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Composing Urban History and the Constitution of Civic Identities

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Composing Urban History and the Constitution of Civic Identities tells the story of how fractured urban communities sometimes succeed and sometimes fail at creating a way of life embracing the many varieties of people and institutions that make cities both urban and urbane.

The volume studies nine cities long divided by race, nationality, class, and religion: Washington, D.C., Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg, L'viv, Prague, Vienna, Berlin, Barcelona, and Riga. All have undergone ...

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Overview

Composing Urban History and the Constitution of Civic Identities tells the story of how fractured urban communities sometimes succeed and sometimes fail at creating a way of life embracing the many varieties of people and institutions that make cities both urban and urbane.

The volume studies nine cities long divided by race, nationality, class, and religion: Washington, D.C., Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg, L'viv, Prague, Vienna, Berlin, Barcelona, and Riga. All have undergone greater and lesser transitions from authoritarian to democratic forms of government, creating new needs and opportunities to shape a civic identity.

The contributors study these cities' presentations of their own history as embodied in everything from museum exhibits to architecture to street names. Do a city's efforts at material renewal and reform reflect and promote an inclusive, pluralistic self-image that supports nascent democratic institutions, or an exclusionary one that claims all the city for some particular group? Drawing on the experiences of the past half-century, Composing Urban History and the Constitution of Civic Identities shows how the emergence of pluralistic images of the past, present, and future can open the way for more pluralistic understandings of power and social relations.

Contributors are John Czaplicka, Howard Gillette, Jr., Grigorii V. Golosov, Yaroslav Hrytsak, Brian Ladd, Siegfried Mattl, James A. Miller, Jiri Musil, Cynthia Paces, Blair A. Ruble, Olga Sezneva, Ojars Sparitis, Pep Subiros, Victor Susak, Ilya Utekhin, and John Michael Vlach.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

The complexity of these cases may not quite generate easily applied solutions, but the essays certainly merit attention as synthetic studies of urban place and history.

Journal of Urban History

Open[s] a floodgate for further investigation.

— Stephanie Ryberg

Political Studies Review

Well written and will appeal to readers across business and social science disciplines... Accessible and grounded in contemporary public affairs.

— James G. Mellon

Slavonic and East European Review

It is rare for a volume comprising such a diverse range of articles to be as successful and as coherent as this book. It is also a timely call for scholarly engagement with some of the most urgent political, social and moral problems facing contemporary urban communities.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

John J. Czaplicka is an art and cultural historian currently affiliated with Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University. Blair A. Ruble is director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the author, most recently, of Second Metropolis: Pragmatic Pluralism in Gilded Age Chicago, Silver Age Moscow, and Meiji Osaka. Lauren Crabtree, until recently fiscal assistant at the Kennan Institute, is a graduate student in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester.

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Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures
Acknowledgments
Living Apart Together: The City, Contested Identity, and Democratic Transitions 1
Pt. 1 The Archeology of the Local
Introduction 25
1 Looking behind the Marble Mask: Varied African American Responses to Difficult History in Washington, D.C. 31
2 Dual History: The Politics of the Past in Kaliningrad, Former Konigsberg 58
3 Filling Dwelling Place with History: Communal Apartments in St. Petersburg 86
Pt. 2 The Instrumentality of Historical Images
Introduction 113
4 Identity Contests: Local History and Electoral Politics in St. Petersburg 117
5 Constructing a National City: The Case of L'viv 140
6 The Battle for Public Space on Prague's Old Town Square 165
7 Washington, D.C., in White and Black: The Social Construction of Race and Nationhood 192
Pt. 3 Historical Alterity
Introduction 213
8 Black Washington and the New Negro Renaissance 219
9 Vienna since World War II 242
10 Local Responses in Berlin to Urban Decay and the Demise of the German Democratic Republic 263
Pt. 4 Transformations
Introduction 287
11 Barcelona: Cultural Strategies and Urban Renewal, 1979-1997 291
12 Growth and Stagnation in 20th-Century Prague 321
13 The Rebirth and Restoration of Administrative, Political, and Cultural Symbols in Riga's Town Hall Square 341
Conclusion: Urban History after a Return to Local Self-Determination - Local History and Civic Identity 372
Editors and Contributors 411
Index 415
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Reading Group Guide

This collection is a fascinating, important, and disturbing book. When we are awash in a lot of happy talk about diversity and 'contested identities' in cities, it reminds us that such contestations can be matters of the most bitter and violent conflicts aimed at the cultural and sometimes physical extermination of the losing parties. At their best, the contributors and their cities strive to rise above the often horrifying legacy they describe toward a genuine pluralism.
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