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Full Access Manfredo Tafuri, Fredric Jameson and the Contestations of Political Memory

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Manfredo Tafuri, Fredric Jameson and the Contestations of Political Memory

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Abstract The Italian architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri (1935–94) developed a distinctive Marxist approach of critical analysis, which has prompted extensive responses. The reception of his work in the United States in the 1970s and 80s – the intervention of Fredric Jameson, especially – forms an important moment of historiographical mutation, in which the status of Tafuri’s politics holds an intriguing place: it was eviscerated in the very act of its affirmation. At stake is not simply the problems attending the transatlantic migration of a body of architectural theory, but also a question lying at the heart of Tafuri’s analysis: the problems of achieving social reforms, above all, in ‘working-class housing’. The difficulties encountered by projects to improve accommodation – from Weimar Germany and Red Vienna in the 1920s to the programmes of postwar Italy – provide the concrete material for Tafuri’s analysis while remaining a significant blind-spot within most of the commentary. Tafuri is here reappraised in the light of the political debates over the ‘neorealist architecture’ of the 1950s and the reform-policies of the Italian centre-Left in the early 1960s. Proceeding as if this formative moment never happened, Tafuri’s critics often engage in debates which confuse his critique of the building projects with political despair, and which appeal to enclave-building despite Tafuri’s explicit questioning of such strategies.

Affiliations: 1: University of Leeds g.a.day@leeds.ac.uk

Abstract The Italian architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri (1935–94) developed a distinctive Marxist approach of critical analysis, which has prompted extensive responses. The reception of his work in the United States in the 1970s and 80s – the intervention of Fredric Jameson, especially – forms an important moment of historiographical mutation, in which the status of Tafuri’s politics holds an intriguing place: it was eviscerated in the very act of its affirmation. At stake is not simply the problems attending the transatlantic migration of a body of architectural theory, but also a question lying at the heart of Tafuri’s analysis: the problems of achieving social reforms, above all, in ‘working-class housing’. The difficulties encountered by projects to improve accommodation – from Weimar Germany and Red Vienna in the 1920s to the programmes of postwar Italy – provide the concrete material for Tafuri’s analysis while remaining a significant blind-spot within most of the commentary. Tafuri is here reappraised in the light of the political debates over the ‘neorealist architecture’ of the 1950s and the reform-policies of the Italian centre-Left in the early 1960s. Proceeding as if this formative moment never happened, Tafuri’s critics often engage in debates which confuse his critique of the building projects with political despair, and which appeal to enclave-building despite Tafuri’s explicit questioning of such strategies.

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2016-12-06

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