Profile within the Main Research Area of Urban Systems

With its specific contribution to the University’s Main Research Area of “Urban Systems” the Faculty of Humanities is playing a leading role in the entire research on urbanism and metropolitan areas. The strong contribution of the Humanities, which are also represented by one of the two directors of “Urban Systems”, Professor Jens Martin Gurr, makes the kind of urban research conducted at UDE rather unique: Cities are much more than just technical infrastructures. Rather, they are shaped by human beings with all their needs, wishes or aspirations. The images of cities, projected by literary texts and films, which influence people’s imagination of what certain cities are like (“urban imaginaries”), are playing an important role in how cities are perceived or “imagined” by human beings. Whether we designate a city as a “metropolis” or ascribe to it the quality of “urbanity”, which is rather hard to pinpoint, but is frequently associated with the qualities of being “open-minded” or culturally advanced, is not primarily due to statistically graspable facts but has a lot to do with cultural aspects and their perception, all of which are the central concern of research in the humanities.
What is crucial for the approach at the UDE is the realization that the complexity of modern cities and urban societies requires the interdisciplinary cooperation of a variety of research cultures. It is therefore the distinguishing feature of ­numerous of the projects currently underway (funded by the DFG, EU, BMBF; BMWi, BMVBS, various foundations, corporations and industry) that the borders between disciplines are constantly transgressed in a cooperative effort. Research on urbanism, such as it is conducted within our ­faculty, is therefore as diverse as the various ­disciplines contributing to it, whether they are part of the UDE’s Main Research Area or go beyond its boundaries. The Ruhr area is the special focus of a large number of such projects. However, the entire spectrum of current research comprises the investigation of worldwide developments, both historical and contemporary, as well as the representation of “the city” in various media and artistic engagements with urban phenomena.