Prosthetic Nostalgia: History and Memory in “Art Deco Napier”


  • Paul Moon



The New Zealand city of Napier is a major international destination for visitors interested in art deco architecture and the 1930s era. This work explores how nostalgia for this period in Napier’s history has evolved, and subsequently been commodified as part of the city’s heritage. The consequence of this commodification is the increasing standardisation of nostalgic evocations of 1930s Napier, which now serve as prescriptive guidelines for visitors to the city. As a corollary of this, the notion of prosthetic nostalgia is examined. This is a nostalgic longing for a period or place that the individual experiencing it has no personal memory of, yet which has the same effect as nostalgic memories derived from actual experience. Although dismissed as imaginative and inaccurate forms of history, nostalgia generally warrants attention for the extent to which it shapes popular perceptions of the past, and how it interacts both with commercial imperatives and sociological forces.


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