Session 26

F2 Coping with Iconic Architecture in the Global South: Methodological Dilemmas and Opportunities

At a global level, there has been abundant research focusing on the various dimensions and processes of the interface between architecture and space, and society, particularly the ways in which these have become part of a repertoire of political, cultural and religious symbols. However, in the Global South, this has occurred largely within the realm of archaeology, history and human geography, with very few scholarly works having attempted to theorize and intimate on representation, appropriation and materialisation of iconic built environment particularly that controlled and owned by the state. Iconic architecture include landmark or event-defining buildings, monuments, and sculptures functioning as historicist repertoires and symbols of collective memory and often mobilized for national identity formation (Jones, 2011). Iconic architecture can be variously represented as ‘flagship architecture or cultural flagship’ (Weidenfeld, 2010), architectural genre (Jenkins, 2005), sovereign architecture (Atto, 2009), famous and symbolically laden building (Sklair, 2006; Kaika, 2015), star building (Alaily-Mattar et al., 2018), and signatures of power or propaganda (Lasswell, 2017; Minkenberg, 2014; Sauquet, 2010). Essentially, iconic architecture can be both authoritative and hegemonic. Historically, it has be viewed as either political or religious architecture. Notable example include the communist and fascist Europe, in particular the ‘semiotics visual iconicity’ in Leninist ‘monumental’ propaganda (Kruk, 2008), Roman portrait sculpture dating back to Constantinian period (Trentinella, 2003) and Hitler’s propaganda art in the Nazi Germany (von Beyme, 1991; Sauquet, 2014) where architecture was de-immortalized when regimes collapsed with the coming of democracy. In the Leninist example, the subsequent change of political leadership resulted in damnatio memoriae — the destruction of visual images of political leaders from the previous regime. Leninist monumental propaganda perpetuated the neoplatonic artistic tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church, which meant there was no clear distinction between the iconic sign and its referent (Kruk, 2008, p.1). Africa was not spared from this as well given its forced engagement with imperial Europe under both colonialism and apartheid. In the content, one example was the de-sacralisation of Rhodes’ statue by the #RHODESMUSTFALL movement. However, in spite of the several independent governments’ pursuit of the decolonisation of architecture, architectural products have continued to symbolize the veneration of authoritarian and monarchical tendencies. Its many years of exploitative appropriation and embellishment by both the colonial and postcolonial regimes, has left a legacy of architecture that unsteadily vacillates between iconographies and memory dispositifs (Basu, 2011). Temptations of repressive totalitarianism (Peterson, 2020), culture of personalisation and saffronisation of political leaders has been widely documented (Nayaran, 2006). A survey of notable mausoleums (burial sites) for former African Presidents reflects typical examples of sacralisation of leaders. In many countries, museums, monuments, statues and portraits serve as symbols of both historic preservation and (re)construction. In spite of all these huge expenses, the continent continue to face poly-crises that include urban homelessness, poverty, inequality and unemployment. It has also been regarded a laboratory for most scientific investigations with very liitler to show for it on the ground. In light of the above, this session focuses on representation and materialisation of iconic architecture and invites papers that address various methodologies for studying the phenomenon with particular focus on challenges and opportunities.

We invite papers that use approaches cutting across disciplines and addressing any of the following questions but not to limited to: (a) What are the emerging methodological approaches in the study of ancient, modern and postmodern iconic architecture? (b) What are the different patterns and processes of representation and materialisation of iconic architectural products and spaces in the Global South? (c) What are challenges and opportunities for either the decolonisation or indigenous methodologies in the study of iconic architecture in the Global South? (d) How have the representation and materialisation of architecture in post-colonial Global South been influenced by the Western approaches? (e) To what extent has the representation and appropriation of architecture and spaces during colonial period influenced the post-colonial patterns and processes? (f) To what extent have the ancient and vernacular architecture been embedded into the contemporary designs? (g) How have the iconic architectural discourses in Zimbabwe been constructed and disseminated? (h) What is the influence of the state and non-state in the appropriation and materialization of iconic architecture? (i) What have been the reactions of non-state actors on the various materialization and appropriation? (j) How has the media represented the different forms of architectural appropriation and spatial re-figuration? (k) What are the relations of power in terms of gender, ideological and political and the underlying processes of attaching identities and rights to materialization of urban architecture and spaces? (l) What are the contributions of feminist methodologies in coping with iconic architecture? (m) How has the different materialization of architectural products influenced identity formation at local and national level? (n) What are the ethical issues arising from studying iconic architecture? (o) What are the strategies for dealing with elites and institutions that manage iconic architecture such as state and religious museums and archives (gatekeepers, brokers, guardians, key informants and intermediaries) and their influence on knowledge (co)-production? (p) What are the differences and similarities between the representation and materialisation of iconic architecture in the Global North and South, and what are implications for research and heritage conservation management?