Abstract

For millennia, mud and its geologic analogues have bound together our media, urban, architectural, and environmental histories. Some of the first writing surfaces, clay and stone, were the same materials used to construct ancient city walls and buildings, whose facades also frequently served as substrates for written texts. The formal properties of those scripts—the shapes they took on their clay or, eventually, parchment and paper foundations—were also in some cases reflected in urban form: how the city molded itself from the materials of the landscape. And those written documents have always been central to our cities’ operation: their trade, accountancy, governance, and culture. In examining the place of mud in the Kulturetechniken of city-making and record-keeping, we see that urban and administrative culture are both utterly dependent on geological resources. Aggregating these often separate historical lineages has the potential to enrich the disparate disciplinary knowledges that are bound together here, but there’s more at stake than historiography. These public squares, city walls, building facades, urban archives, and sandy stores where earthen materials and writing intersect are the humble city sites where politics play out at myriad scales—where the entanglement of global and local political-economic forces enter people’s lives through the material, the geological, and the aesthetic.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1751-7435
Print ISSN
1743-2197
Pages
pp. 310-331
Launched on MUSE
2016-12-23
Open Access
No
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