Location, location, location.

The articles for group one this week mainly deal with ideal of space in history The first selection that I read was Kathryn Oberdeck’s,  Class, Place, and Gender: Contested industrial and domestic space in Kohler Wisconsin, U.S.A. 1920-60. This is a study of how the structure and layout of Kohler’s “company town” helped to re-enforce gender roles for women through limiting women’s access to the business sections of town, and regulating them to a domestic role by defining their place in the structure of the town. Kohler’s aggressive advertising campaign spread these gender roles even further than the confines of the town itself. By promoting their products and way of life as the eventual goal of every American family, this definition of a womans place rapidly became a standard part of the culture.

The second reading for this week was by Marc Baer, The Great Fire of 1660 and the islamicization of Christian and Jewish space in Istanbul. Here again we see the effects of space on the direction of history. In the period prior to 1660, the Ottoman Empire was facing a series of internal and external crises, that led to the ruling classes to move toward a more fundamental interpretation of Islamic law, particularly in regards to the Christian and Jewish communities that resided within their borders. Some in the Empire government felt that leniency towards other religious beliefs was the cause of many of their issues, but Islamic law forbade the destruction of already existing houses of worship. However, the sudden and devastating tragedy of the Great Fire in 1660 provided an opportunity to make changes within the city of Istanbul that would allow city planners to reorganize the religious nature of the capital city. By refusing to allow the rebuilding of churches and synagogues, and the strategic placement of new and imposing mosques, entire communities were forced to relocate which consolidated Islamic control by regulating religious minorities to the fringes of the city.

What these article have in common is quite obvious, Space. Even though these incidents are separated by two hundred and sixty odd years, they both reveal the results of city planning and structure on communities. The layout of the Kohler company town, by its very nature regulated women to a set of expectation and standards of behavior. While Istanbul was not originally organized to the goal of regulating religious minorities to the edges of Ottoman society, the restructuring of the city in the wake of the fire achieved that very result.

This begins to shed some light on the importance of historical studies of space. From community planning, to the simple relationships between neighbors within a small community, much can be learned by narrowing your focus to the locations people reside, or do not reside as the case may be.


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