Pleasurescapes: Port cities‘ transnational forces of integration

Where people have fun, encounter happens. Where encounter takes place, change begins. Are pleasurescapes in port cities Europe’s true driving forces after all?

Together with partners in Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, and Germany we explore how pleasure culture is key for social cohesion and what specifics port cities show in this regard. Public places of entertainment in port cities mirror traits of urbanization in an extraordinary way: They are transnational microcosms, representing conformity and rebellion at the same time. They are public zones of encounter and melting pot for divergent classes, cultures and religions.

We call these places “pleasurescapes” – rather than pleasure districts or quarters – because they are fluid in size and character over time and space. They are vivid cultural landscapes of pleasure, not just built architecture. In studying the past and present of European port cities’ pleasurescapes, we gain insights into Europe’s cultural pluralism and its exchange of knowledge, material, technologies, and practices.

The project is based in History, Urban Cultural Studies and Museum Studies, but it also brings in disciplines like Media Studies, Migration Studies and Theatre Studies as well as a diverse methodological set, including Actor-Network-Theory or Arts-Based-Research for instance.

In our research, we are looking at a time period of roughly 150 years, dating from the late 1800s until today, and are taking four cities into close empirical account: Hamburg (DE), Rotterdam (NL), Barcelona (ES) and Gothenburg (SE). Despite their national singularities, these cities’ pleasurescapes show intriguing transnational convergence – why and how exactly is the subject of our research.