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TU Berlin

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Research Program

What characterizes a metropolis? Is it its size, its historical development, its political influence, its socio-cultural diversity, or its importance in an international network of cities? Our graduate research program aims to study the globality of metropoles by looking at the specific connections that these cities have forged with other parts of the world. Social scientists have examined the interrelationships between cities and globalization for a number of years; however, they emphasize the contemporary nature of these global developments. Historians, on the other hand, insist that globalization has existed for centuries, yet they have not paid sufficient attention to the impact of such global processes on the history of urban growth. Our graduate program wants to bridge these two perspectives in order to historicize contemporary metropolitan developments and localize the history of global processes.

The following questions are at the heart of our research:

  • How has metropolitanism developed since the nineteenth century? To what extent did individual forms of metropolitanism emerge during different time periods and in different areas of the world? What overarching features, transfers, or appropriations exist in a global world?
  • What impact did the nineteenth century’s surge of globalization have on the development of metropoles? Which role did/do external networks play in the internal construction of metropolitan identities, everyday practices, and architectures?
  • To what extent do modern metropoles enable processes of globalization in the first place?

Our research program spans the period from the nineteenth century to the present, because only such an extended historical perspective makes it possible to understand the reciprocal relationship between globalization and metropolitanism. We hypothesize that globalization – similar to secularization and industrialization – is a defining and transformative structural process of modernity, one whose causes, course, and effects can only be evaluated in relation to history.

We consider metropolitanism to be an open concept whose meaning and interdisciplinary value will be critically examined throughout the duration of the program. To this end, we will not only question the historical and geographical context of this concept, but we will specifically investigate the impact of individual actors, groups, and “urban assemblages” and how they have pushed forward or challenged particular forms of metropolitanism.

Research Topics

Within our general theme of “Metropolitanism and Globalization” we examine four research fields that reflect current research agendas and enable individual research projects.

1) Built Metropolitanism: Architecture and Urban Planning

2) Mobile Metropoles: Migration and Mobility

3) Intangible Metropolitanism: Knowledge and Communication

4) “Natural” Metropolitanism: Environment and Sustainability

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