Efforts to edit the past (e.g. by conserving heritage) and shape the future (e.g. by ambitious planning) often unfold simultaneously in urban spaces. Based on ethnographic observation, the panel explores the interplay between different time horizons in contemporary cities.
Cities often push the here and now onto their inhabitants and visitors, overwhelming them with dense and diverse impressions and experiences. But they are also places oriented towards a chronological elsewhere, having a past and aspiring to a future that may be no less on people's minds. This panel seeks to explore the complex interrelations - not necessarily antithetical only - between multiple urban time horizons. Some cities live predominantly off the past, enshrining their historical buildings and cultural specifics that engender local pride and foreign admiration (e.g. Venice, Kyoto or Marrakesh). Others, instead, embrace the future in the form of spectacular projects and innovative planning (e.g. Dubai, Astana or Brasilia). Most cities, however, do both at the same time, and contemporary urban branding often aims at a judicious balance between the conservation of selected heritage items and the promise that architecture, neighbourhoods, and cultural styles are at the forefront of trendiness and innovation.
We call for ethnographically grounded contributions that analyse this interplay. Possible foci include the political and financial dynamics and the politicians, developers, conservationists, planners, builders, and real estate brokers that most directly influence the physical shape and larger visions of the city, as well as ordinary residents' or visitors' takes on, and engagement with, these larger processes and the ensuing phenomena such as commercialisation, gentrification, displacement, and resistance. What does having one foot in the past and one in the future imply for urban presents?