Samantha Fox

Student, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Columbia University

Heyman Center Fellow (Graduate Student) 2016 - 17

Project Description:

Samantha Fox’s research focuses on Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany, a city on the border between Germany and Poland founded in 1950 as a socialist utopian project. Originally called Stalinstadt, the city was planned as a steel manufacturing hub and worker’s paradise. Its products would power the rise of urban centers across East Germany and its design—focused on the needs of young families—would be a model of humane urban living. Until 1989 Eisenhüttenstadt thrived. Today, it suffers from urban blight and shifting demographics as young people leave for better lives elsewhere. Yet unlike in the U.S., where the rhetoric around post-industrial cities focuses on the promise of future growth, German planners embrace growth’s end. In Eisenhüttenstadt, state actors and private contractors are imprinting on the city a new utopianism as they transform it into a new urban paradigm: an environmentally sustainable city that caters to an aging and shrinking population. Fox’s goal is to understand how citizens and municipal officials imagine new urban futures when the possibility for population and economic growth has been curtailed. This is not a project about ruination, degradation, or the recuperation of abandoned things, so much as it is about the way that the durability of certain material structures—as well as a perceived entanglement between material and social structures—forces those who encounter them to reckon with questions of temporality, responsibility, and citizenship. Of her experience as a Heyman Center Fellow, Fox writes,

“Being able to meet regularly with a community of engaging, kind, and supportive scholars provided an invaluable outlet for intellectual exchange. I also feel particularly lucky that, as a graduate student, I was able to get to know a wide variety of junior scholars who could act as role models for how I hope to shape my career when I finish my PhD in 2018.” Fox used part of my Heyman Center research budget for a trip to Berlin, where she visited the national archives and Brandenburg state archives.

Samantha Maurer Fox is currently a PhD candidate in Anthropology at Columbia. She received her BA with high honors from Dartmouth College in 2008, where she was a Senior Fellow, and her MA in Visual and Media Anthropology from the Freie Universität in 2010. Her dissertation, titled “Eisenhüttenstadt: the Social and Cultural Effects of Remaking Urban Environments,” focuses on contemporary urban renewal efforts in Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany, a steel manufacturing city on the border between Germany and Poland founded in 1950 as a socialist utopian project.

Fox conducted dissertation research from 2014 to 2016 with the support of the DAAD, Wenner-Gren Foundation, and National Science Foundation. She was a Heyman Center Fellow from 2016 to 2017, and will be a Mellon-CES Fellow in 2017-2018.