Urban Cultures in (Post)Colonial Central Europe

Urban Cultures in (Post)Colonial Central Europe (Paperback)

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 Urban Cultures in (Post)Colonial Central Europe
Purdue University Press
6.00" x 9.00"

Book Description

Berlin, Budapest, Prague, and Warsaw are cities indelibly marked by more than forty years of Soviet influence. Urban Cultures in (Post) Colonial Central Europe explores the ways in which these major urban centers have redefined their identities in the last two decades. The author suggests that they are both Central European and (post) colonial spaces and that the locations of their (post)coloniality can be found predominantly in communicative and media processes and their results in architecture, film, literature, and new media.


Agata Anna Lisiak analyzes Berlin, Budapest, Prague, and Warsaw as (post)colonial cities because their politics, cultures, societies, and economies have been shaped by two centers of power: the Soviet Union as the former colonizer, whose influence remains visible predominantly in architecture, infrastructure, social relations, and mentalities, and the Western culture and the Western and/or global capital as the current colonizer, whose impact extends over virtually all spheres of urban life. The cities discussed are not exclusively postcolonial or solely colonial: they are “in-between” the two predicaments and, hence, are best described as (post)colonial. The (post)colonial and “in-between peripheral” identities and locations of the Central European capitals complement each other, and their analysis provides a relevant perspective on the transformation processes that have been shaping the region after 1989.


Book Reviews

Marshall Berman, City University of New York

"A great deal of modern culture has evolved through writers’, painters’,  photographers’, and film-makers’ reflections on the ambiguities of life in the modern metropolis. Some of the greatest of this material has emanated from the cities of Central Europe. This kept happening even in the midst of the Cold War and it is still happening in our (post)colonial and neoglobal age. Agata Anna Lisiak shows in her book Urban Cultures in (Post)Colonial Central Europe how the postcolonial idea, developed recently to study Central and East European culture, can help us see the transformations of cities in the region. Lisiak argues that Berlin, Budapest, Warsaw, and Prague are incubated cultures whose deepest forces were shadowy and ironic: Lisiak has a novelist’s sensitivity to show in her book the processes at work in a manner rare in academic writing. It is fascinating to see her trace the evolution and convergence of these cities into an ideal type of (post)colonial metropolis."

Bart Keunen, Ghent University

"With her book Urban Cultures in (Post)Colonial Central Europe Agata Anna Lisiak persuades the reader--a rarity in today’s landscape of humanities scholarship--of “the social relevance of humanities scholarship.” The book fills a gap in urban studies, as well as in other fields with regard to the new Central Europe after 1989. Lisiak’s transparent and structured rendition of Siegfried J. Schmidt’s and Itamar Even-Zohar’s theoretical frameworks--the empirical study of culture, literature, and the media and polysystem theory--are smoothly combined with concepts of comparative cultural studies, and the concept of the “(post)colonial city” is
applied and implemented throughout her argumentation. Lisiak sees the diminishing centrality of the old communist “colonizers” as coexisting with the impact of Western and globalized cultural patterns. The theoretical background of the study, combined with Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek’s concept of Central European culture and its “in-between peripherality,” offers a powerful tool to analyze cultural representations of Central Europe in the past decades. The book’s empirical dimensions include detailed observations on the history of street names, analyses of web sites, and literary, cinematic, and architectural representations in Berlin, Budapest, Prague, and Warsaw. This fascinating book will be useful to graduate and undergraduate students and scholars in several fields in the humanities and social sciences, as well as to general readers, and the book will prove of interest to city planners and policy makers."

Alexander Vari, Marywood University, Scranton, PA

"Focusing on the post-1989 urban representation of Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, and Budapest and their identity-shaping processes over the past two decades, Agata Anna Lisiak’s book is not just a welcome addition to the field of comparative cultural studies but a book with a strong and innovative theoretical agenda. … Lisiak’s book is a theoretically path-breaking work and the first book-length study to innovatively address urban representation issues in four capital cities that are very rarely  connected to each other."

Claire Colomb, University College London

"This book is a very valuable addition to the literature on the transformation of Central European cities: its originality resides in its comparative dimension and in its advocacy of a postcolonial framework of analysis to study a geographical area to which it has been seldom applied to date."

About the Author(s):

Agata Anna Lisiak completed her PhD in 2009 in communication and media studies at the University of Halle-Wittenberg. Most recently, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship in urban studies at the National Sun Yat-sen University where her research extended to Asian port cities. Lisiak has published her scholarship in English and Polish in journals and collected volumes in a variety of fields including urban studies, literary studies, and communication and media studies. She resides in Berlin.