CfP: Cities, Science and Satire: Satirical Representations of Urban Modernity and Scientific and Technological Innovation in the Public Space

Session S25: Cities, Science and Satire: Satirical Representations of Urban Modernity and Scientific and Technological Innovation in the Public Space

13th Conference of the European Association for Urban History, Helsinki, August 24-27, 2016
Deadline: October 31, 2015
Session Chairs: Markian Prokopovych ( and Katalin Straner (
European urban spaces underwent fundamental transformation due to unprecedented scientific and technological modernisation as well as the emergence of the urban press from the eighteenth century onwards. In the course of just a few decades, modern roads and transportation connected previously distant cities as well as city districts to each other and to the city centre; street lightning made evenings safer and easier to navigate; and the provision of fresh water and canalisation prevented the spread of previously devastating epidemics and changed approaches to urban and personal hygiene. All these and other urban innovations were preceded by – and sometimes went hand in hand with – the increasing presence of scientific institutions in the urban landscape and the public sphere. Universities, academies, learned societies, clubs, casinos and coffee houses turned into places where the learned communities communicated with each other as well as presented themselves and their seemingly unchallenged knowledge to the broader public.
This rapid change was however not free from glitches and repeated failures, which was often regarded as inconvenience and nuisance to city dwellers: modern means of transportation squeezed people together challenging concepts of respectability and dignity, pipes broke, new urban projects caused visual and sensual embarrassment and often went wrong, and new scientific theories about urban betterment and “beautification” left the carriers of scientific authority embarrassed as well. Even the scientific quarters themselves – the new university campuses or the buildings of science and technology – often turned out inadequate to their initial purpose. The denizens of early modern and modern cities were not immune to these changes and liked to joke about them perhaps even more than we do today. The urban public sphere — the urban folklore, jokes that became stale from being transferred and readapted from generation to generation and from place to place, the boulevard press and other forms of sensational literature — were ideal venues to ventilate everyday grievances and discomforts though a creative use of humour and satire, and this led to the emergence and increasing popularity of the satirical press. This session will capitalise on the emerging new body of literature on the “urban turn” in the history of science and, at the same time, will zoom in even closer at specific urban projects and technological innovations that generated urban satire, revealing a much more complex and problematic representation of urban modernity.
Please submit your proposals online via the EAUH2016 website Proposals sent by post or email will not be accepted. Abstracts of paper proposals should not exceed 300 words. Deadline for paper proposals submission: October 31, 2015. Notification of paper acceptance: December 15, 2015. 

Dr. Katalin Straner
Visiting Lecturer, Department of History
Associate Research Fellow, Pasts, Inc. Center for Historical Studies
Central European University
Nador u. 9
H-1051 Budapest