International Conference: “Urban Peripheries?” Emerging Cities in Europe’s South and East, 1850-1945

Organizers: Oliver Hochadel (Institució Milà i Fontanals, CSIC, Barcelona), Eszter Gantner and Heidi Hein-Kircher (Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe, Marburg, Germany).

September 26 & 27, 2016

Residència d’Investigadors
Carrer Hospital 64, 08001 Barcelona
 “Science and the city” has become a trending topic in recent historiography, both in history of science, technology and medicine (STM) as well as in Urban Studies. So far there has been a strong focus on the metropolis and their multifaceted scientific culture. Yet what about “peripheral cities” in Eastern and Southern Europe? Are they only smaller copies of London, Paris and Berlin? What is to be gained from studying the scientific culture of “non-metropolitan” cities? So far these cities have been described as being on the receiving end. Knowledge in STM, blue prints for scientific institutions, urban models and other practices were created and tested in the metropolis and then passed on. This postulates a transfer from the center to the periphery and hence a clear epistemological hierarchy.

This conference would like to question this assumption. Our methodological point of departure is that cities in Southern and Eastern Europe (our specific geographic focus) were part of an “inter-urban matrix” (N. Wood). Through the daily press, but also through other channels such as scholarly networks and professional contacts people were quite conscious of what was happening elsewhere in Europe. There are virtually no studies on the connections between peripheral cities, the exchange of knowledge and expertise and the formation of networks and collaborations. This workshop intends to open new perspectives on the exchanges in the areas of science, technology, medicine and urban planning between “urban peripheries” such as Barcelona, Budapest, Prague or Zagreb?

This workshop will focus on the assumed specificities of the urbanization in the South and East of Europe, characterised by different forms and modes of knowledge transfer. Peripheral – or emerging – cities understood that the experience of similar cities was much more helpful in solving their concrete problems than much of the metropolitan model. Therefore this workshop will try to reconstruct the mechanisms and strategies behind of choosing certain “best practices”, i.e. urban models that serve smaller cities. Therefore special attention might be paid to fields such as urban planning, sewage systems and public health, which played a crucial role in the modernisation of many “peripheral” cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This search for practical models will thus help to elucidate the networks between these urban spaces.

This conference will try and unveil the directions and channels through which knowledge was created and disseminated in these interurban networks. Conferences, research trips, lectures, private visits and correspondence would have to be investigated. The aim would be to render these transnational communities visible again, not least by bringing their practices and networks back to a tangible space: the city.





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