POPULAR MONUMENTALITY: Cultural memories, subaltern knowledges and material practices in Cerro de Montevideo.

  • Eira Capelán Köhler

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis interrogates monumentality as a socio-territorial process in a popular urban territory. Recognising critiques against the archaic formalism of normative monuments - which frequently petrify single-sided and hegemonic world views - the research instead focuses on the practices underlying the making and remaking of social identities and popular knowledges in space. Introducing popular monumentality to the lexicon of architectural, memory and urban studies, the study focuses on practices of monumentality - rather than the product of monuments - as a relational interaction between materials, knowledges and meanings within a given territory. Intrinsically embedded in local concerns, spaces and struggles, popular monumentalities are unpacked in a peripheral territory where urban fragmentation has led to a bricolage of overlapping and sometimes competing identities. Empirical data for the study was collected in a marginalised and fragmented urban area in the periphery of the Uruguayan capital, known as Cerro de Montevideo. Using a combination of ethnographic and mapping methods, the research traces how practices of popular monumentality activate collective conceptions of the past and the present whilst adapting to socio-territorial change and transforming their contexts. Through four case studies of popular monumentalities of dissimilar scales, styles and histories, the thesis sheds light on how monumentality can recuperate cultural memories in subaltern communities and likewise prefigure imaginaries of the future which bridge identities amongst fragmented territories. The study brings together contemporary conceptions of urban politics, positions from critical architectural theory, and cultural memory studies advancements to shed new light on everyday practices of spatial commemoration in popular and fragmented urban territories. It is argued in the thesis that popular monumentalities act as adaptable and plural processes - rather than fixed representations - that recuperate episodes of the past and prefigure alternate futures. Applied in the context of Cerro, the approach demonstrates that popular monumentalities are consistently transforming in and transformative of the territory.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorIsabelle Doucet (Supervisor) & Leandro Minuchin (Supervisor)


  • Uruguay
  • Montevideo
  • Cerro de Montevideo
  • commemoration
  • monumentality
  • popular territories
  • architecture
  • memory
  • monuments

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