Palimpsests Remapped: Everyday Life in Retrospect

By Bruno Carvalho.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Building on the “spatial turn” in social theory of the past few decades, this paper returns to questions of how the past can inform urban interventions, as well as an understanding of contemporary developments. It revisits the idea of “the city as a palimpsest,” attempting to articulate cultural histories as akin to the processes through which the scraped off layers of an ancient manuscript may be recovered and read. It proposes the palimpsest as a fitting concept to enrich our reflections of any 21st century metropolis, especially those torn apart and rebuilt over wars, natural disasters, or major urban reforms. Entering into a dialogue with authors like Marc Augé and Michel de Certeau, the paper turns to how prior theoretical considerations of spatial practices conceal their own incorporation into a submerged past (today’s “everyday” as tomorrow’s history), focusing on examples like the view of Manhattan from the 110th floor of the World Trade Center in de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life. How then, could the city as a palimpsest allow for a type of porous temporality, consisting of spaces and flows?

Keywords: Palimpsest, Urban Reform, Space, Rio de Janeiro

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.109-118. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 639.186KB).

Bruno Carvalho

Assistant Professor, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA

An Assistant Professor in Luso-Brazilian studies, his research interests focus on some of the intersections between urban development and cultural expressions. He has published articles on topics like the relation between Rio de Janeiro’s beaches and modernity, as well as on how Brazil functions as a cultural space in the fiction of Jorge Luis Borges. Currently, he is working on a book tentatively entitled “Porous City: Afro-Jewish cultural spaces of Rio de Janeiro.”