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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

Invisible Berlin: Urban Infrastructure between Dictatorship and Democracy

This book project, funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation, will interpret Berlin’s twentieth-century history through the lens of its infrastructure systems.

Over a two-year period, commencing in April 2017, Timothy Moss will research and write a monograph on the political history of Berlin’s energy and water services. Exploring how infrastructure systems – generally renowned for their obduracy and path dependence – were affected by the disruption and diversity of five political regimes (encompassing the Weimar Republic, the Nazi dictatorship, socialist East Berlin, capitalist West Berlin and the reunified city) can, it is claimed, reveal attributes and dynamics of socio-technical configurations often hidden in other cities by the patina of familiarity.

Taking Berlin as an exemplar, the project studies what infrastructures can tell us about a city: in terms of how it was envisioned, structured, governed and used in the past and what these legacies mean for urban and infrastructure transitions today. Beyond this, the book will analyse the complex ways in which socio-technical assemblages change – or resist change – in response to shifting demands, aspirations, resources and power constellations and what the Berlin case can tell us about the complex, dynamic and multi-layered relationship between a city and its infrastructure. The findings will be interpreted not only with respect to recent scholarship on German history, urban history and the history of technology, but also in terms of current social science debates on socio-technical change in the fields of urban studies and science and technology studies.






Research Group Leader


Prof. Dr. Timothy Moss, Research Group Leader
Phone: +49 (030) 2093-66436
E-Mail: timothy.moss@hu-berlin.de