Densely populated, cities are also thickly inhabited by memories. This lecture explores the processes by which some aspects of the past are physically or emotionally inscribed into the built landscape, while others are overlooked or forgotten. It seeks to determine who gets to influence acts of concerted remembering, considers the actions of those who contest or adapt “official” versions of historical memory, and assesses the place of intangible cultural heritage and personal memory amidst ever-evolving city settings.
Taking a comparative and international view, the lecture addresses the past as it lives and dies in the modern city. Ranging from Japan via Australia and on to Europe, South Africa and the United States, the analysis takes in street names, archaeological digs, sites of memory including graveyards and Ground Zero, and fleeting moments of play and courtship. Surveying a diverse urban scene, the lecture offers some methodological pointers for engaging with memory and the city, ponders the contributions of significant scholars including Halbwachs, Hayden and Huyssen, and evaluates the first-hand experiences of walking city streets to bear witness to the past residing in the present.
Dr Simon Sleight
Dr Simon Sleight is Senior Lecturer in Australian History at King's College London, Co-founding Director of the Children's History Society and Deputy Director of the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies in London, UK. His work explores the history of urban place-making, the evolution of youth cultures and the Australian presence in Britain. He received his tertiary education at Warwick, University College London and Monash University in Melbourne, where his doctoral thesis won the Serle Award for the best PhD in Australian history. His latest books are Young People and the Shaping of Public Space in Melbourne, 1870-1914 (Routledge, 2013) and, co-edited with Shirleene Robinson, Children, Childhood and Youth in the British World (Palgrave, 2016). He has also published on street gangs, processions, the representation of working childhoods, expatriate experience and the morphology of cities. His most recent publications feature in the edited collection Spatial Cultures: Towards a New Social Morphology of Cities Past and Present (2016) and Walking Histories, 1800-1914. A current co-edited textbook project will be titled History, Memory and Public Life: The Past in the Present, scheduled for publication in 2017. At King's College London, Simon teaches a range of courses including London Calling: Colonial and Postcolonial Encounters with the Metropole and Electric Cities: The Experience of Modernity in London, Melbourne, New York and Paris, 1870-1929. His current research project explores the concept and experience of “geographies of belonging” in relation to “British world” migrant groups in Britain, 1793 to present.
Dr Sleight was a Keynote Speaker at The IAFOR International Conference on the City (CITY2017) in Barcelona, Spain.