In my March 2012 editorial, reflecting upon the founding ambitions of the JSAH, I wrote of the need to “revive” some of the inaugural goals of the journal, to envision change and rethink connections. This would mean expanding our intellectual compass to promote a global view of architectural history, consider theoretical and methodological approaches that build upon and create new interdisciplinary links, and situate our historical concerns in the critical present, thereby pushing our disciplinary comfort zone. This special issue on state, violence, and memory brings these concerns together by addressing some “necessary but unwritten” histories.
In probing the relation between architecture and memory, the articles in this issue propose a conversation between two modes of thinking about the built environment: one adopted by the state with its will to dominance, and the other adopted by nonstate actors. The first mode is characterized by the readiness with which the state and its corporate surrogates resort to violence to assert control: as powerful agents, such entities aim to shape space in their own image by giving concrete manifestation to history and collective memory. Violence mediates between architecture and memory, often passing into the pages of architectural history as the monumental achievements of civilizations. The second mode comprises strategies used by nonstate actors to negotiate state domination through myriad acts of everyday life, and through rebellion, activism, and performance. Their modes of creative resistance are as varied as their constituencies. Their acts are, however, typically “small” and episodic: marked by the lack of material resources. Only rarely, by working together, do nonstate actors invoke a powerful antidote to claims of the state and state surrogates. Their battleground is the “weak” realm of the everyday.