The enormous process of urbanization, which has defined world history for thousands of years in different economic situations and with regional variations, and which is now developing a particular dynamism, has another side to it that initially appears paradoxical – namely the shrinking and entirely abandoned cities, the so-called Lost Cities. Current transformation processes in various parts of the world mean that many of these Lost Cities are emerging. Nevertheless, the phenomenon is not a new one, but has been a widespread hallmark of urban history since the emergence of urban culture in the fourth century B.C. It has therefore been perceived, reflected on and interpreted in very different ways in the cultural history of urban life. With this finding as a starting point and a goal of placing current problem situations in a greater historical context, the Gerda Henkel Foundation has established a new funding program for the theme
Perception of and living with abandoned cities
in the cultures of the world.
The funding program is designed to be interdisciplinary and to facilitate projects in which there are varied dimensions to the examination of abandoned cities. At the same time, there should be a focus on causal correlations, both with regard to specific individual cultures and spanning all cultures, and on specifics of place and time. Thus far, such places have emerged for very different reasons, including military destruction, natural disasters, epidemics, environmental pollution, economic collapse, financial speculation, mobility, migration, centralization, deindustrialization, or post-colonial change, to name but a few.
The aim of the program is to describe the tangible cultures of interpretation, knowledge and perception within these different contexts. Lost Cities are part of a distinct culture of memory, for example, which serves for the negotiation of identities, the preservation of knowledge cultures, the formulation of criticism of progress, or the construction of mythical or sacral topographies as part of a veritable “ruin cult”. On this basis, the focus here should not be on the question of which factors led to the city’s abandonment. Rather, it is the abandoned cities themselves that are of particular interest, as well as the different forms of their interpretation, instrumentalization and coding in various cultures and time frames.
Eligible to apply are post-PhD researchers based in a university and working in the area of humanities and social sciences. Funding can be provided for projects with up to three persons involved, who are carrying out research into the same issues, by means of bursaries (PhD scholarships and Research Scholarships) as well as travel and material aid. Scholarship applications from single researchers are not accepted. The individual projects should be organized by groups of researchers with thematic areas of focus. The funding program also provides for the project partners to participate in a public “workshop discussion on Lost Cities”, organized by the Foundation.
The next deadline will be announced soon.
As expert reviewers contribute: Prof. Dr. Martin Zimmermann, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, and Prof. Dr. Andreas Beyer, University of Basel. The Board of Trustees decides on the applications on the basis of a recommendation from the experts and the members of the Academic Advisory Council.