Urban Imaginaries and Political Ruptures

Urban Imaginaries and Political Ruptures: Three Aspiring Parises and their Discontents. Bucharest, Buenos Aires, Beirut

Gruia Badescu University of Konstanz






Historians and social scientists have increasingly traced circulations of urban models. However, in the scrutiny of why and how cities embrace urban models, less attention has been paid to the impact of political ruptures on how cities relate to these reference points. This talk examines the adoption of such an urban model – Paris as city of modernity- which became an urban imaginary of cities across diverse contexts and was later reshaped by diverging political trajectories and multiple modernities. It analyses the trajectories of three cities on different continents which reshaped themselves as “Parises” of their respective region at various moments at the end of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century and then endured an array of political convulsions, from authoritarian regimes to wars and reconstructions: Bucharest as the “Paris of the Balkans”, Buenos Aires as the “Paris of South America” and Beirut as the “Paris of the Middle East”. By using the lens of the urban imaginary, which comprises the ways in which urban populations understand and represent their city, the talk investigates how the Parisian imaginary was shaped, how at its turn shaped the cities, and how both the imaginary and the cityscape endured political ruptures. It shows how imaginaries of modernity and city-making mutually reconfigure each other within multiple geographies.

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