Urban research

A large body of texts shaped the townscapes of the Holy Roman Empire and other European regions. Besides impermanent writings, it also included engravings on various solid materials, which inscribed condensed knowledge directly into the urban space. The project ‘The Written Town. The Knowledge of Urban Inscriptions in Early Modern Times’ focuses on the function of such engravings as well as the historicity of their content. How does the store of knowledge that is bound to objects constitute truth; how does it generate meaning? The background of the projects is the idea of towns and cities as text and of urban inscriptions as a form of cultural meaningfulness. Dr Teresa Schröder-Stapper’s (Department of History) project, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), focuses on the regulatory function of inscriptions located in time and space in a seemingly confusing town. It seeks to decipher the internal and external reference system of urban inscriptions – their time-bound, urban code. To do so, the project combines multiple approaches from the field of cultural studies. In applying ideas of urban semiotics to a historical research object and combining it with practice theory, the project enters uncharted waters.

Nina Szidat’s (Department of History/Social and Economic History) dissertation project, ‘An „active promotion of the European ideal“? References to Europe in British-German town twinning’ (supervised by Professor Ute Schneider) examines the significance of such relationships in the dynamic space where political, economical and diplomatic interests overlap, using selected partnerships between West German and British towns as case studies. Most scholarship in contemporary history focuses on Europe as a network of institutions. Nina Szidat’s project departs from that narrative to study Europe as it is experienced by those who live in it. Since 1955, the Council of Europe has awarded the Europe Prize to towns and cities that have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the European ideal. The establishment and maintenance of town partnerships has always been an important aspect of that ideal. Town partnerships shine a light on the interrelations between European institutions and municipal interests. To incorporate the potential foreign-policy dimension of town partnerships into the project, Szidat also provides a comparative study of cases in which East German towns are twinned with British ones. Based on the observation that the selection of twin towns and the format of the resulting partnerships tends to unveil a certain inherent logic of the places involved, the project explores the negotiation processes taking place between the local, regional, national and international level.