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Broken Cities

A Historical Sociology of Ruins

Martin Devecka

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A comparative study of cities that fell into ruin through human involvement.

We have been taught to think of ruins as historical artifacts, relegated to the past by a catastrophic event. Instead, Martin Devecka argues that we should see them as processes taking place over a long present. In Broken Cities, Devecka offers a wide-ranging comparative study of ruination, the process by which monuments, architectural sites, and urban centers decay into ruin over time. Weaving together four case studies—of classical Athens, late antique Rome, medieval Baghdad, and sixteenth-century Mexico City—Devecka…

A comparative study of cities that fell into ruin through human involvement.

We have been taught to think of ruins as historical artifacts, relegated to the past by a catastrophic event. Instead, Martin Devecka argues that we should see them as processes taking place over a long present. In Broken Cities, Devecka offers a wide-ranging comparative study of ruination, the process by which monuments, architectural sites, and urban centers decay into ruin over time. Weaving together four case studies—of classical Athens, late antique Rome, medieval Baghdad, and sixteenth-century Mexico City—Devecka shows that ruination is a complex social process largely contingent on changing imperial control rather than the result of immediate or natural events. Drawing on literature, legal texts, epigraphic evidence, and the narratives embodied in monuments and painting, Broken Cities is an expansive and nuanced study that holds great significance for the field of historiography.

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Broken Cities

Martin Devecka

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Reviews

Reviews

There is a large and diverse genre of works centered on ruins. Much of it is written in the Romantic tradition and focuses on classical and medieval ruins from the Renaissance to the Romantic era. Broken Cities takes the study of ruins in more creative conceptual directions across a greater geographical range.

Martin Devecka offers a rich, illuminating, and well-researched study of the complex sociological processes leading to the production of ruins.

A serious political critique that is also highly readable; Martin Devecka travels ruined cities down the millennia. Provocative, erudite, moving; a reminder to look around us at the ruins of the future as they are formed in the long present.

This engaging account of ruins and their uses amounts to a provocative and illuminating exposé of flawed assumptions at the heart of antiquarian studies. Broken Cities should prove to be as important for understanding present attitudes to the past as Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities has been for the history of nationalism.

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Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
184
ISBN
9781421438429
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Prologue
Chapter 1. Athens: Democracy, Oligarchy, and Ruins in Classical Greece
Chapter 2. Rome: Ruins and Empire in the Late Antique World
Chapter 3. Baghdad: Postclassical Ruins and the

Acknowledgments
Prologue
Chapter 1. Athens: Democracy, Oligarchy, and Ruins in Classical Greece
Chapter 2. Rome: Ruins and Empire in the Late Antique World
Chapter 3. Baghdad: Postclassical Ruins and the Islamic Cityscape
Chapter 4. Tenochtitlan: Preservationism and Its Failures in Early Modern Mexico
Epilogue
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Martin Devecka

Martin Devecka is an assistant professor of classical studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.