Session at the European Association for Urban History Conference

Public spaces of entertainment, which we call “pleasurescapes”, mirror traits of urbanization: They are transnational microcosms, representing conformity and rebellion. They are melting pot for divergent classes, cultures and religions. We explore how pleasurescapes in European cities have unfolded integrational forces in the past and present and thereby fostered modern European urban practices.

‘Pleasurescapes’ is a collaborative research project funded by Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA). In studying the past and present of European pleasurescapes, we gain insights into Europe’s cultural pluralism and its exchange of knowledge, material, technologies, and practices. Throughout the project, four port cities are of special interest for us: Hamburg (DE), Rotterdam (NL), Barcelona (ES) and Gothenburg (SE). At the conference we are also looking for papers on other European cities, not only port cities. We are especially interested in proposals from Eastern Europe and the UK.

We want to understand, to which extent and under which conditions pleasurescapes in European cities turned into nodes of integration, how they merged societal groups – and thereby possibly excluded others. Who is involved and who is shut out, and why? What was allowed and what forbidden? How are goods, services and knowledge distributed? Who sold, built, planned, inherited, gave away, exchanged or concealed, what was consumed in these public spaces of pleasure? When did innovations happen, when was continuity preferred? How did different actors attain power of interpreting local space and structures? How is public space comprehended and who has access to it?

The time span we’re looking at is the ‘long’ 20th century, since it was then that the history of amusement and modern urban history deeply intertwined. To structure our work, we set up the following umbrella terms:

  • Formats (cabaret, film, gambling, music, popular art, sports, vaudeville, …)
  • Practices (dance, design, fashion, food, gender, language, youth, …)
  • Places (ballrooms, borders, brothels, cinemas, factories, festivals, offices, parks, streets, …)
  • People: (artists, business people, criminals, guests, patrollers, prostitutes, residents, tourists, workers, …)
  • Governance: (advertisement, censorship, commerce, diseases, law, media, policy, protest, religion, violence, …)

Papers should refer to one or several of the umbrella terms and may come from Historical Sciences, Cultural Studies, Material Culture Studies, Architecture and Art Historian Science, Museum Studies, and Performing Arts. They should point out their methodological approach carefully, since we plan eager discussion of methodological aspects. We are particularly interested in papers using Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) or understand places of entertainment as spaces of heterotopia.

  • Spokesperson: Lisa Kosok, HafenCity University Hamburg
  • Co-organizer(s): Paul van de Laar, Erasmus University Rotterdam | Judit Vidiella Pagès, University of Girona | Heiko Droste, Stockholm University
  • Keywords: Public space | Entertainment | Encounter
  • Time period: Modern period
  • Topic(s): Cultural | Heritage
  • Study area: Europe