The interest in the social production of cultural space grows out of the 1990s “spatial turn” and accompanying work on cultural “mobilities,” advanced by more recent work in globalization and memory studies. The coordinators understood “cultural space” to denote culturally-defined zones, physical or virtual, geographical or imagined, that are produced, sustained, monitored and contested by human practices. Cultural space is a dynamic product of cultural activity and discourse, as well as a framework for the evolution and transmission of beliefs, behaviors, memories, and values. Since cultural space is such a capacious construct, however, the program participants worked together to map both its enormous reach and its necessary limits.
Relevant project topics included:
SITES: Physical markers of cultural memory, such as UNESCO World Heritage sites, crisscrossed by the politics of preservation, restoration, and reclamation; spaces set apart, such as prisons and labor camps, environmental disaster areas and zones of ecological particularity; overlapping and contested areas including frontiers, borderlands, and war zones.
SYSTEMS: Cultural networks and institutions such as economic markets, immigration policies, kinship networks, and imperial bureaucracies. The spaces these systems produce might take the form of diaspora communities, sovereign nations, legal systems, international organizations, or virtual worlds.
PRACTICES: Generating, transmitting, and transforming cultural space via imperial conquest and expansion, modernization, war and terrorism, globalization and mass media. On a micro level, mechanisms relevant to this theme might include local commemorative practices, cartographical representations, the space of private life, and virtual community venues such as blogs.
The work in the Fellows Seminar was closely connected to a 4-year Mellon Foundation grant on interdisciplinary recontextualization of urban studies, co-coordinated across all of the Harvard schools by Professors Blau and Buckler. This Mellon project includes a major research portal on Berlin and Moscow, opening out to all post-socialist cities across Eurasia. The consideration of Eurasian cultural space, however, was by no means be limited to urban environments.