Manchester’s Post-punk Heritage: Mobilising and Contesting Transcultural Memory in the Context of Urban Regeneration
Keywords:Manchester, urban reconstruction, cultural memory, transcultural memory, post-punk, Carol Morley
Urban memories are remediated and mobilised by different - and often conflicting - stakeholders, representing the heritage industry, municipal city branding campaigns or anti-gentrification struggles. Post-punk ‘retromania’ (Reynolds 2011) coincided with the culture-led regeneration of former industrial cities in the Northwest of England, relaunching the cities as creative clusters (Cohen 2007, Bottà 2009, Roberts & Cohen 2014, Roberts 2014). Drawing on my case study of the memory cultures evolving around Manchester‘s post-punk era (Brunow 2015), this article shows how narratives and images travel through urban space. Looking at contemporary politics of city branding, it examines the power relations involved in adapting (white homosocial) post-punk memories into the self-fashioning of Manchester as a creative city. Situated at the interface of memory studies and film studies, this article offers an anti-essentialist approach to the notion of ‘transcultural memory’. Examining the power relations involved in the construction of audiovisual memories, this article argues that subcultural or popular memories are not emancipatory per se, but can easily tie into neoliberal politics. Moreover, there has been a tendency to sideline or overlook feminist and queer as well as Black and Asian British contributions to post-punk culture. Only partially have such marginalised narratives been observed so far, for instance in Carol Morley’s documentary The Alcohol Years (2000) or by the Manchester Digital Music Archive. The article illustrates how different stakeholders invest in subcultural histories, sustaining or contesting hegemonic power relations within memory culture. While being remediated within various transmedia contexts, Manchester’s postpunk memories have been sanitised, fabricating consensus instead of celebrating difference.
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