Urban Emotions? Debates on the City and Emotions in Berlin and Cairo (1860-1914)

Big-city dwellers are characterized by their urban surroundings even in their most mundane habits. This assumption informs a wide array of scientific inquiries into urbanity today. Between criminologists who analyze urban fear, sociologists who examine the erotic behavior of people in big cities, or anthropologists who shed light upon the emotional implications of gated communities, scholars seem to believe that the urban realm has an important impact on emotions. Are “urban emotions” therefore an essential consequence of life in the big city? Is there a history of urban emotions?

The project analyzes the role emotions played in a phase of intensive urban change in two cities. It focuses on debates regarding the city and emotions as well as on shifts in emotional practices in Berlin and Cairo between 1860 and 1914. Did contemporary observers identify particular urban emotions? If so, which actors used the concept of urban emotions? Did debates about emotions influence urban change in Berlin and Cairo? As a way of providing answers to these questions, the project will utilize three case studies for each city. The analysis of Berlin and Cairo allows ultimately placing these questions in a global historical context.