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At the periphery of architectural history – looking at Eastern Europe
mercredi 12 juin 2013

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Conférence donnée par Carmen Popescu dans le cadre du colloque "Global art history and the peripheries", organisé par le Artl@s project à l'ENS.

Although absent for a long time or only briefly mentioned for those examples fitting into the schemata, Eastern Europe has started to be integrated into the mainstream discourse of architectural history in the past few years. The reason of this inclusion is not only because of a certain globalization – both of the practice and of the academic discipline – but also because of recent mutations in the field of architectural historiography. The geopolitical changes triggered by the dismantling of the Communist bloc in 1989, the general regain of interest in Kunstgeographie (differently materialized according to the authors who reintroduced it), as well as the critical reassessment of the Modernist project, have altogether contributed to a restructuring of recent discourse of architectural historiography. However, in spite of renewed context, Eastern Europe still remains in the margins, both geographically – though globalization turned peripherality into a relative issue – and disciplinarily. 

The paper will look at Eastern European architecture as an epitome of marginality, analyzing the tactics and strategies employed for gaining visibility. I will do so by following two parallel threads – the discourse of architectural historians and Eastern European architects’ own desire for visibility. Against a background of ideology and politics, I will thus explore three main narratives : modernization (and the obsession with western modernity) ; identity (a persistent issue in this area, first imposed and then instrumentalized) ; ‘ordinariness’ (the advent of the XXL scale of mass-housing, to paraphrase Koolhaas, and what appears as the amorphous production of the communist years) versus ‘extraordinariness’ (embodied in the architectural excesses from political commissions to the contemporary extravagances of the nouveaux riches). 

By exploring these topics, I will be able to discuss the methodological contributions of historians working on Eastern Europe. The double peripherality of this territory requires, indeed, different methodologies and approaches – while these can turn into a source of further marginalization (by stigmatizing their object of study), they have meanwhile incontestably proposed a renewed vision of the architectural history as a discipline.

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Carmen Popescu
Université Paris 1 Sorbonne
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Carmen Popescu is an independent art and architectural historian. She has been involved in numerous research projects and holds teaching positions in France and Romania. She has been invited to lecture in Universities in Belgium, Great Britain, Slovenia, United States and Turkey. She is affiliated since 2008 with Paris I-Sorbonne, where she teaches History of Architecture as an Adjunct Professor. Her research focuses on three main axes – identity, politics and historiography. Her work on Eastern Europe combines all three directions, which she has developed in publications and conferences. She has organized a number of conferences and sessions in conferences on the assessment of Eastern European in current historiography, such as “The ‘other’ Europe: Eastern and Central Europe in Western Art History” (INHA, Paris – 2007). Her publications include: 

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Dernière mise à jour : 19/09/2013