Soukupová Blanka

The city represents a sort of sieve of history. Its temporal layers, at fi rst glance
clear in layout, architecture, interiors, indoor and outdoor sculptures and paintings,
appropriation of entire spaces, etc., are a document of the continuity of
development of its territory and appearance and of important historical turning
points that society and its residences pass through. Inappropriate vacant lots
in crowded builtup
areas in a historic center or insensitively placed constructions
and structural elements, however, on fi rst glance also bear witness to the
importance people attributed and attribute to the cities' past. It must willy nilly
blend with the spirit of the time and that spirit often not only demanded reconstruction
of old buildings and their surroundings and therefore helped maintain
material for what we can call the memory of a city, but it also determined
what to demolish, reconstruct, or change. Modern and postmodern
times of
a city were then affected by a confl ict between socalled
traditionalists and socalled
modernists. Truly scholarly interest in monuments actually began only
in modern national societies.
The original "old" town and its further temporal layers have disappeared
forever. They have, therefore, often remained captured only on maps and plans
of the time, in pictures, in literary works of the time, in periodicals, later in
photographs and postcards and, in the 20th century, in fi lm strips. Apart from
those records of how people looked after the memories of a city and what they
actually found important to capture and document, there also exists a fl ow of
memories of inhabitants and visitors to their city, literarily codifi ed memories,
memories transmitted within the family and interest groups (national, generational,
social, local), and also, of course, dreams of the city, virtual images that
homesick emigrants could "build". However in any case there is no city without
a memory that is the basis of every identity and therefore there is no city without
an identity. Naturally in the course of historical development places developed
symbolic importance through certain historical experience (possibly regional,
national, social, etc. symbols), and also places with minimal historical moorings.
The future of the latter, however, continually remains open; it is never possible
to exclude an event that will transform a neutral place into something unique.
The identity of a city, that is, its character, its self perception and its
as well as its perception and presentation from the exterior,
expressed by the polarity of city and suburbs, city and villages, city and rival
city (this polarity meanwhile can be negative or positive), is thus an unfi nished
work of many generations. From the viewpoint of its development, the key is
the entire atmosphere in European society and from it the emerging interest
of communal institutions. The urban anthropologist, however, must pose
another question: what is the importance of the historical character of a city for
the character and contentment of the people who live in it? How do they live
in quarters with a short history (in housing estates), how do they live in zones
with monuments, today crowded with tourists, and how do they live in cities
and in quarters with a past that tears at the emotions (e.g., in places where,
during the Second World War, there were ghettos overloaded with human suffering)?
And is it at all possible to live in areas of former concentration camps
without suppressing the past of those places?
The fi rst issue of this journal concerning anthropology of world cities is
primarily dedicated to Prague, Warsaw and its rival Krakow, which shares with
Prague a reputation as the most beautiful city in the world. The Prague anthropologist
Blanka Soukupová deals with the importance of the relationships of
Czech society from the turn of the 20th century to the socalled
Velvet Revolution
(1989) to memorials as some sort of materialization of the past. Warsaw
ethnologist Andrzej Stawarz tries to show in his essay Warsaw's attempt to
visualize the memory of the totalitarian regime and its victims. In this case he
understandably deals with some sort of additional construction of the picture
of the time distorted by the regime in the heads and hearts of the people in the
town which, from the end of the Second World War, laboriously constructed
and is constructing a new identity whose axis is the Warsaw Uprising. The myth
of cityheroes
and suffering, however, also continued in postwar times (during
the years 1949-1956 and 1980-1988 and mainly during the years 1981-1983),
when the capital of Poland became the symbol of resistance against totalitarianism.
And in the case of Warsaw, the past should thus be of service to the new
present. Krakow ethnologist Róża GodulaWęcławowicz
proceeds from the
theme of identifi cation of Krakow with old Krakow, whose present space is, to
a great extent, a copy of the medieval city. In the mental map of its inhabi tants,
such a Krakow is bound to several transparent polyfuntional places in the Old
Town. This enhances its value as a space for important festivals, prome nades,
etc. Besides, Durkheim already drew attention to the importance of the rhrythmization
of activities for the creation of social time. Krakow functions in the
mental map as a city connected at the same time with the personality and cult of
John Paul II. GodulaWęcławowicz'
text is, to a certain extent, paired with the
article by Krakow art historian Tomasz Węcławowicz, who, proceeding from
the main anthropological thesis that a city is created by people, writes about the
beginnings of the city and the expansion of its borders in the light of the newest
c research. The development of medieval Krakow is tied to Christianization
with the mentality of medieval man. However, Krakow's churches,
like the main square, later lost many of their original functions and were transformed
into memorials. In the closing study, Slovak ethnologist Alexan dra
Bitušíková deals with the thesis of memorials as an essential, but also, in the
course time, a fl exible component of the identity of a city. Bitušíková presents
two transparent approaches to the revitalization of cities: Americanization and
Europeanization. She then illustrates with the example of Bánská Bystrica how
European institutions can infl uence communal politics, which retroactively
strengthen individual components of the identity of a town. Ján Griger's report
on a sociological survey of how the users of Loreta Square in Prague perceive
its sounds stems from the methods of Schafer's acoustic ecology research team
and from the research of the Kanda Soundscape Project which was carried
out in a traditional quarter of Tokyo in the 1980s. What is most important for
anthropology is that he stresses the importance of sounds in the memory and
identity of a city. Similar, of course, could perhaps be the case of typical smells.
Social psychologists believe that forgetting ones roots does not pay. The
journal's fi rst issue fully endorses this theory while, at the same time, it points
out the possibilities of pulling out the roots, natural decomposition, and their
new growth. The story of a town - at least for the present - does not end...
Besides, in the outskirts of globalized (or generalized) metropolises, international
commercial chains and multientertainment
centers are springing up
like mushrooms. Will they some day be embraced by our memory? How do the
city and its people handle the present? How much group and individual history,
whether or not refl ected on, will be contained in the answer to the question,
"Where are you from?"

Vydání: 9, 2007, 1