EAUH Conference 2018


Session RT02 - Urban trajectories and path-dependencies: concepts, narratives and empirical cases

Coordinators: Christoph Bernhardt (, Michèle Dagenais (, Bert de Munck (

Read Session abstractThe phenomena of urban trajectories and path-dependencies are often addressed in studies on urban development. But apart from studies on the history of urban technologies these two terms are mainly used in a metaphorical sense and are not based on theoretical or methodological reflections. This is unfortunate because historians of economy as well as social and political scientists have developed useful analytical tools for the study of trajectories and path-dependencies, which have not been discussed so much by urban historians up to now. The session proposed here intends to bring together theoretical reflections and empirical studies and initiate a debate on the value and uses of the two concepts for urban studies and specifically for urban history. We are especially interested in comparative and transnational studies on urban trajectories on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.

Questions to be addressed could be: Which theoretical concepts and approaches of path-dependency and trajectories have been successfully used in urban studies? What is the specific added value of these approaches compared to traditional urban biographical narratives and monographs? How, in return, can urban historians contribute to them? Which trajectories do we find in industrial cities, capital cities, or creative cities? Which turning points, lock-ins and causalities can we identify in different sectors of urban development? Case studies could also discuss the patterns of development of “second” cities or the role of materiality and infrastructural networks for path-dependencies. Comparative perspectives as well as entangled histories are of special interest as we intend to discuss contrasting urban trajectories as well as similarities and transfers.

The session will give special attention to problems of urban resilience in the light of concepts of path dependency. Can elements of these concepts, like mechanisms of lock-in or urban persistence be helpful for a better understanding of the resilience of cities in times of crises? Do they help to explain stories of urban success and decline in times like the Great depression or the period of transition in the 1970s? A certain priority will be given to transatlantic perspectives but other approaches and case studies will not be excluded.
Keywords: urban trajectories; path-dependencies; urban development; urban resilience; comparative and transatlantic perspectives

Friday 31st August 2018
  Room 15 09.00-10.30, 11.00-12.30



Introduction: Trajectories and path-dependencies in urban history: challenges of theory and empirical research”
Christoph Bernhardt

Institutions in Urban Space: Land, Infrastructure, and Governance in the Production of Urban Property
Andre Sorensen

Path dependence with power and historical contingency: A plea for ANT
Bert de Munck

A path-dependent ugliness? Two centuries of designing the ‘ugliest country in the world’
Greet de Block

Pathways and external shocks: The case of Darmstadt and the Great War
Dieter Schott

Urban socio-ecological trajectories – conceptual framework, use and limits
Sabine Barles