City Branding: UrbRel panel at DHT 2023

Susanne Rau, Martin Christ and Sara Keller are convening a panel at this year’s Historikertag which will take place from 19 – 22 September 2023 in Leipzig. The speakers include current and former fellows of the “Religion and Urbanity” research group as well as established reseachers in the field of urban history:

  • Mateusz Jakub Fafinski (Erfurt): Parchment Cities: Representations of Urban Space in Early Medieval Manuscripts
  • Simone Wagner (Potsdam): Depicting other Cities. City Branding in the Historiography of South-West German Towns
  • Sanjay Srivastava (London): Techno-politics: The Material and Political Life of Technology as a Brand in ‘New’ Gurugram, Haryana, India
  • Carla Meyer-Schlenkrich (Münster): Who shapes the brand? Reflections on Urban Historiography as a Medium of Communal Self-Reassurance between the Middle Ages and Modernity
  • Pralay Kanungo (Leiden): Brand Bhubaneswar: A Blend of Tradition with Modern

The abstract of the individual papers can be accessed via the programm of the Historikertag. We share the abstract of the panel itself here.


Magritte’s famous “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” taught us that images are deceiving. Similarly, one may question in how far images of cities are truthful to urban realities. Studies on cities suggest that historical facts have often been appropriated, abused or invented to create a certain (mental) image of a city, based on narratives such as foundation myths, eulogies, travel books or maps. This panel considers a selection of case studies from Europe and South Asia from the twelfth to the twenty-first century CE in order to address the fragile facts that help to construct city images.

City branding studies brought to light a large range of strategies implemented in order to produce a (new) urban identity. These strategies include the changing of physical spaces through the construction of iconic monuments, the introduction of practices such as urban rituals and cultural, economic and religious events and finally narratives imagined and diffused through campaigns and with the help of a variety of media. The “invention of tradition” and the writing of histories play significant roles in these processes.

This emerging field of study focuses largely on modern cities and notions such as a green city or the branding of cities to attract tourists and investors. We propose to expand this research by taking a historical perspective and consider pre-modern as well as modern strategies of producing city images. Which strategies and media were used to create a mental image (pilgrimages, fairs, city guides, maps etc.) and who were the actors and audiences of these strategies (council members, economic elites, religious authorities, etc.)? The proposed trans-regional framework encourages a comparative approach to stimulate a novel discussion on city images beyond Europe. Moreover, the papers ask how city branding influenced urbanity and vice versa: How representative (or even truthful) of urban experiences are city images and did they influence the urban way of life?

Cite this blog post
urbrel (2023, September 18). City Branding: UrbRel panel at DHT 2023. Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from

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