The research group Scripts for Postindustrial Urban Futures: American Models, Transatlantic Interventions (short: City Scripts) explores the imaginative strategies and narrative scenarios which the centers of old industries (steel, coal and cars) in the United States and Germany are devising to forge paths into their futures. Funded by the Volkswagen Stiftung for four years with a budget of 1.7 million, City Scripts is a joint endeavor of the American Studies Departments of the University Alliance Ruhr (Duisburg-Essen, Bochum, Dortmund). The research group is led by our speaker Prof. Dr. Barbara Buchenau.
From 2018 to 2022, seven doctoral candidates and one postdoctoral researcher carry out detailed studies of three prominent concepts of city planning (sustainability, inclusion, and creativity). The objects of their research will be contemporary paradigms, processes of self-description, and operational strategies – in short, scripts – for the construction of ecologically sustainable, creative, but also socially and culturally inclusive futures for postindustrial cities. As part of City Scripts’ innovative research and didactic concept, the researchers will collaborate with civic and industrial partners from urban business, administration, and civil society. Their projects draw on academic research, fieldwork and active cooperation with their respective partners. In doing so, the projects transcend the academic field of American Studies, incorporating approaches from Cultural Studies, History, and Media Studies.
The research group begins from an understanding of the frequently scripted nature of urban transformations as dependent on narrative acts, generic formula, medial forms and structures, figures of thought, as well as cognitive models. Because these urban transformations play into the core competencies of literary, cultural, and media studies as well as historical research, they require the sustained disciplinary attention of scholars in American Studies. US-American models are still powerful for these processes of urbanization, whether as blueprints or as emblems of developments to be feared. With its groundbreaking de-/re-industrialization processes and its shrinking, aging, and yet increasingly diverse population, the Ruhr region (“Ruhrgebiet”) in which the research group is located resembles certain American cities. In a transatlantic comparison between two paradigmatic regions of postindustrial urban decline and restructuring, the German Ruhr region and the US-American Rust Belt, the researchers will undertake the study of American postindustrial scripts and their transatlantic (re)formulations.