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Efthymiou Loukia
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Paris in War: urban space mutations, through the prism of gender, during the Great War

A city on the sidelines that records the echoes of, an often, distant conflict, Paris sees its physiognomy going through an alteration during the First World War. The mass exodoi of September 1914 and May 1918, the material disasters caused by the air raids of the Gothas, and the constant ‘hammerings’ of “Fat Bertha” from land between Mars and August 1918 , the return of the wounded, all inscribe themselves on the urban landscape of the capital marking it in an unprecedented manner. But what changes the cityscape more drastically is the predominance of a feminization of the area which manifests itself with the geographical reorganization of the professional territory. This reconfiguration breaks up boundaries and partitions and renders the traditional space and gender dichotomies and polarizations obsolete. In turn, this restructuring imposes on figures of urban authority a new approach to public space, with a view to enforce new rules and frameworks on the multifaceted and ongoing evolutions.

The current work, that stems from the issue of the ‘city in crisis’, proposes a discovery, through the Parisian example of 1914-1918, of the complicated nature-inherent with a gendered perspective-of a global vision that unites war, space and gender visibility. This is about demonstrating how the interaction of these two tools for the evaluation of mutations-the crisis and gender-functions as a cadre of transversal comprehension and interpretation of the urban dynamics and tensions that could potentially enrich and renew the history of cities. .

Therefore, the scope of the current project cannot be but multiple: to discover the innovation and the gendered professional geography (exercise of functions and professions that have traditionally and exclusively been reserved for males); to examine the interventional policies (recommendations, laws, ministerial circulars and work realized by feminist and charity associations) that have to do, in part, with regulating, organizing and finally normalizing this new spatial reality with multiple repercussions, and, on the other hand, to guarantee its temporary character that is associated with the anomaly of the moment; lastly, it interrogates a-pro-birth, hygienic and political-discourse according to which the construction of the peaceful city rests on the reestablishment of gender separated and dedicated places.

© EPLO 2017