Ponte City-as-Archive of Loss

Research seminar of the Emotional Life of the City series hosted by LSE Cities

The Emotional Life of the City seminar series has been organised by Ed Charlton, British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow to support his research into Metropolitan Melancholia.

Unfortunately Laura Grace Ford is no longer able to present at our upcoming seminar. We hope to reschedule her presentation for some time early next year. However, the seminar will continue as planned.

Trashing Johannesburg: Ponte City-as-Archive of Loss

Speaker: Ed Charlton

Johannesburg is a stained city, socially as well as spatially. Not only has its history of violent racial exclusion left its filthy mark upon the place, but the material excesses accumulated as a result of this exploitation still dominate the built environment, albeit in a largely degraded form. As a city with global ambitions in mind, Johannesburg has laboured, nonetheless, to clean up both its reputation and the urban environment in recent years. Even so, the result has been an effective capitulation to many of the self-same sanitary, prohibitive impulses that deformed the city under apartheid. In this article, I explore the ways in which Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse’s published exhibition Ponte City (2014) responds to this recent attempt at decontamination. Without presuming to recover the everyday life thrown out, they find a type of archival form through which to contest, I suggest, the logic that otherwise permits the city to imagine its pristine urban space as somehow washed clean of its own grimy moral history.