Where Was the Wall Then? Where Is It Now?

James Throgmorton. 2004. Planning Theory & Practice 5, 3 (September): 349-365.

This article investigates the power of ‘walls’ to constrain thought and silence diverse voices of reason within planning. Using die Mauer (The Berlin Wall) as a linking metaphor, this article juxtaposes mid-1950s planning in a spatially- and ideologically-divided Berlin (Germany) against Harland Bartholomew’s mid-1950s planning in a racially-divided Louisville, Kentucky (USA). It then juxtaposes the latter against a mid-1950s narrative about efforts to desegregate housing in Louisville. This juxtaposition reveals that some people in Louisville used the Cold War divide between East and West to reinforce the long-standing racial divide between blacks and whites. Moreover, it reveals that, by deferring to Cold War-related racial politics that could not be questioned, Bartholomew’s technical approach to planning silenced other voices of reason and thereby reflected and reproduced the race-inflected politics of the Cold War divide. The article concludes by briefly considering what Bartholomew might have done differently in the context and by exploring what this juxtaposition of stories implies for planning in the context of the contemporary ‘war against terrorists’.

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