A Social Imaginary of the Urban: the Spatial, the Temporal, and the Political in Wroclaw
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Level: Undergraduate, Graduate
Division: The New School for Social Research
Course Number: GSOC 5193
Course Format: Mobility/Exchange
Permission Required: Yes
At a time when shifting borders, ethnic cleansings, forced migrations, and related traumas are marking the lives of people in different parts of the world, this course examines the relationships between the social, the physical, and the political in our on-site case study of a city that under the post-war terms of the Potsdam Conference was changed from Germany’s Breslau to Poland’s Wroclaw. Exploring the democratic potential and performativity of public spaces and physical structures, the course is organized around the notions of palimpsest and heterotopia as manifested in modern Wroclaw. We will focus first on the palimpsestic features of the city, and explore its early writing, the modernist Weimar architecture of Hans Scharoun and Eric Mendelssohn, and then the erasure and re-writing evident in the building projects and propaganda of the Communist regime. The second part of the course will focus on heterotopia, understood as a space on the move, whose layered meanings create new opportunities for social actors, as demonstrated in Poland’s pro-democracy movements in the 1980s, and in its more recent accession to the European Union. To illuminate and discuss the intricate social dimension of the urban we will read texts in history, social theory, design studies, and politics.