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Kitchen sink dramas: women, modernity and space in Weimar Germany

[journal article]

Jerram, Leif

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Abstract This article uses historical evidence about the competing designs of kitchens in 1920s German social housing to argue that historians (and, to an extent, geographers) have overlooked the coercive capacity of space to compel certain forms of social relationship. Such has been the potency of the ‘cultural’ model in history and geography that the ‘material’ world has been cloaked by language and symbol. Bourgeois politicians, planners and reformers in 1920s Germany were not only compelled to think about domestic space for the poor for the first time, but had to actually produce the physical space if they wanted to make their ideologies ‘live’. This article also shows that if we disaggregate the space of the home into its constituent parts (rather than simply contrasting the private and the public realms), different gender ideologies could be designed into domestic space, forcing families to adopt ways of living and patterns of sociability according to the priorities of, variously, ‘Americanizers’, socialists, conservatives and liberals. The kitchen designs of Frankfurt are well known, but in fact those of Munich were probably more widespread, and so this work further serves to decentre the canon of Modernism which dominates much discussion of Weimar building.
Document language English
Publication Year 2006
Page/Pages p. 538-556
Journal Cultural Geographies, 13 (2006) 4
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)