Among the Ruins

Eleni Spiliotes
Tuesday 3 January 2023

Berman, Michael. New Internationalist (December 1987).

In this article, philosopher Marshall Berman discusses urban blight, not from a scholarly perspective, but from a personal one. He reflects on returning to the ruins of his childhood neighborhood in the South Bronx, New York. The confluence of many factors including gentrification, racial discrimination, white flight, and neglect from the local government, led to urban decay, culminating in the burning of the South Bronx throughout the 1970s. Berman’s poignant account of the neighborhood is interspersed with musings on the loss of memory, heritage and sense of place caused by the destruction. It is in this article that the term urbicide is first used, making it the origin of an entire lineage of academic discourse. Berman’s invention of this term is so important because it reconceptualized the destruction of a city as a death, highlighting the processes of victimization and alienation that such a loss initiates for those who called it home. Berman’s discussion of the complexities of reconstruction after urbicide, a crime that is at once insidious and uncontainable, and architectural and psychological, constructs an alternative narrative of conflict that requires its own peacebuilding frameworks. 


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