This essay peers through the peephole of the word unit to reveal the word’s journey across multiple fields from the mid-nineteenth century through the present. A keyword hidden in plain sight, unit links science and the world of measurement to society (family units), politics (political units), architecture (housing units), cities (neighborhood units), and, more recently, big data, the carceral state (crime units), and managerial oversight.
Unit: A Semantic and Architectural History
Andrew M. Shanken is an architectural historian in the Department of Architecture and American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He publishes on architecture and consumer culture, memorialization, expositions, preservation history, and imagery in urban planning.
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Andrew M. Shanken; Unit: A Semantic and Architectural History. Representations 1 August 2018; 143 (1): 91–117. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/rep.2018.143.1.91
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