Architecture as metaphor for the state

Ross reads the “make-shift architecture” of Persia as a metaphor for political illegitimacy and governmental impermanence.

Within German geopolitical discourse, German Kulturboden is marked by the presence of buildings made of stone (not wood), built to stand the test of time. The presence of stone and brick buildings in Eastern Europe, for example, was hailed as a certain sign that this Kulturboden belonged to the Germans, not the Slavs (who were said to only build makeshift structures out of wood). It is therefore significant that Ross appeals to just such an architectural discourse in his attempts to delegitimize the Persian state.

“The Persian, as we know, does not build for duration and perpetuity. The typical houses are simply made of ‘filth’ [Dreck]. One just mixes water with dirt in the spot where one wants to build, adds some straw, and builds the walls with this provisional mixture”.


“But they don’t know how to build for durability, and so all of the historic examples of Persian architecture are deteriorating hopelessly”. (111)

Together with depictions of Persian leadership as degenerate (see: Delegitimizing the Shah), Ross employs the trope of architectural incompetence to depict a Persian state—and perhaps even a Persian culture—as impermanent: Like the decaying castle, “Persia today is a political structure in the process of disintegrating…” (113)

Kristin Kopp

Colin Ross. In den Palästen des Königs der Könige. In: Der Weg nach Osten: Reise durch Rußland, Ukraine, Transkaukasien, Persien, Buchara und Turkestan. 1. Aufl. Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus; 1923; 108-113.

Topic: Kulturboden
Case: Geopolitics

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