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Habilitation Project
The Written Town – The Knowledge of Urban Inscriptions in Early Modern Times


In Early Modern Times people in cities were surrounded by texts such as monumental inscriptions on diverse immobile mediums – this was a common practice in the Holy Roman Empire as well as in other European territories. Those inscriptions transported and stored different kinds of knowledge types such as political or religious statements. Knowledge was inscribed into urban space and shaped the image of the cities. Therefore, the project not only aims to analyse the knowlegde transported in the inscriptions but moreover wants to understand their functions in the urban space. As inscriptions, understood as knowledge bound on specific objects, constitute reality and generate importance, the project focuses on the city as a text producing cultural meaning and heritage. Therefore inscriptions can be seen as a performative practice to order space and time in a city that seems to be chaotic and complex. In this way the project deals with the city as space of experiences and perceptions. So the main question of the project is, how people thought about urban life in Early Modern Times and to determine which role inscriptions played in these processes of generating knowledge and importance. The intention is to decode the internal and external references of the inscriptions as urban codes.The objects of my comparative investigation are different types of cities in the North-Western and South of the Holy Roman Empire ranging from the end of the Middle Ages to Early Modern Times (ca. 1450-1670) in order to analyse consistencies and also discontinuities. Methodical I prefer a praxeological approach, which avoids an only text-based interpretation and rather focuses on practices, knowledge, discourse and materiality matters. The high innovative potential of the project is based on the combination of different methodical approaches like the urban semiotics and the theory of practice. In this way I rediscover a classical topic like the premodern city and analyse a relatively unconsidered kind of source under new aspects of the cultural studies.


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