Architectures of Colonialism Constructed Histories, Conflicting Memories

International Online Conference, 16 to 19 June 2021 BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg


“Architecture”, as the architect Léopold Lambert recently stated, “is, above all else, a materialisation of power relations and the enforcement of their potential violence.” This applies all the more to the architectures of colonialism, which were used to dominate and segregate people, exploit labour, and restructure land. As architectural history was for a long time written by the “colonisers” – that is the Global North –, these acts of domination have been marred by focusing on canonised buildings, architects, and specific archives, ignoring the experiences and agency of the “colonised”. But monuments provoke, and their values for society can be called into question, as the emotionally charged debates in the Black Lives Matter movement have recently demonstrated so vividly. Dealing with cultural heritage and its cultural significance necessitates a continuous process of negotiation and re-evaluation. Hence, those writing the architectural history of colonialism and colonisation should be concerned with decolonising perspectives, working on methodologies and narratives, and acknowledging actors, memories, and places that have been overlooked so far.

The conference, which assembles scholars interested in architectural, building, and construction history, archaeology, architectural conservation, and heritage studies, addresses, amongst others, the following questions: Which actors, institutions, and knowledge networks were involved in the design and building practices of colonial power, and what role did local actors play? How can we rewrite architectural history to take into account the complex topologies of knowledge circulation in a globalised world shaped by colonialism? Whose heritage are colonial sites? What different memories are attached to them, and how have they changed over time? How have the architectures of colonialism been appropriated and reused, endowed with new stories and memories? How can this entanglement of conflicting memories be dealt with? How can we reassess historical archives and material evidence to analyse the traces and material remains of marginalised subjects and made them visible? What and whose stories do these remains tell?