Despina Stratigakos


On her book A Women’s Berlin: Building the Modern City

Cover Interview of February 12, 2009


A Women’s Berlin rewrites the history of one of Europe’s great modern cities through the lens of women’s urban spaces, both imaginary and physical.  The Berlin that emerges in these chapters is at once familiar and strange: We recognize the street names, but the maps look different.  Place and gender intersect to produce fresh accounts of the city and new meanings in the contested process of modernity.  In 1910, Karl Scheffler, alienated by the ceaseless pace of change in the German capital, declared that Berlin was condemned forever to become and never to be.  We can and should expect no less of its history, and the story of a women’s Berlin, which interweaves architectural and gendered struggles, encourages us to look anew at the complex making and remaking of a modern metropolis.

A city reimagined and reshaped by women is too vast an entity to be contained in a single book.  In selecting themes, buildings, and narratives, I have concentrated on those that highlight an awareness of the role of the urban built environment in the creation of a modern female identity.  While I believe the resulting picture is representative, it is by no means exhaustive.  More work remains to be done, particularly in understanding women’s physical imprint on the urban fabric.  I hope this study acts as a guidebook, sufficiently intriguing readers to prompt further explorations in archives and books and on the city’s streets.

© 2009 Despina Stratigakos