I came across MONU during my early doctoral investigations on critical, non-academic publications looking into this arguably poorly unknown, plural and contested entity that is the city. MONU, does not actually qualify as a non-academic outlet, for the breadth and depth of the analysis it offers, but still provides critical insights on the ways urban forms are shaped by socioeconomic, institutional and political forces without falling in the trap of being highly jargoning, inaccessible or theoretical. It speaks to a wide audience interested in urban policy, activism, architecture, social movements, all from a multidisciplinary lens.
MONU mixes text of different textures with images, collages and various forms of writing, including short and long city stories, mixed up with photographic journeys and conversations with architects, artists and urbanists. By treating its form and its content as equally important, MONU de facto invites the reader to think about socio-political processes and their material manifestation simultaneously. By inviting contributors coming from critical yet distinct disciplinary fields, it forces us to see the city with multiple eyes all the way through. For its 25th edition, the magazine focused on Independent Urbanism as a unifying theme to reflect upon the consequence and meaning of independence in the context of post-sovietic, post-apartheid, post-conflict, post-colonial cities. All these post, for they constitute historical breaking points, obviously raise questions of reconstruction and identity formation, alongside and simultaneous to issues of continuity, memory, and constant negotiation between cities’ past, present and future. MONU Independent Urbanism takes us through all these issues by bringing together city stories from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia as well as Ireland, shedding light on phenomenon and places that are often overlooked by dominant urban discourses, which, be that in the news or in academia, often focus stories from the so called Global Cities of the West and rising Asian countries.
MONU takes us through a journey across forgotten parts of Europe, traversing the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Baltic States, where cities are trying to reinvent themselves after their freshly acquired “independence” from the soviet union; and after years of civil war for some of them (in Kosovo, Serbia and Moldova); it sheds lights on Nigerian and South African cities struggles with modernist visions of the future and the endemic socio-economic and political problems inherited from their colonial past; it explores the civic and grassroots movements that are reshaping the face of Belfast after years of religious conflicts; and finally, it invites us to consider the true meaning of independence and the potential of a more vocal urbanism in Taiwan - a journey I found eye opening, fascinating, and extremely inspiring.