Architectures of Colonialism Constructed Histories, Conflicting Memories

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

18 June 2021 17:10 Whose Heritage?

Heritage and (Post)Colonialism, Context and Claim: Reading Built Stratigraphy in the Maghreb

Jorge Correia (Lab2PT, University of Minho)

Western Maghreb gathers a historical palimpsest of regimes where European colonialism has played a significant role in the shaping of cities. First, the Portuguese and Spaniards, as early as the 15th century, and more recently the Spaniards and the French controlling protectorates in Morocco, pushed for configurations where heritage has been an instrument of claim. This paper aims to contextualize the colonial stratigraphy and its bias legacy to contemporaneity.

On the one hand, 20th-century de facto colonial powers never touched historical centres but rather built their modern villes nouvelles on adjacent grounds. Such policy had an important and non-deliberate side effect by freezing the traditional old quarters and by blocking preservationist efforts addressing insalubrity issues. Furthermore, colonialism neglected traditional ways of inhabiting, thus leaving no fertile terrain for post-independence urban renewals and expansions that instead have been copying Western models of mass housing. On the other hand, the Spanish enclave of Ceuta portrays a different path. For centuries an important Muslim commercial stronghold, the city was conquered by the Portuguese in 1415 and has stayed in European hands ever since. The arrival of a new power and creed brought the desire to establish a new Christian image for the city. These early modern decisions still resonate in the city centre’s current urban morphology and were further developed by Spain after 1640. Indeed, an intentional legitimation of Iberian heritage, favouring a neo-Baroque skyline to the city rather than assuming continuity with the Islamic one, clearly shows how policies of Europeanization have challenged conceptions of identity and memory ownership in a disputed border territory.

Post-colonial analysis reveals not only the contexts of segregation and the resilience of colonialism in the production of residential spaces, but also how an institutional policy of heritage manipulation has masked a past in Ceuta that only recently has been reclaimed.

Jorge Correia holds a degree and a PhD in Architecture by the School of Architecture, University of Porto, with a thesis on Portuguese settlements in North Africa. Recently, his habilitation was on orientalism and urban space. Currently, he is an Associate Professor at the School of Architecture, University of Minho. He is also the president of the European Architectural History Network, adviser for the Atlas of Cultural Landscape of Guimarães, a researcher for the TechNetEMPIRE project, and the director of the Landscape, Heritage and Territory Lab. His main research interests are the study of pre-1800 European colonial built environment, the cultural challenges of heritage, and traditional Islamic cities and their representation. He has been a Visiting Scholar Fellow and curator of the exhibition “Photographing the Arab city in the 19th century” at the Canadian Centre for Architecture and a guest lecturer at several universities across Europe, Brazil and the Middle East.