Coastal concrete: cumbersome heritage at the water’s edge

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This paper discusses the role, power and possibilities of the remains of the World War II bunkers along Europe’s Western coastline. I use them as a prism to ask core questions about European edgework, walls, ideas of defence and protection, and fortificationing – past and present. The Atlantic Wall – the extensive system of bunkers and fortifications constructed on the orders of Nazi Germany along the Western coastline of occupied Europe in 1942-44 – is the materialisation of an immense and extreme construction effort. Today these crumbling military structures constitute an undesired, transnational heritage ‘site’ of vast proportions, a string of concrete made to last forever yet increasingly giving in to the harsh surroundings some 75 years on. In Denmark alone, the thousands of bunkers constitute the largest construction project in the history of the nation. Although most often referred to in Denmark as the “German” bunkers, these concrete structures were mostly built by Danes, pointing to a need to disrupt and scrutinize too-neat ideological us/them categorisations and to explore difficult questions about ownership, rights and contemporary duties towards these important historical reminders. Today, they continue to dot the coastal landscape in various states of weathered disrepair. Their status and significance – materially, symbolically, emotionally – are unclear and ambiguous. At a point in time when Europe’s edges and ‘values’ are once again heavily disputed, thinking through the ruins of the Atlantic Wall, and minding the bunkers’ original function as a defence line for a particular European regime, will provoke questions about what it means to protect, bolster or ‘safeguard’ European edges and borders.
StatusUdgivet - 2020
BegivenhedAssociation of Critical Heritage Studies Biennial Conference: Futures - Online (hosted by University College London), London, Storbritannien
Varighed: 26 aug. 202030 aug. 2020


KonferenceAssociation of Critical Heritage Studies Biennial Conference: Futures
LokationOnline (hosted by University College London)

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