(Urbanization): Session at the European Association for Urban History Conference: Cities in Motion 2020

The session will explore the specific ways in which European southern cities experimented the dramatic transformation in their social and cultural life from 1870 through 1939. Contributions are expected to analyse conflicts around the uses of public space in the clash between new social behaviours and the efforts of elites to regulate or control these new trends in booming and renewed cities.

As sociologist George Simmel noticed in those times, life in western cities was experimenting by 1900 a dramatic transformation. Industrialization, immigration, urban landscape renewal and its expansion in suburbs or the mass media irruption created new social relations and cultural phenomena not always perceived as beneficial but as anomic or as a thread to social order and traditions. Even if southern European cities shared some traits of the urban transformation with northern European or American ones and the similar fears were expressed by authorities and traditional social elites, some differences should be accounted. Due to its specific way of economic development and integration in global industrial capitalism, and also to particularities of their historical urban organization and street life, conflicts around modernization took a special shape in European southern cities.

Papers in this session will focus on how urban modernization was displayed in southern European cities with a special stress in its conflictive adaptation to specific contexts. Case studies could analyse the struggle to define urban spaces, between urban renewal works or urban planning fostered by authorities or promoters and resistance or resilience of the inhabitants affected by their environment transformation. It will be also appreciated papers going beyond material approaches of public space and exploring conflicts about their social use and symbolic definition. Researches in this issue could deal with the emergence of new behaviours enabled by urban transformation and the efforts to regulate or control it by authorities. Popular culture and entertainment and the vibrant nightlife in modern cities were usual sources of such conflicts, but also the different notions and practices of political expressions in a democracy in the making (demonstrations, strikes, mutinies, free speech and its limits). Final texts proposals should discuss the polysemy of urban modernity and the complex battles to its definition in Southern European cities at the time.

  • Spokesperson: Ruben Pallol, Universidad Complutense de Madrid
  • Co-organizer(s): Fernando  Vicente, Universidad Complutense de Madrid | Jose María Beascoechea, Universidad del País Vasco
  • Keywords: Modernization | Social conflicts | Urban culture
  • Time period: Modern period
  • Topic(s): Social | Cultural
  • Study area: Europe