Emotional Cities: Debates on Urban Change in Berlin and Cairo

Book Presentation of 'Emotional Cities: Debates on Urban Change in Berlin and Cairo, 1860-1910' by Joseph Ben Prestel (Oxford Academic (Oxford University Press), 2017)

During the second half of the nineteenth century, contemporaries in Berlin and Cairo discussed urban change in remarkably similar terms.

Authors in both places claimed that the transformation of their cities affected people’s emotions. They identified specific practices and neighborhoods, such as the entertainment districts around Friedrichstraße and Azbakiyya, as particularly destructive for the feelings of urban dwellers. Moreover, contemporaries also suggested corresponding projects for reform in the German and the Egyptian capitals. Several texts stressed the positive emotional effects of physical exercise and newly built suburbs, such as the neighborhoods of Lichterfelde and Helwan.

In his new monograph 'Emotional Cities: Debates on Urban Change in Berlin and Cairo, 1860-1910', Joseph Ben Prestel traces these debates. The book sheds light on the similarity of arguments about urban change and emotions in the German and the Egyptian capitals. Drawing on this insight, Prestel questions the separation of Middle Eastern and European urban history. 'Emotional Cities' proposes a framework for a more global history of urban change in the nineteenth century.

Joseph Ben Prestel is assistant professor (wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter) of history at Freie Universität Berlin. He is the author of 'Emotional Cities: Debates on Urban Change in Berlin and Cairo, 1860-1910' and a co-founder and editor of the Global Urban History Blog (www.globalurbanhistory.com).

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