Samantha Maurer Fox

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Lehigh U.

Grant number

Gr. 10557

Approve Date

September 29, 2023

Project Title

Fox, Samantha (Lehigh U.) "The Afterlife of Utopia: Urban Renewal in Germany's Model Socialist City"

The Afterlife of Utopia: Urban Renewal in Germany’s Model Socialist City addresses late industrialism, socialism, sustainability, and the built environment. How do human beings use the urban landscape to achieve their sociopolitical ends? Under the threat of climate catastrophe, how can cities decouple imaginations of urban thriving from promises of population and economic growth? I address these questions by examining urban renewal efforts in Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany, a city founded in 1950 as an exemplar of East German socialist urbanism. It was also, as one informant described, conceptualized as having “no past, only a future,” and is a place where imaginations of urban futurity have been consistently renegotiated in the intervening decades. I suggest that, as Eisenhüttenstadt weathered the post-socialist transition, transforming from a well-resourced city at the center of the Eastern Bloc to a shrinking city on the German nation’s periphery, it also reinvented itself: from a post-socialist city defined by vacancy and loss to a place where the utopian dreamworld of socialist collectivism (Buck-Morss 2000) has been preserved and reimagined. As such, Eisenhüttenstadt shows how new urban futures might be salvaged from latent histories in the “vernacular timespace” (Bryant and Knight 2019) of our current epoch.