The End of Tradition?

The End of Tradition?

The End of Tradition?

The End of Tradition?


Rooted in real world observations, this book questions the concept of tradition - whether contemporary globalization will prove its demise or whether there is a process of simultaneous ending and renewing.In his introduction, Nezar Alsayyad discusses the meaning of the word 'tradition' and the current debates about the 'end of tradition'. Thereafter the book is divided into three parts. The three chapters in part I explore the inextricable link between 'tradition' and 'modern', revealing the geopolitical implications of this link. Part II looks at tradition as aprocess of invention and here the three chapters are all concerned with the making of landscapes and landscape myths, showing how the spectacle of history can be aestheticized and naturalized. Finally, Part III shows how traditionis a regime, programmed and policed and how it has been deployed, resisted, and reworked through hegemonic struggles that seek to create both built environments and citizen-subjects.


Since the beginning of history, human beings have been fascinated with endings - the end of their lives, the end of seasons, and the end of the world. In a sense, the idea of endings is as old as human history. This book, however, is not about endings. Instead, its starting point is a healthy scepticism with the utility of the notion of endings. In fact, for those of us who study the built environment, endings are also coupled with beginnings, and destruction (creative or otherwise) is sometimes a precondition or prerequisite to construction or reconstruction.

My opportunity to take on the theme of endings came up when I was writing the Call for Papers for the IASTE 2000 conference, which was held in Trani, Italy, in a beautiful medieval fort on the Adriatic Sea. The previous IASTE conference, held in Cairo two years earlier, had dealt with the theme, 'Consuming Traditions and Manufacturing of Heritage', and later published as a book bearing the same title. It became clear during that conference, and in the process of putting a book together from it, that attention must be paid to cycles of life and death as they relate to tradition in the built environment. Additionally, my own interest in endings led me to structure the IASTE 2000 conference around three broad themes: 'Deterritorialization and Traditions', 'Globalization and Place', and 'Tradition as a Call to Arms'.

In general, the conference was concerned with a specific historical moment, one in which an all-consuming capitalism seemed to be levelling differences and particularities, but in which a resurgence of localisms, populisms, and fundamentalisms was simultaneously occurring. It was this paradoxical simultaneity which necessitated our question: 'The End of Tradition?' The papers at the conference showed how globalization unsettled the conventional connection between place and culture. While some saw these dislocations as new traditions in and of themselves, others argued that the spatial basis of tradition is still firmly grounded. Similarly, many of the conference papers demonstrated how the fervent revival of some place-based traditions marked the urban landscapes of much of the world at the end of the millennium. From the ravages of the Balkans, Afghanistan and Palestine, and, more recently, Iraq, to the nitty-gritty neighbourhood battles of post-industrial First World cities, the politics of difference were playing havoc with cities, nations, and regions.

Subsequently, the events of September 11, 2001 made this point very clear, and necessitated turning these intellectual debates into a book. While no one can provide reasonable justification for the events of 9/11, we must all labour to understand their nature and repercussions. In doing so, we should refuse to read the attack on the World Trade Center as a meaningful protest against long-established traditions of urbanism, against globalization, or against America's role in it. The individuals who perpetrated this atrocity harbour a fundamental ignorance of America and of the global landscape within which they exist. Their intolerance and fanatical belief in a singular invented truth remains

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