Melancholy, Memories, and Six Nostalgias: Postquake Christchurch and the Problems of Recalling the Past | Jacky Bowring
The city of Christchurch, New Zealand, was until very recently a “Junior England”—a small city that still bore the strong imprint of nineteenth-century British colonization, alongside a growing interest in the underlying biophysical setting and the indigenous pre-European landscape. All of this has changed as the city has been subjected to a devastating series of earthquakes, beginning in September 2010, and still continuing, with over 12,000 aftershocks recorded. One of these aftershocks, on February 22, 2011, was very close to the city center and very shallow with disastrous consequences, including a death toll of 185. Many buildings collapsed, and many more need to be demolished for safety purposes, meaning over 80 percent of the central city will have gone. Tied up with this is the city’s precious heritage—its buildings and parks, rivers, and trees. The threats to heritage throw debates over economics and emotion into sharp relief. A number of nostalgic positions emerge from the dust and rubble, and in one form is a reverse-amnesia—an insistence of the past in the present. Individuals can respond to nostalgia in very different ways, at one extreme become mired in it and unable to move on, and at the other, dismissive of nostalgia as a luxury in the face of more pressing crises. The range of positions on nostalgia represent the complexity of heritage debates, attachment, and identity—and the ways in which disasters amplify the ongoing discourse on approaches to conservation and the value of historic landscapes.
The full article is available at Project Muse
Image: Giorgio De Chirico, The Red Tower, 1913.