as a clash of cultures but as a unique culture of its own.

Istanbul is where the East meets West and either recoils or rejoices.

Constantine founded the city as a “New Rome” in 324 and it was the capital of Byzantine Empire. For a while it held the distinction of being the largest city in the world, but it had declined from this status by the time the Ottomans invaded in 1453. The Ottomans never took a strong stand on the name of city; “Istanbul” is a local term meaning “the city.” Istanbul fell into neglect when the Turkish government moved to Ankara in 1922 after independence. Pamuk writes, “You can often tell whether you’re standing in the East or in the West, just by the way people refer to certain historical events. For Westerners, May 29, 1453 is the Fall of Constantinople, while for Easterners it’s the Conquest of Istanbul.”

Spaces throughout Istanbul reflect the clash/celebration of cultures. You find numerous churches that have been turned into mosques and then stripped back down to the original mosaics, all the while surrounded by skyscrapers and ads for European firms.

San Francisco’ Golden Gate is named for Istanbul’s Golden Horn, and like the Bay Area it was a brilliant place to settle, providing a reliable harbor. The Greeks settled along the peninsula with a port at the horn and built the city outward from this in rings.

European maps from the 16th century show that much of this was on European side of the Bosporus; the bustling Asian side was not even on many maps. Across the bay on the Western side of the Bosporus there was a small European settlement called Pera, the Greek for “over there.” Foreigners settled this region, especially Genovese and Phoenician merchants. After the “fall” non-Musrlims were not supposed to stay in the city, though many did. The Western region of the city provided a counterpart to the mosques and the sublime court.

For a long time, no bridge existed across the Golden Horn. Interestingly, Leonardo Di Vinci drew up the first plan for a bridge, though it was never seriously considered. (They later built a model of it in Oslo.) The first bridge across the Horn was built at the very top of the strait and was not very useful. Finally in the mid-19th century the Galata bridge connected the old city to the European settlement, bridging East and West, both symbolically and figuratively.

The Galata Bridge officially connects Europe . . . to Europe. The bridge that connects the European side of the Bosporus to the Asian side was only finished in 1973. This bridge was of course destined to become a metaphor for larger cultural forces. It looks a surprising amount like the Golden Gate Bridge, though without the paint. This is not the image, however, that is used to represent the East-West divide, rather it is the image of the bridge and the mosque.

The Bridge and the Mosque

The Bridge and the Mosque provides a convenient juxtaposition of the old versus the new, religion versus science, tradition versus progress, or basically any other divide you want. All in all it is a very loaded image.

The power of the image notwithstanding, the facts make the story less clear-cut. The Mosque is not ancient, but is rather a neo-Baroque building, built in the 19th century and designed by an Armenian architect. Nevertheless, it gets loaded with old-versus-new imagery. To give a speech citing Pamuk, President George W. Bush positioned himself in front of the bridge.

A previous visit by a previous Bush exhibits some of the double vision the Turks experience. Bush Sr. was visiting the Dolmabahce palace. Concerned that he would have to use the eastern style squat toilet that everyone else uses, a European toilet was added and promptly removed after his visit. This shows the tension residents of Istanbul face by constantly viewing themselves through Western eyes: there is always something lacking.

The city today is a mix of traditional and tourist neighborhoods, though tourists do not mix much with people in the buildings, even in tourist neighborhoods. Each quarter has a distinct feel and culture and what you wear in one neighborhood will get you in trouble in other neighborhoods. Many of these mix East and West in unique ways. In one part of town there is a Catholic church where Muslims go to light candles and make wishes, much like a wishing well. While at the turn of previous century there were still more Greeks living in Istanbul than Turks this is no longer the case and the city’s Turkish population is increasing.

The problem with the “Bridge and the Mosque” metaphor is that while it is loaded with symbolism, you can do anything with it and cannot always capture the unique dynamics of a changing city.

The population of Istanbul has tripled in size since the early 1980s and there are now 12 million residents, up from 1 million in 1900.

The Asian side looks more like the European side than the old city as you move up the Bosporus. The “Asian” side as we think about it is really on the European side of the strait, while the part that is really in Asia is a quiet place where people go to avoid bustle and get cheaper housing.

The tremendous growth of the city has led to predictable growth-associated problems such as traffic, overcrowding, and a rising cost of living. While these problems are often blamed on Turks from the East causing problems in a Western city, in reality the term “urban-rural divide” better describes the problems and tensions of the city. This is the type of relationship that the “Bridge and the Mosque” metaphor obscures.


Perhaps a better metaphor for the city is found at Miniaturk, an official museum run by the Turkish Government consisting of miniature building models and designed to show off Turkey. Miniaturk blatantly strips the context from what you are seeing. While small labels that tell you what they are and where, they are easily—and usually—ignored. The museum includes models of buildings from across Turkey and beyond. If we want the bridge and the mosque, we can find it here, in the form of a bridge from Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem. These miniatures lack context for Turkey’s historical empire as well. They don’t mention that Bosnia-Herzegovina is no longer in Turkey, in essence denying the role of empire in putting them there. The name, Miniaturk, implies they are still Turkish.

Miniaturk provides a way to view the city and its architecture without the hassle of actually having to experience them. As such, it is not a top tourist destination, but largely a way for immigrants to see the city without the hustle and bustle. For rural immigrants coming to the city, there is no danger of being overwhelmed by a sense of grandeur or history.

These are an internal representations of the city and of Turkey. The goal is not entertainment, but to display Turkey. The lack of history is not a problem, but in fact its strength. These monuments can be embraced, photographed, and forgotten. In a sense, it creates cultural harmony, because everyone is exactly like you. There are no cultural conflicts in Miniaturk. It has churches, synagogues, and temples, but without their context there exists no tension.

The metaphor of the bridge and the mosque is great for teaching as long as you remember it is a myth. It is powerful and seductive as long as we remember its place—it can tell us something, as can understanding why it is appealing to use. At the same time, we should not rely on it to tell us everything we need to know about the culture.


Tokyo Stories: Tales from the Four-Hundred-Year History of Japan’s Capital
Cary Karacas, Geography, UCB
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)

The title of this talk is a riff off the movie Tokyo Story and the content will be an account of the human geography of the creation and development of Tokyo. More precisely, it will use a handful of narratives about what made the city what it is today, organized into a cycle of the creation, making, and unmaking of the city.

Creating the City:

If Tokyo had to pick a founding father, it might be Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. Tokugawa Ieyasu was the 3rd in a line of warlords that unified Japan after a series of civil wars. Prior to the Tokugawa shogunate, Japan was broken into a series of feudal domains, each ruled by local daimyo (warlords). Beginning in the 1550s, the most powerful of the daimyo began to enlist the help of other daimyo in unifying the country. This movement culminated in 1600 with the Battle of Sekigahara, after which Tokugawa Ieyasu became the most powerful daimyo in Japan. Since his traditional center of power was in Edo (the name of Tokyo until the Meiji Restoration in 1868), Tokyo became the administrative center of the country.

During this period Japan was organized into a series of castle-towns. Depending on which of the roughly 250 daimyo had backed Tokugawa, these towns began to rise or fall during the Tokugawa shogunate. The following fourteen generations of Tokugawa shoguns brought 250 years of peace to Japan, based in and administered from Edo. This peaceful period was marked by an unprecedented, intensive construction of cities. Except for Kyoto and Osaka, there were few major Japanese cities prior to this building explosion. Edo was at the center of the city network: as had been the case in Rome, all roads led to Edo. While the Tokugawa also controlled Osaka, Edo continued to be the primary center of power.

One question facing the Tokugawa shoguns during the period was how to control the daimyo and the samurai they controlled. They adopted the basic policy that the samurai had to live in the cities, which made them easier to control. In addition, this swelled the number of city dwellers, as the samurai needed people to serve them. In essence it created cities based around a caste system.

But how to control the daimyo? For one, cities took tremendous resources to build and Tokugawa demanded other warlords help him with the building of cities, particularly Edo. This diverted resources they could have been used to rebel against the regime. Edo became an impressive castle-town, with rings of canals used to protect the castle and Edo as a whole from invasion.

Edo quickly grew into the largest city in the world. Where different groups of people were allowed to live affects the geography of Tokyo up to this day. Another method of controlling the daimyo was a law that required warlords to live in Edo every other year and the warlords’ wives and children to remain at all times. The shoguns gave them space to build mansions, which they built with great zeal and inter-daimyo competition. Again this construction diverted resources away from the ability to resist the shogun’s power, while wives and children acted as permanent hostages.

Elsewhere in Edo, the commoners had their own districts, which were incredibly densely populated. The influx of daimyo and their accompanying entourages sparked a flourishing of culture in and around Edo. When the daimyo showed up every year, they would come with enormous processions in a display of wealth and power.

One final thought about the creation of Tokyo from this period is that it was constantly destroyed by fire. Edo, and later Tokyo, is largely a city of wood, with strong winds that come down in the winter. This meant that one small fire could destroy huge chunks of the city, causing it to be remade over and over.

Collapse of Edo:

The collapse of Edo came with the disintegration of the Tokugawa shogunate. In 1853, the arrival of Perry’s black ships marked less a knocking and more a kicking on the door of Japan. The Americans demanded that Japan be opened up to outside trade, which generated high levels of dissension and caused the shogun to lose a lot of face. The dissension was particularly acute from the samurai, who were banished to outer regions at the beginning of the Shogun’s regime and who still resented their exclusion. They decided there was an urgent need to modernize in order to compete with the West and in 1868 a group of young samurai overthrew the shogunate and seized power. With the ouster of the Tokugawa shoguns, the Tokyo population suffered an immediate drop and the city took a hit in prestige.

Once in power the young samurai decided they needed something to unify the nation under their new regime. This involved rethinking what the city of Tokyo was supposed to be. Until 1868 the Japanese Emperor had been based in Kyoto and during the shogunate was not a major player in Japanese life. However, the young samurai decided to use him as a symbol of Japan, re-inserting the Emperor at center of social life. To do so, they decided to move him from Kyoto to Edo and put him where the Tokugawa Shogun had lived. While it took some time for this switch to take hold, after a generation or so the Emperor was fully entrenched as a symbol of the Japanese nation.

During this period, the modernization of Japan was in fast-forward. The Japanese began selling silk around the world and building train lines; they created a constitution and experienced rapid industrialization. Soon, Japanese foreign policy and international ambitions began to match this economic expansion. Fukuzawa Yukichi, an influential Japanese intellectual of the time, argued that Japan had to break out of its traditional formations and behave in the same way as the Western nations. Specifically, it must treat China and Korea like a Western nation would. This type of thinking spread in Japan and colonial ambitions followed.

Thought turned to action with the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95, which resulted in a Japanese victory and numerous territorial concessions. Tokyo’s rise continued during this expansion and became a center of Japanese growth, spawning modern industries to fuel development.

The next Japanese flexing of power came during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05, a surprising victory for the Japanese over a traditional power. This victory only furthered industrialization and modernization and supported the notion that Japanese policy was on the right track to overtake the West.

In 1923 a powerful earthquake leveled Tokyo. Fires quickly spread and devastated the city, causing 110,000 deaths. In particular, one area of town stands out as emblematic of the tragedy. In a densely populated working class area of town workers unable to escape congregated in a park, where 60,000 people burned to death. More than any other disaster up to this point, the 1923 fire destroyed and reshaped the city.

After the earthquake and resulting fire, Crown Regent Hirohito toured the city and was presented and received as a living god.

The city was rebuilt and the fire marked the advent of modern Tokyo. In 1930, now-Emperor Hirohito celebrated the reconstruction of the city, touring the place where so many people had died, which was turned into a site of remembrance. On the park the city built a charnel house to hold the urns of those who had died, and on the anniversary of the fire, families of the dead can go and pay their respects.

During the 1930s signs of modernization permeated Tokyo. The city created Asia’s first subway system, had modern electricity, transportation, cars, buildings, phones, and radios. In addition, modernization meant the adoption of Western cultural trends and kimonos lost ground to suits. Throughout this period, however, there was a foreboding sense of what it meant to live in the city as a real shift occurred in how Japan and Tokyo found their place in the world.

Destroying the City:

Also during the 1930s, Japan’s military started setting out again. In 1931, coupled with a political move toward fascism, Japan invaded China. Between 1936 and 1956 Japan planned the emigration of 5 million Japanese to Manchukuo, a Japanese territory in Northern China.

These wars of conquest did not allay Japanese fears about the city. Unno Juza captured this fear in a series of science fiction stories about the destruction of Tokyo. He was strongly influenced by H. G. Wells’s The War in the Air and presciently described the destruction of Tokyo by enemy bombers. He was not alone in envisioning this scenario, as the interwar period was an era when many people were imagining cities destroyed by aerial attack. The German artist Otto Dix portrayed some of the terror of an aerial attack on a city in WWI in his paintings of the period.

These fears were well founded as military strategists had to begun to focus on the city as a central target in modern warfare. Giulio Douhet, an Italian air-power theorist, argued that the key to winning modern wars was attacking civilians in cities.

Juza’s book The Imperial Capital Under Attack, written in 1932, was couched as fantasy, but the author was increasingly convinced that it was going to happen and he almost left the city numerous times. In the story enemy bombers burn Tokyo to the ground. Juza’s stories made him a best-selling air-raid novelist, employing the constant theme of Tokyo being attacked. Over time the stories become more fantastic and militaristic as civilians worked together to protect Tokyo. The enemies changed, from the Chinese to the Americans, but the themes were the same.

Eventually, the local government picked up the idea of civilians as the defenders of the city. At the time city planners were thinking about how to protect the cities in the advent of total war. They decided that they had to make sure the civilians protected them, which meant they couldn’t be evacuated (except for children, the elderly, etc.). So not only should civilians stay, they should learn to put out fires. Throughout the 1930s, city organizers had civilians run fire drills.

In 1937 Japan invaded China again. A contemporary propaganda poster, “Air Defense Brigade Protecting the Emperor’s Land,” depicts the role of civilians as envisaged by the government. In it men are conspicuously absent and it is women who are putting out fires. In many ways, the fire brigade was Japan’s Rosie the Riveter. Looking at the poster now, their efforts seem heroic but naïve: in the face of modern warfare, the women have buckets. In the end civilian fire brigades was not a solution at all, simply a ruse to make the people feel prepared. It was not until late in the war that the government even began building air raid shelters and the government never evacuated the cities.

During World War II, after the fall of Saipan, all of industrialized Japan came under the range of new B-29 bombers. Subsequently, a young U.S. Colonel named Curtis Le May, advised by Douhet, came up with a strategy: destroying the cities and targeting the civilians might force Japan to capitulate. At this point, the Japanese leaders knew they could not get back Saipan and that the war was over, but they nevertheless refused to capitulate.

At this point they started evacuating the cities of school-age children and one quarter of the children were evacuated.

The Americans decided to attack the most densely populated areas of Tokyo. They knew if they could light some fires the wind would help the fire to spread and these fires would help guide more bombers to their targets.

Of course, the portion of Tokyo targeted was completed destroyed, creating a barren landscape. While the first attack was just the beginning it was one of the most devastating and over 100,000 people were killed within 5 hours.

The dead were quickly buried in large parks, both for sanitation and to remove evidence of the failure of the government to protect its citizens. After the bombing, Hirohito went out into the city again, as he had after the 1923 quake. This time, however, he was not received as a god, and the people were cursing him. A government that cannot protect civilians quickly loses respect.

Between March and May of 1945 bombing raids destroyed almost all of Tokyo. The government responded with a page out of one of Juza’s books and told residents to start living underground. (In one of his final science fiction novels, Juza ended with the vision of Tokyoites living underground.) Luckily, in 1945 the government surrendered before this happened.

Remembering the City:

There is a great deal of collective memory in Japan related to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but what about Tokyo?

At this point it might also be good to ask: Beyond the question of atomic bombs, is the bombing of urban populations ever appropriate?

The war was followed by seven-year occupation of Japan based in Tokyo. Because this occupation went exceedingly well (compared to our recent ones) it had a profound affect on the city and its planning. In addition the large numbers of U. S. soldiers in and around Tokyo affected the city’s growth. The soldiers brought their lives with them, including wives, children, and Cadillacs.

General Macarthur ruled in Japan for a number of years, holding more power than the Emperor.

Life for American occupiers was the high life. The Americans took over major sports and cultural facilities—placing ice-skating rinks in former sumo stadiums—and officers took over nice houses in town. Life was very different on the Japanese side. Residents without houses were still living in underground shelters and Tokyo remained a destroyed landscape.

The planners who started planning a grand new Tokyo began thinking about the future more than remembering the past as the population by and large wanted to forget the war as quickly as possible. However, this ignores the question of those who survived and are maimed. How are they remembered? Also what happens to all of those people who have been buried? What happens to the bodies, of which there are well over 100,000?

For a handful of years they simply remained where they were while decisions were being made. As with many post-war decisions, in 1950 the choice fell to a young American soldier who was part of the occupying force. He decided to put them in the same memorial house as the victims of the 1923 fire. This was tough work and it was hard to exhume them all as the bodies had been in the ground for many years, but eventually they are added to the 1923 memorial charnel house.

This mixing up of memory, a man-made disaster versus a natural one, has really confused a lot of people. Today, the door to the monument opens only twice a year and families of the victims will come for both, which causes confusion. In Japan, people feel an obligation to pay respect to their loved ones, but normally they have a place with a gravestone, while victims’ families have to come here.

Throughout Tokyo there are other smaller memorial sites. Where the bombings occurred there are still plenty of small shrines and statues.

But what about an official remembrance? Hiroshima has had a lot of those. While in Hiroshima official remembrance remains contentious it is clearly very important. What about Tokyo? Tokyo was rebuilt very quickly and the city creates a narrative of Tokyo rising from the flames. This narrative, however, doesn’t discuss why the flames were there in the first place.

Tokyo quickly regained its status as an international city, culminating with the 1964 Olympics. The survivors of the fire bombings, however, continued to wonder why they were being forgotten. In order to exact a response, this group, around the same time as the Olympics, became politicized. They felt there should be an official remembrance. Also during the 1960s, Japan gave its highest domestic award to Curtis Le May, the strategic planner of the bombings, because he helped establish the Japanese defense forces. In McNamara’s “Fog of War” he argues that if we had lost we would have been prosecuted as war criminals for this bombing. By awarding him this medal the Japanese government was essentially agreeing to ignore this truth.

This official snub prompted a popular movement to remember the bombings and its victims. Families brought photos and increasingly demanded an official response. The interaction between these individuals and government has changed a lot over the past thirtyyears.

During the 1960s, the man who became governor, a self described Socialist Utopian, gave the protestors funds and helped them publish their photos. By the early 1970s, the survivors began to demand a museum, which the mayor claimed he could not build due to the financial woes of the city. A new candidate promised just such a museum during his campaign, but while re-elected three times he did not build it during his sixteen-year term. Finally, when he buildt an Edo-Tokyo Museum, he said he would give them a corner, which they agreed to, while continuing to demand a museum to be able to tell their own story.

When the major finally relented he was ousted by a coalition led by Socialists who took over the Tokyo legislature. While they finally planned a museum it was again sidelined due to lack of funds.

The Socialists finally decided they should build the museum underground by the other memorial of the dead. This proposal was met by scorn from the survivors. Not only would it destroy the previous site, the idea of building underground carries plenty of bad symbolism.

The current governor ended talk of the underground museum and decided to build a monument by the other memorial. The city chose an artist and erected a memorial with flowers growing from the rubble. Inside is an intense space where the names of the dead are written in books, an effort started by the citizen group and taken over by the city of Tokyo. While the designer did not have this in mind, one criticism of the monument is that it looks like the air raid shelters.

So how effectively does this monument respond to the needs of Tokyo’s collective memory? For many, it is just as ineffective as the air raid shelters. While it looks like something it doesn’t really help one remember what happened. They were in such a rush to build the monument that the planning was sub-par. In fact, people are not even allowed into the monument because it doesn’t have a fire exit and is not up to code!

Right now Japan is passing out of the period during which the generation who experienced this is still alive, which increases the pressure to do something quickly, while the rise of nationalism is obscuring many of Japan’s past transgressions and their results—symbolized in Koizumi’s visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine.

Not daunted, the citizen group is storing material in a building where they are holding the memory of bombings, continuing to demand that Tokyo does something. They refuse to let Japan and Tokyo forget the fire-bombings.

Sponsored by the University of California at Berkeley Office of Resources for International and Area Studies (ORIAS), Center for Korean Studies, Center for Latin American Studies, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Institute of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies, Center for South Asia Studies, Center for Southeast Asia Studies, Institute of East Asian Studies, Institute of European Studies. University funding is provided by Title VI grants from the United States Department of Education.

Co-sponsored by Bay Area Global Education Program (BAGEP) at the World Affairs Council of Northern California and the The Korea Foundation.