Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Rome, Italy
Sapienza University of Rome
25-27 June 2014

On behalf of the Organizing Committee and the International Advisory Board, we are pleased to announce the Call for Papers for the Ninth International Conference on the Arts in Society and the Call for Submissions to The Arts Journal Collection. 

The 2014 Arts in Society Conference will be held in Rome, Italy from the 25-27 June at Sapienza University of Rome. Proposals for paper presentations, poster sessions, workshops, roundtables, or colloquia are invited to the conference, addressing the arts through one of the following themes:

Theme 1: Arts Education
Theme 2: Arts Theory and History 
Theme 3: New Media, Technology, and the Arts
Theme 4: Social, Political, and Community Agendas in the Arts
Theme 5: The Lives of Art

Presenters also have the option to submit completed papers to one of the fully peer-reviewed journals in The Arts Collection. If you are unable to attend the conference, you may still join the community and submit your article for peer review and possible publication, upload an online presentation, and enjoy subscriber access to the journal.

Proposals are reviewed on rolling deadlines. The final submission deadline for in-person presentations is 25 May 2014 (title and short abstract). Proposals submitted after this day will be accommodated in non-themed sessions at the conference or are eligible for community membership registrations (no attendance at conference required with community membership presentations).

For more information and to submit a proposal visit:


Sponsored by: The Arts in Society knowledge community / Common Ground Publishing

Monday, February 24, 2014

CfP: Diversity in the City: Shifting realities and ways forward

International conference, Centre for Geographical Studies, IGOT, University of Lisbon, 26-27th June, 2014

Keynote speakers:
- Professor Richard Alba, CUNY Graduate Center, New York, USA
- Professor Deborah Phillips, University of Oxford, UK
- Professor Thomas Maloutas, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece
- Dr Richard Gale, University of Cardiff, UK
- Dr Venetia Evergetti, University of Surrey, UK

In the context of elevated levels of global migration, urban populations have become increasingly diverse along the lines of ethnicity, culture, religion, and origin. Processes of globalisation have not only meant that traditional reception centres have become more diverse, but that migrants have also settled in new destinations with no prior experience of diversity. As cities are generally the main recipients of international migrants, they have been the locus of social and spatial change and have often taken the lead on integration on the ground. Different ways of conceptualising urban diversity and migrant insertion in the city have spanned different social, political and theoretical perspectives, but in the context of changing realties they face the need to reflexively question themselves.

In the light of recent shifts, due to the economic crisis, new migration patterns, policy changes or otherwise, we are concerned with the challenges that cities face in the accommodation of diversity across sectors from the housing and labour market to the arts. We wish to see these developments and transformations in the city not only from the viewpoint of demography, policy and urban planning but also focussing on migrant groups’ experiences, histories, agency and internal diversity.

We welcome academics, PhD students and policy practitioners from a wide range of disciplines to submit an abstract on one of the following themes.

M1 - Urban segregation, residential mobility and the housing market

M2 - Socio-spatial Integration (across domains)

M3 - Urban transformations and diversity at the local level

M4 - Geographies of encounter, interaction and spatial practices

M5 – Globalization, transnational practices and everyday life

M6 - Religious and faith communities

M7 - Migrants histories and ontologies (memory and diaspora; affect and exclusion)

M8 - Migrants and Art (e.g. youth programmes as instruments for integration; the marketing of migrant cultures for regeneration; the presence or absence of migrants in the erudite arts; etc.).

M9 - Public Policy, urban planning and migrant populations

M10 - The right to the city (experimental spaces of insertion; gentrification; etc.)

M11 - Welfare and service provision

M12 – New research methods and approaches

Submission of abstracts:
Abstracts of a maximum of 300 words should be sent by the 5th March 2014 to
Acceptance decisions will be communicated by the 15th March 2014.

Presentations at the conference:
Presentations will be grouped by themes in parallel sessions. Presentations should last a maximum of 20 minutes, with an additional 10 minutes set for discussion.

Conference publications:
It will not be required of participants with accepted abstracts to send a written paper. With academic life becoming incessantly demanding, we prefer to lighten the workload and instead stimulate rich and open discussions. For those who wish to send a written paper, we will make it available to conference participants. Following the conference, we will invite selected authors to submit a paper based on their presentation for publication in an edited volume.

There is no conference registration fee, but travel and accommodation expenses should be covered by the participants.
For further information: please contact Jennifer McGarrigle

Monday, February 17, 2014

New Project: Second World Urbanity

"Second World Urbanity: Between Capitalist and Communist Utopias" ( ) is a scholarly project that explores the history of conceiving, building, importing, and inhabiting socialist cities past and present from Cuba to Yugoslavia and Russia to China. Initiated by historians Steven Harris and Daria Bocharnikova this project brings together researchers from a variety of disciplines to reflect on the specificity of urban design and its uses in the Second World. Our goal is to shatter a common image of the socialist cityscape as necessarily dull and grey, and offer a revised understanding of its limitations and achievements. The project is envisioned as a series of informal conversations, virtual and offline meetings, and book discussions.

In 2014-2015, the Second World Urbanity project will feature three two-day conferences. 

The first will be held at the Mortara Center for International Studies at Georgetown University ( in Washington, DC on April 11-12, 2014. It will focus on "visions and foundations" in the history of socialist cities’ urban planning, architectural theories, and construction. 

The second conference will be held at the Institute of Art History, Estonian Academy of Arts ( in Tallinn, October 10-12, 2014. Through the themes of "circulation, translation, and transition," we will examine how urban planning ideas and architectural concepts circulated across spatial and temporal boundaries within the Second World, as well as across the Iron Curtain and into the global South and back again. 

The third conference will be held at the Department of History of the Higher School of Economics ( in St. Petersburg in February 2015 (specific dates still to be determined). Its themes will be "consumption, representation, and the everyday" in the socialist city with a particular focus on how urban residents transformed socialist architecture and urban planning into lived spaces, and how artists and writers participated in the construction and representation of the socialist city.


The Seventh Biennial Conference of the Urban History Association (UHA)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
October 9-12, 2014

The Urban History Association Program Committee seeks submissions for sessions on all aspects of urban, suburban, and metropolitan history. We welcome proposals for panels, roundtable discussions, and individual papers, and are receptive to alternative session formats that foster audience participation in the proceedings.

The Program Committee is pleased to announce that the University of Pennsylvania will serve as the local host for this year's conference, which will be held on October 9-12, 2014.

We particularly encourage papers that explore the theme of Metropolitics, although submissions are not restricted to the conference theme. The year 2014 marks the beginning of a series of fiftieth anniversaries of major political events impacting cities, including the Civil Rights Act, the War on Poverty, the founding of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Voting Rights Act, the Hart-Celler Immigration Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Program Committee therefore invites papers that reflect broadly on the relationship between the state and local actors. We also seek contributions that make global comparisons and explore metropolitan politics in Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Africa. Sessions on ancient and pre-modern as well as modern periods are welcome. Graduate student submissions are encouraged. Graduate student papers presented at the conference will be eligible for the UHA-SAGE Graduate Student Paper Prize.

We prefer complete panels but individual papers will be considered. Please designate a single person to serve as a contact for all complete panels. For traditional panels, include a brief explanation of the overall theme, a one-page abstract of each paper, and a one- or two-page c.v. for each participant. Roundtable proposals should also designate a contact person and submit a one-page theme synopsis and a one or two page c.v. for each presenter. Proposals involving alternative formats should include a brief description of how the session will be structured. All those submitting individual papers should include a one-page abstract and a one or two page c.v. E-mail submissions by March 1, 2014 to Andrew K. Sandoval Strausz at and Victoria Wolcott

Submissions should be included in attachments as Word or PDF documents.

As part of the conference the UHA will organize workshops for graduate students writing dissertations in urban and suburban history. Students who have written a prospectus and who wish to participate in a workshop should apply with a two to four page letter of interest by

March 1, 2014 to

CfP: EASA Panel pARTiCI[TY]pate! (Tallinn, 31 Jul-3 Aug 14)

Tallinn, July 31 - August 3, 2014
Deadline: Feb 27, 2014

Collaborative place-making between art, qualitative research and  politics

Short Abstract
Focusing on urban development, the panel discusses projects of collaborative place-making on the intersection of art, research and politics which initiate the participatory involvement of local inhabitants. How do these projects navigate the diverging interests between the stakeholders involved?

Long Abstract
Since its emergence in the late 1960s, "participation" has become a key concept in various fields of social action and cultural production. Our panel focuses on urban development as a field of action, where participatory strategies have gained particular popularity and are employed today on a regular basis - often through collaborations of stakeholders as diverse as public administrations, urban activists, artists, scientists, and local inhabitants.
Critical reflections on the following issues of these prominent, yet ambivalent collaborations between art, qualitative research and politics are invited:

- What distinct models and methods of participation have been developed within and between the particular fields of politics/activism, art and qualitative research in order to involve local residents to participate in urban development processes?

- How do diverging interests and power-relations - with respect to the unequally distributed political, economic, social and cultural capital - play out between the different actors? What kind of relations are produced for whom and why?

- Who moderates the heterogeneous communication process and who  decides, finally, what to do? How is representation negotiated and enacted in the final form/outcome of participatory projects?

- What visual, emotional, symbolic expressions do the different actors create or adopt to produce a feeling of belonging to a place, a group or even movement? What role does art, visual and media culture play as social glue between the often multi-located actors?

- And how do we anthropologists define our multiple encoded roles as "participant observers", civic participants or even activists within these contexts of both, collaboration and conflict?

Convenors und Kontakt:

Judith Laister, Universität Graz, judith.laister[at]
Anna Lipphardt, Universität Freiburg, anna.lipphardt[at]

Proposals müssen über die EASA Website eingereicht werden: 

Nähere Informationen zur EASA 2014:

EASA-Konferenz 2014, 31.7.-3.8., Tallinn (Estonia): "Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution - Innovation and Continuity in an Interconnected World"

Thursday, February 13, 2014

CfP: Visual Urban Transformations (in Central and Eastern Europe) (Berlin, 28-29 Mar 14)

Call for Papers for the Panel:
Visual Urban Transformations: Transition and Change in Urban Image Construction in Central and Eastern Europe
(As part of the Third Euroacademia International Conference ‘Re-Inventing Eastern Europe’ to be held in Berlin, Germany, 28-29 March 2014)

Deadline for paper proposals: 25 February 2014

Panel Description:

As the chaotic canvases of cities are being stretched over a framework of identity, its further exploration seems more than appropriate. Amidst the incredibly rapid urban growth crowding more than half of the world population in towns and cities, the questions are only going to keep multiplying. How are city identities made and re-made, used and abused, imagined and narrated, politicised and communicated, expressed and projected, imposed and marketed? And above all, how do they thrive within the dynamic interpolation of the nexus of East-West, Europe-Balkans, and centre-periphery, urban - suburban, old and new. As out-dated as these dichotomies sound, in many places their daily life is far from over. As old cities became new capitals and new capitals struggle for more capital, the challenges of maintaining state-driven collective identities in the face of cultural fragmentation and diversification, coupled with consumer-attractiveness is turning them into urban palimpsest. This transformation is ever more complex in the cities of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. In these last decades, during the period of socio-political and cultural deconstruction, the redefinitions of their urban space reflect the need to refashion, consolidate or even establish their new/old identities. Flooded with imported ‘non-places’, (not) dealing with the material legacy of memories of the recent past that seem unable to resolve, trying to accept or reject the rest of Europe in the race towards ‘Europeanization’, these cities adopt different approaches in their aim to resemble and at the same time, differ. Zagreb generously welcomed its marketing nickname “pocket size Vienna”, while regenerating itself with the mega Museum of Contemporary Art tailored up to an imagined ‘Western European’ standard. Skopje’s attention seeking project transformed the ‘open city of solidarity’ into a literal national identity construction site. The list goes on. Queuing to win the old continent’s capital of culture contest and eager to squeeze into the ever-enlarging itinerary of the consumerist Grand Tour, the only thing cities are not allowed to be, is invisible.

As the research on cultural identities of the city is becoming more abundant, this panel aims at adopting a wide-lens inter-disciplinary approach, while focusing on various transitional processes affecting identities in the urban context in its global-regional-national-local interplay.

Some example of topics may include (but are not limited to):

• Collective memory, identity and urban image construction
• Appropriation, instrumentalisation and functualisation of public space
• Contemporary nomadism and the city as a common denominator for collective identities
• Architecture as ‘politics with bricks and mortar’
• Is there a new rise of the city-state?
• Urban regeneration projects, landmark buildings and ‘starchitects’
• Non-places and (non)identity
• Immigrants and the cultural identity of cities
• City marketing and city branding in transition
• European capitals of culture and European identity
• Identity creation and the cultural offer of the city
• Urban cultural heritage as identity-anchor
• Creative changes of the cities
• Art and industry in urban development
• Urban aesthetics
• Ugliness, kitsch and value in shaping contemporary urban spaces
• Post-communism and the shape of urban change
• East-West nexuses in urban development

If interested in participating, please send a maximum 300 words abstract together with the details of your affiliation until 25th of February 2014 at

For the complete details of the conference and on-line application please see:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Call for Applications: Vienna Summer School in Urban Studies on "Right to the City: Appropriations of Public Spaces in Transition“, Monday 30th June to Monday 7th July 2014 in Vienna

The Department of Geography and Spatial Research at the University of Vienna in cooperation with the Graduate Center at the City University New York will be hosting the first Vienna Summer School in Urban Studies from Monday 30th June to Monday 7th July 2014 in Vienna.

The Summer School will deal with the topic of „Right to the City: Appropriations of Public Spaces in Transition”

Urban public spaces are constantly changing and highly contested territories. The fields of action that have to be considered when analysing urban public spaces range from the impact of global trends like neoliberalism on new urban policies, to everyday appropriations at the local level. The relationship between macro trends and micro scale actions manifests itself in ongoing transition processes, located in urban public spaces which are both spaces of differences and arenas of interaction.
The Vienna Summer School in Urban Studies will focus on two key questions:
1) Who has a right to the city and the production and consumption of its public spaces?
2) Who is excluded from this right and why?

We are welcoming applications from Master and PhD Students from different research fields with a focus on Urban Studies.
Please send your applications until April 30th, 2014 to:
More information on the Summer School and details on the application procedure can be found on our website:

Opening Event:
The Opening Event of the Summer School on Monday, June 30th 2014 starting at 4 PM is open to the public and will take place at the Kleiner Festsaal, Main Building of the University of Vienna. All are warmly invited to join the talks as well as the following plenary discussion and reception:

Why Interdisciplinary Comparative Urban Research?
Welcome Address, Vienna Summer School in Urban Studies 2014
Heinz Fassmann, University of Vienna, Austria (Host)

Creating New Spaces for the Public
John Mollenkopf, City University New York, United States (Co-Partner)
Public Spaces in Transition: What's going on in Vienna?
Andreas Trisko, City of Vienna, Austria

For organisational reasons, we kindly ask you to register for the opening event by sending an Email to:
Further lecturers include:
Yvonne Franz (Austrian Academy of Sciences) || Joshua Grigsby (University of Vienna) ||
Joseph Heathcott (The New School, New York City) || Christiane Hintermann (Austrian Academy of Sciences) || Sabine Knierbein (TU Vienna) ||Elke Krasny (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna) ||
Claire Lévy-Vroelant (Université Paris 8) || Markus Vogl (University of Stuttgart) ||
Ingo Warnke (University of Bremen) || Susana Zapke (Konservatorium Vienna)
Please circulate this information among your networks and interested students.

The Vienna Summer School of Urban Studies Team
Applied Geography, Spatial Research and Spatial Planning
Department of Geography and Regional Research
University of Vienna
Universitaetsstraße 7, 5th floor
1010 Vienna

Phone: +43-1-4277-48608

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Modernity, Socialism, and the Visual Arts

Kunstarchiv Beeskow; Universität Utrecht; in Zusammenarbeit mit Marlene Heidel, Claudia Jansen, Ursula Lücke und Joes Segal 06.10.2013-11.10.2013, Eisenhüttenstadt / Slubice/Frankfurt an der Oder / Gorzów (Warta) / Kostrzyn (Odra) / Niederfinow/ Eberswalde / Oranienburg / Berlin  Bericht von: Tom Cubbin, Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies, University of Sheffield E-Mail: <>

Socialism, Modernity and the Visual Arts, this year's summer school of the art archive at Beeskow was unusual for a variety of reasons. Aside from the fact that October in eastern Germany can hardly be described as summer, the conference took place over five days on a river-cruiser that made its way slowly from Berlin, through the former GDR, to the Polish border and back. The main aim of the conference was to explore the visual and material cultures of state socialism through the lens of modernity and associated analytical concepts. Holding a conference on board a small ship containing 24 academics and artists certainly constituted a psychological experiment. Those attending did not know how they would react to inhabiting such a small space so full of ideas: were we sentencing ourselves to five days on-board a floating prison?

Thankfully, the summer school's unusual format turned out to be a strong metaphor for those researching visual and material cultures of European state-socialism in a post-socialist and westernised academic landscape. The idea of a conference on a ship, travelling from Berlin, through the former East Germany to the Polish border and back was a result of the Archinauts project run by artist URSULA LÜCKE (Linz). Arche, meaning origins and Nautics, relating to navigation through unknown areas has led Lücke to consider various ways of bringing the Beeskow art archive's collections to greater notice.

We visited the archive after the ship moored on the first night at nearby Fürstenwalde (the waters were too shallow to navigate directly to Beeskow). The archive is home to collections of GDR art in a wide range of styles and media: from sculpture to painting including socialist realism, social realism, abstraction and landscape. The archive was evidently in need of some investment: it was cramped and had long ago run out of the necessary storage space. Art archive is evidently a divisive term for a collection of painting, drawings and sculpture that was produced in the GDR that is not for display, but stored as historical documents, not to be regarded as art. In her paper, MARLENE HEIDEL (Lüneburg) discussed the archive's place in collective memory twenty years after re-unification. She sees the archive as a site of 'image-jam,' a term borrowed from Russian semiotician Yuri Lotmann. 'Image-jam' is a way of explaining how the artefacts at the Beeskow archive have formed a blockade in a mechanism that suppresses their circulation in museums or institutions that support collective memory. The archive, which receives some funds from the state and relies on grants for short-term programmes and interns means its management lacks continuity, or flow of knowledge production. For Lücke, this concept of flow, movement and circulation of images is a central part of the Archenauts project. As Beeskow is connected to the entire world through waterways - the concept of making these images flow again was a central metaphor for the boat conference.

In his keynote lecture, JOES SEGAL (Utrecht) examined what role art might have to play in defining the notion of a socialist modernity. In his view, realist art of the GDR has not been understood as a 'modern' phenomenon, but has instead been regarded as akin to realist art under the Nazis. Modern art, and abstract expressionism in particular, has traditionally been used as a signifier of a modern state, meaning a free market liberal democracy. However, Segal notes how modernity is most often defined by a utopian belief in social and moral progress, a progression that should proceed hand in hand with scientific and technical progress. He hopes that we can arrive at an open minded view of art history that would redefine modernity as a normative, rather than analytical concept. His keynote set the tone for a conference in which participants gave historically grounded examples of how socialist art, architecture and design, if not necessarily modernist, might be considered modern.

As we made our way through the former East, we were forced to change our plans. While some papers were being given, we could feel occasional scrapes on the underside of the boat. Many of the rivers are no longer dredged because the waterways' statuses had been downgraded since reunification. Forced to go slow due to the shallowness of the water, we were not able to reach our mid-way goal of Gorzsów in Poland, resulting in a prolonged stay at Eisenhüttenstadt.

Eisenhüttenstadt (formerly Stalinstadt) was the location where we were most strongly confronted with the notion of a socialist modernity. We entered the city along the Oder-Spree canal, the city's spectacular steel mill towering above us on both banks. The group was given a tour of the city, followed by a visit to the GDR documentation centre. Here, exhibits are largely comprised of objects thrown away by East Germans shortly after reunification and replaced with Western consumer goods as a material purging of life under state socialism. Architecture, home-making and daily life were an important topic at the conference, as these seemed to most directly address questions relating to the notion of a socialist modernity.

In her paper on the experience of moving in to newly built mass-housing during the Soviet sixties, SUSAN REID (Sheffield) explained what made this generation's experience of socialism explicitly modern, highlighting the role of technical specialists in creating the domestic interior of socialism. For Reid, much of the advice received by residents on style and hygiene resulted in comparable experiences to those of moving into mass housing in the West, noting that on both sides of the iron curtain, individuals experienced a central paradox of modernity through its creation of individualised private space through mass standardised industrial production.

CHRISTINA SCHWENKEL (California) spoke about East German architects' involvement in reconstruction of Vietnamese housing after the war. She showed how for many citizens in Vietnam, East Germany was viewed as the normative source of modernity. Many architects were sent to train in Moscow and Weimar, which displaced the west as the locus of such exchanges. However, she points out that in spite of imported modernist visions, the fate of East German building projects in Vietnam was very much determined not only by the quality of local materials but also by the appropriation of living space in terms of local traditions such as living together with livestock in the apartments.

In his paper, VLADIMIR KULIC (Fort Lauderdale) also dislocated definitions of modernity, in this case with reference to the changing geopolitics of Tito's Yugoslavia. He spoke about how in both built and unrealised architectural schemes, New Belgrade reflected ideas of a progressive socialist state: firstly as a regional power in the project of Soviet globalisation, before modernist architecture - along with abstract expressionist art - came to express Yugoslavia as a non-totalitarian socialist state with US backing. Finally, as a non-aligned country in the Cold War, Yugoslav architecture spread through the non-aligned world through its construction company Energoprojekt.

Three papers looked specifically at the issue of gender and problematized the adoption of Western feminist discourse as a normative means of discussing female autonomy and emancipation in the arts. BEÁTA HOCK (Leipzig) examined how artworks and feature films created in socialist Hungary dealt with gender issues outside of a Western feminist framework. While many artworks show a clear understanding of the themes present in second-wave feminism, the artists Hock interviewed were able to enter into a socialist discourse relating to women and labour without necessarily identifying with the label feminist.

Likewise, APRIL EISMAN (Iowa) spoke about East German artist Angela Hampel's neo-expressionist paintings of mythological women who defy the notion of the female subject of the male gaze. Also operating outside the western framework of feminism, Hampel expressed her disillusionment at female inequality in an artistic profession run by a state that had failed to deliver the equality it had promised. Using mythology to discuss contemporaneous events through the guise of allegory - she created images of defiance and led other female artists in an attempt to reform the system. Despite being able to travel and consume "western" feminist literature, her activism continued to work in direct reference to the social reality of the GDR. In Claudia Jansen's discussion of role models in East German socialist realist art at the Beeskow archive, she examined how depictions of women veered between conservative views of women as objects of a male gaze and expressions of progressive ideals of women in industry - and how state policies on labour and support for working women manifest themselves in paintings with female subjects.

Such a nuanced narrative was also constructed by visual artist NIKA RADIC (Berlin) in her opening performance at the Academy of Arts in Berlin. Taking on the role of an 'art detective' researching the work of the fictitious artist Neda Kovacevic - she created a totally plausible investigation of the Dubrovnik artist ranging from her life story as a frustrated piano player to discussions of the production of her film work in the material conditions of Yugoslavia. Playing on the way the audience automatically trusts an academic with a power point and the way historians construct narratives, Radic had not only fooled the majority of passengers before they had boarded the boat, but also implicitly pointed out some widespread preconceived ideas about socialist art and modernity.

The final panel dealt with the issue of how the aesthetics of state socialism are variously being revived, subverted or rebranded in contemporary art and exhibition practices. FRIEDERIKE SCHULZ (Hamburg) showed photographs of an exhibition she held in Hamburg to mark 20 years of the Berlin Wall. Here, she recreated the GDR inside a disused office block in Hamburg complete with entrance permits, guard dogs and lots of chintzy wallpaper. The exhibition's location in Hamburg was supposed to help West Germans deal with their experiences of reunification because, as she puts it, "they lost their home too."

ALMIRA OUSMANOVA (Vilnius) gave a paper on the uses of discourses relating to modernity, modernisation and everyday life across post-socialist space, that brought the conference to an apt and thought-provoking close as we neared Berlin. She spoke about how in Lithuania, exhibitions of Soviet-era design and architecture have become a euphemism for discussing the Soviet experience. While enabling some to discuss positive aspects of socialism, discourses on modernisation are often used to proclaim, often with little reference to the economic and social conditions of production, that creativity was able to flourish, only in spite of the Soviet occupation.

During the 5 days of the conference, all of the participants became aware of a range of instances where the central premise of a socialist modernity created specific circumstances for cultural production: be they socialist realist, techno-utopian, internationalist, modernist, "feminist" or even postmodern. Thankfully, the speakers avoided too many ship metaphors in their presentations - we did not dredge the past or navigate uncharted waters. It was clear that most of the participants agreed on the importance of socialist visual culture as expressions of modernity (this over-agreement may be related to the fact that we were sharing a confined space). However, from the condition of the art archive at Beeskow, the shrinking city of Eisenhüttenstadt and the poorly maintained waterways would suggest the passengers of the Gretha van Holland continue to hold a minority view.  

Friday, February 7, 2014

Studying socialist architecture and the post-socialist built environment ... a new book ...

*Virág Molnár's* new book, Building the State: Architecture, Politics, and
State Formation in Postwar Central Europe (Routledge, 2013).

A sociologist by training, Molnár offers an innovative approach to studying socialist architecture and the post-socialist built environment bridging political science, sociology, and the history of architecture. She suggests viewing architecture as a “strategic sight” and an “instrument” of political and social change, and the architectural profession as a key player in the process of state formation. One of the aims of the SWU project is to reflect on the methodological approaches we use for our investigations on socialist and post-socialist urbanity, and we hope that this book discussion will trigger further debate on these questions and the place of our sub-field vis-à-vis other disciplines. *Agata Lisiak* (Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna) and *Elidor Mëhilli* (Hunter College, New York City) will begin the discussion with their reviews of Molnár's book. Readers are invited to submit comments to any of the posts in this discussion.

"Architects as State-Builders in Post-War Central Europe" By Agata Lisiak

For a surprisingly long time Central European cities have been perceived, both in the West and in the region itself, as gray, homogenous, and generally uninteresting. Predominantly associated with
prefabricated housing and monumental social realist architecture, they have been often analyzed wholesale, without acknowledging their unique local aspects and the various, sometimes diametrically different, ways of implementing Soviet guidelines and policies. Continue reading:

"Tulips and Concrete" By Elidor Mëhilli

Virág Molnár’s *Building the State* is compelling, and it aptly demonstrates why there has been such a high degree of academic interest in the built environment and material culture of the former socialist world. Like the best works on the subject, Molnár’s work is firmly situated in distinct locales (East Germany and Hungary, in this case) but it also takes seriously international dynamics that go beyond the Eastern bloc. Continue reading: