EAUH Conference 2018


Session M28. Spaces of Fear in the 20th Century City

Coordinators: Mikkel Høghøj (, Monika Motylinska (

At first sight, a badly lit pedestrian underpass in a mass housing estate, a city park in the night, a slum district dominated by gangs, a horror theatre or a prison have little in common – but for being 'spaces of fear'.

Inspired by recent theories on ‘emotional geographies’, this session aims to approach ‘fear’ as a historical phenomenon within the spatial settings of 20th century cities. Though touched upon within disciplines such as sociology and human geography, this relationship remains relatively underexplored within the field of urban history.
By addressing different aspects, roots and shades of the tension between fear and urban space, this session seeks to explore dynamics and impacts of fear in the production of 20th century urban space. In an urban context, fear has always been associated with certain types of urban areas – from slum districts in the industrial city to mass housing complexes in the periphery of the post-industrial city. Urban segregation has increased tremendously during the 20th century, materialising in suburban development as well as gated communities around the globe. Such processes have often been interconnected with issues of class, race and the fear of ‚otherness’ – and arouse in relation to different political and social crises. It is to assume that due to regional specifics, even similar urban settings might evoke very different kinds of fear – for instance, when we compare the discursive perceptions of mass housing estates in the East and West in the post-war period. Yet, the patterns of urban fear are not limited to the negative context – as many places of fascination with fear such as dungeons as tourist attractions or horror theatres have evolved across the 20th century.

We invite papers investigating 'spaces of fear' from different perspectives and through different methodological and theoretical approaches. Questions that papers might consider include:
• Which urban temporalities and cycles of fear can be identified in the 20th century? How are they intertwined with real and imagined danger (e.g. fear of terrorism or epidemics)?
• How did cities themselves trigger fear? How was this reflected in the mass media and popular culture?
• What gender issues occur in an urban context of fear?

Thus, by addressing different facets of fear, this session seeks not only to uncover new political, social and cultural dimensions of the 20th century city, but also to further enhance dialogue between urban history and emotional history.

Keywords: fear; urban segregation; slum districts; mass housing; emotional history; emotional geography