EAUH Conference 2018


Session M18. Writing the Resilience of Port Cities (1800-2000)

Coordinators: Carola Hein (, Paul Van De Laar (

Recent studies in cultural port history have shown the importance of the waterfront – the land based maritime districts - in shaping urban identities and producing port cultures (see Beaven, Belle and James, 2016). The waterfront, as a productive liminal space and entrance to the city, exemplifies the major economic, spatial, social and cultural transformations of ports, their hinterlands, and their coastal zones. From a prestigious space, the waterfront developed into an industrialist’ place of “otherness”, in need of social and moral reform. The nineteenth century waterfront, however, is more than a microcosm or intercultural contact zone, it represents also the power of empire, colonization and globalization as a central hub of trade, migration and innovation. The post-war port expansion witnessed the development of global transshipment areas spatially dislocated from the city; from the oil based industrial development areas in the 1950 and 1960s to the container terminals since the 1970s. Ports turned either into mega transportation hubs or lost their pre-war position and global standing. The old waterfront turned into a postmodern gentrified place of leisure and cultural heritage. This urban regeneration, however, affirmed “a distinction between the waterfront and the city, which had never previously existed” (Porfyriou, Sepe, 2016; p. 3).
The repeated adaptations of port cities to economic, ecological, environmental and cultural and political changes tell us a lot about the resilience of port cities. Port cityscapes are, therefore, ideal places for studying the major trends of urban systems in the modern and contemporary period. This session focusses on how port cities’ resilience has been constructed in port narratives, as rhetorical means for legitimizing government actions or in service of local business networks. The organizers want to invite scholars from around the globe to present papers on port narratives which deal with the complexities of the relationship between the port, the city and its citizens. Papers may include reflections on:
- How narratives of “moral economies”, progress, port competition, modernism, efficiency etc. have fostered planning practices since 1800;
- How narratives of globalization, cosmopolitism and diversity have shaped an economic motivated kind of local tolerance;
- How narratives of waterfront regeneration has stimulated the global distribution of “copy paste” architecture and urban branding;
- How narratives of local culture, as reproduced in diverse cultural productions (film, literature, oral history, tangible heritage etc. are used as part of a culture of resilience and rebranding of port cities.
Keywords: port cities; port cultures; architecture; waterfront regeneration; resilience; planning