Multicultural Past as Hope for the Future? Spatial Representations of the History of Lodz as an Attempt to Transform the City's Image and Identity
Ece-urban. The Online Publication Series of the Lviv Centre for Urban History of East Central Europe, no 11, 1-21
21 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2016
Date Written: 2013
The object of this article is to describe the ways in which the authorities of the Polish city of Lodz attempt to use history to change the city’s contemporary identity and image. This goal is to be attained by creating new spaces in the city that symbolically tell a specific story about Lodz’s past. This fairly typical move by the city authorities takes on an interesting significance if we note that the key to the construction of this new image is the city’s multicultural character, which ceased to exist six decades ago, and in Communist days remained entirely beyond the scope of interest both of the city’s residents, and its authorities. In contrast to similar strategies that stress multiethnic coexistence and attempt to present a city as exciting, tolerant and creative, Lodz attempts to create this kind of image by referring strictly to the city’s history, not to the present day. Particularly interesting is that the strategy takes on ironic overtones in light of the numerous racist graffiti on the walls of Lodz apartment buildings. These graffiti present a unified cultural text that is contemporary, and refers to the multicultural history of the city in an organic and universal fashion. In this way, two conflicting symbolic narratives are shaped in the city. The first one is apparent on the walls of the old part of the city covered with racist graffiti, which obviously contradict the image of a tolerant city, promoted by the Lodz authorities. The second one is the new space, which symbolically refers to the multicultural history of the city.
Keywords: New Centre of Lodz, Survivors Park, urban history, identity, image
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