In contemporary Europe walls are far from being an old-fashioned device. Even if after the collapse of the Berlin Wall borders within EU-Schengen countries have became progressively flexible and porous, borders towards non-EU countries have became increasingly policed and fortified. In fact, walls still serve to keep people in, as much as to keep people out; they display power in concrete and symbolic terms. For some they might signify security and regularity, freedom and protection, identity and divergence as experiences to be held either inside or outside the line of the wall; for others they represent exclusion, marginalisation and stigma. In sum, walls (both real and imagined) demarcate, they chart the city-fabric and the nature of people’s civic and civil spirit, engagements and interactions. In this panel we seek to make explicit the paradoxes of confinement and liberty that underpin the existence of walls in contemporary European cities. By observing the material morphology and
location of walls in the modern urban fabric, we seek to understand the multiple interpretations and representations they embody.
The following issues might be taken as a guide for paper proposals:
• Walls as visible objects.
• Walls as invisible processes of control and security. Social underpinnings of walling processes in contemporary cities: the rebirth of old devices to produce new ghettoised communities.
• Adoption and adaptation of walls as devices to order peoples’ practices and urban rhythms.
• The performance of walls in the urban space: who are the actors, who is addressed, what justifies their presence?
• Shifting between presence and absence: what is it that walls make recognisable or alien
• Walls: accommodating differences through integration and segregation in the urban space
• Multiculturalism and citizenship in divided cities: is there commonality amidst the differences
• What are the challenges faced by current urban developments in terms of social cohesion in increasingly controlled and segmented urban environments
Though we expect modern historians to be interested in these topics, we would welcome papers from historians of earlier periods who might wish to offer perspectives on how walls, imagined and real, forged divisions in society.
Daniela Vicherat Mattar (Marie-Curie Fellow, School of History,
Classics & Archaeology,University of Edinburgh)
Prof. Richard Rodger (School of History, Classics & Archaeology,
University of Edinburgh)