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Looking at several colonial and semi-colonial port cities in various world regions during the period of high imperialism, in his talk Michael Goebel (Freie Universität Berlin) seeks to address the question of whether colonialism really did segregate cities. Those interested can attend in person or join us digitally via Zoom.

Event details of Colonialism and Segregation
Date 20 January 2022
Time 15:30 -16:30

Colonialism is widely assumed to have been a force exacerbating various forms of religious, national, ethnic, or racial segregation in cities. When historians write about the typologies of cities that were long customary in urban studies, definitions of the colonial city often begin with the trope of segregation. On the other hand, recent historiography on empires (like the book by Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper) has highlighted the sometimes fluid communal boundaries fueling imperial administrations, which in this reading were generally more tolerant towards the management of ethnic diversity than the exclusivist model of homogenous nation-states that arose in the course of their demise. As a consequence, when the practitioners of global and imperial history explore 'colonial cities', they often open their narratives with the argument of these cities’ segregated nature, but they then often proceed to submitting so many qualifiers and caveats to this argument so as to dilute their original definition beyond recognition. 

Looking at several colonial and semi-colonial port cities in various world regions during the period of high imperialism, this talk seeks to address the question of whether colonialism really did segregate cities. The answer, much like the cities discussed, is patchy: It evidently depends on what we mean by colonialism and colonial cities, as well as how we define segregation. A good part of the talk will be devoted the methodological difficulties of quantifying answers to the guiding questions, eventually arguing that world region and long-term path dependencies played a more significant role than is commonly acknowledged.

This is a hybrid event. Those who wish to join us in person are welcome from 15:30 onwards in Bushuis E1.02; those who would like to attend digitally are requested to register below.