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From the mountain to the cesspit: (re)inserting scale and temporality in heritage studies by walking the megalopolis

Conference contribution
Authors Moniek Driesse
Sjamme van de Voort
Published in Association for European Schools Of Planning (AESOP) Annual Congress, Conference Gothenburg, 10-14th July 2018
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Conservation
Language en
Keywords cultural memory, heritage studies, urban studies, memory studies, design research, mapping, Mexico City, transdisciplinary methodology, walking, urban landscape
Subject categories Cultural Studies, Design, Architecture


By conceiving of heritage as social processes of citizens in relation to their surroundings, (Harvey, 2001: 320) we will make a case for (re)inserting large-scale temporal and spatial dimensions – la longue dureé – in urban heritage practices. Arguments will be built on findings from a three-day hike of a cross-section of Mexico City, documenting the flow of water through the urban landscape and the socio-political layers of the city. Mexico City seems to be in a constant state of fragility; the destruction caused by the September 19th, 2017 earthquake follows the shape of what was once the lake of Texcoco, on which the Aztecs built their capital. Colonial maps show that although the original layout of the city was respected, the aquatic structure disappeared. Rapid urbanisation, climate change, population growth and neoliberal politics have recently increased this precarious situation. According to Paul Ricoeur, the premises of contemporary heritage theory require differentiation between scales of history; microhistory and individual memory are set in opposition to macrohistory and collective memory. (Ricoeur, 2004: 131) However, individual and collective memories cannot be separated if we understand how water plays a vital role not only in connecting segregated parts of the city but also as a longue dureé, connecting the city to its past. Recognising water as a carrier of collective memory in Mexico City allows promotion of alternative narratives and politics, that unite cultural rights with the laws of nature, in order to facilitate more inclusive approaches in urban heritage practices.

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