Research Group

Historical Urban and Spatial Research

The Research Group is positioned at the intersection of general contemporary history as well as urban, planning and architectural history. It focuses on maps in various forms as tools of analysis and visualisation. Projects in the field of urban and urbanisation history, which were started under the leadership of Christoph Bernhardt, are currently being continued. These include the integrated analysis of social and planning history processes in both German states in their Western and East Central European contexts as well as the history of interdependence during the global Cold War.

The temporal extension to the transformation period and the inclusion of digital history and participatory, co-creative citizen science approaches form a point of overlap with new topics of the research group headed by Kerstin Brückweh and at the same time a connection with the research infrastructure group "Digital History/Scientific Collections". A new focus for the Research Group is the history of housing and land ownership, which places land as a contested, scarce resource at the centre of attention. In addition, various living spaces and forms of housing form the centre of interest. The main focus here is on the detached house in the suburbs, the villa neighbourhood in the long 20th century, but also the history of the large housing estate. In this way, different social spaces and their effects on the inequality of society are analysed. Further projects are currently being developed under the heading "Work on existing buildings: care/repair and scarce resources relating to building and housing in the past and present".

Ongoing Projects

The project explores entanglements of Afro-Asian actors during the Cold War, focusing on persons, practices and their everyday sites of interaction. Recent research has taken note of voices from Africa and Asia, yet little is known about their interconnections. Overlooking these has given us a one-sided picture of the Cold War in which the global South only appears as a theatre of bloc politics. CRAFTE proposes to fill this gap by critically engaging with the lived world(s) of Afro-Asian connections, to show how these were embedded in, but also, how they shaped the global Cold War. more

The bridge project "Disruption and spatial development: concepts on spatio-temporal dynamics, modes of perception and strategies of action" continues the conceptual elaboration of the disruption heuristic, uses it to interpret empirical findings in the lead project research (and beyond) and, conversely, incorporates suggestions from the empirical research of the lead projects into the further conceptual development. more

Cities affected by the Second World War had to redefine their urban self-image and undertake a revision of their building stock in the face of the impending or real bombing catastrophe. Maps and mapping played a special role in this. The research network "Mapping and Transforming. Interdisciplinary Access to City Maps as a Visual Medium of Urban Transformation in Central and Eastern Europe, 1939-1949" explores functions of city maps in transformation processes for selected cities in Central and Eastern Europe in interdisciplinary cooperation, from the perspective of the humanities and engineering sciences, social geography as well as computer science. The sub-project at the IRS combines heterogeneous and little-researched data sets, maps and archival material to investigate the transformation of selected cities in East Germany and communist Poland. more

“Authenticity” as the purportedly “original”, “pure”, or “true” character of persons, objects or practices has become a major public discourse, a powerful driver of heritage debates and cultural change and a key research issue in the humanities. From theatre and museums studies to heritage conservation and the historical sciences scholars dispute the ways in which authenticity indicates and triggers cultural change in modern societies. While there is a broad consensus among constructivist approaches that historical authenticity was and is always socially and culturally produced, and that there is no such thing as “the pure” or “the original” in terms of materiality, the case of built heritage seems to challenge this approach. Here strong academic and public controversies have emerged on the role and impact of materiality for authenticity. This project is the first to systematically analyse patterns of such discourses in a transnational historiographical perspective. more