ISHA Summer Seminar 2018

In July 2018 ISHA Warsaw will host the ISHA Summer Seminar 2018. Our seminar topic is to discuss the interconnection of cities and societies.

The emergence of the city is one of the first marks of human high culture – an important part of what has traditionally been called the “birth of civilization”. The emergence of large centres of population allowed ideas to be developed and circulated at an unprecedented rate. Science, philosophy, or… historiography  are all among the products of increasingly urbanised societies. In a similar way, the development of cities heavily influenced processes of economic and political centralization, and was in turn shaped by them. Naturally, there is also a ‘dark side’ to this: for example, deadly epidemics or even organised crime could arguably not have flourished without the existence of dense urban habitats.

Based on our everyday experience, a general definition of the term “city” seems easy and obvious. However, it is clear that we are dealing with a very complex phenomenon that can be approached from many different ways and lead to multiple, perhaps even contradictory definitions. The same holds true for “society”, the other central term of our seminar. Philologists might point to the common origin of both words: Latin, and hence the cultural sphere of Roman and early medieval Europe. However, the definition of “civitas” and “societas” (and their modern counterparts in Romance and other languages) have evolved over time. We need to keep asking, for any given time and place, what their exact meaning is: What elements does a “society” consist of? How is it different from the “state”? Is a “city” part of a “society” or does it constitute one of its own? (and many more questions)

During our seminar, we want to investigate cities and societies from a variety of angles, for example:

  • in terms of the relationship(s) between different (types of) human settlements: is there an eternal dichotomy between the city and the countryside? What are the reasons and outcomes of rivalries between cities..?
  • the relation between humans and their habitats: how do humans shape the city/society they live in, how are they shaped by their surroundings? What role do architecture, city planning, urbanism play in social policy, in human every-day life…?

From this very short list, it is already clear that questions of city-society relations are deeply fascinating and relate to all kinds of case studies and methodological frameworks.

We invite you to present and discuss a broad spectrum of topics and sincerely hope that the workshops – ranging from epoch-specific to ‘timeless’ themes – will lead to vivid exchanges among all participants. We also hope that the host city Warsaw, with its long and multifaceted history, will provide further food for thought and discussion. Stay tuned!