Alternative Narratives on Capital Cities, 19th to 21st centuries

Nari Shelekpayev's picture
October 5, 2017
Subject Fields: 
Cultural History / Studies, Literature, Nationalism History / Studies, Oral History, Urban History / Studies

The making of capital cities has involved not only giving shape and material existence to buildings, monuments and avenues, but also creating images, narratives and representations of their statehood. As loci of political power, capital cities provide an advantageous framework for analyzing how symbolic meanings, cultural values and political purposes may be expressed, contested or negotiated within the space of a city. It is not uncommon that official discourses, fabricated and promoted by the state authorities, hegemonize representations of capital cities and impose a particular vision of national identity. However, the attribution of meanings to capital cities and the elaboration of imaginaries about them has never been solely a top-down process, neither was it restricted to the visions promoted by authorities or official media. From elitist dreams, dressed into utopian designs, capital cities evolved into urbanities on their own, while their monuments and their strong symbolic content continue to inspire a myriad of alternative narratives. As dynamic urban spaces, capital cities are experienced and interpreted in multiple ways, allowing for contradictory positions and counter discourses to be voiced. As a result, official discourses and subjective expressions may intertwine or clash to challenge the symbolic order, which is guaranteed and maintained by the very existence of capital cities.

This session invites scholars from various disciplines, including but not limited to urban history and urban planning, social and cultural anthropology, architectural history, geography, political sciences, cultural and media studies to present proposals focused on the analysis of capital cities in varied historical and social contexts, from the 19th to the 21st centuries. Papers dealing with ‘beyond-the-state’ narratives, critical or deviant postures of official discourses, and/or adopting a comparative perspective on capital cities across the globe are particularly welcome. The preference will be given to works based on original case studies and exploring unpublished materials, which will give new meanings to ‘traditional’ sources or pursue rather unexplored tracks from sources such as advertising, artworks, digital media, movies, music or oral testimonials. The abstracts (300 words maximum) should be submitted to the EAUH site electronically ( before October 5, 2017

Contact Info: 

Coordinators: Maria Fernanda Derntl (, Nari Shelekpayev (

Contact Email: