Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Architecture and the Humanities
Sebastian Schmidt is a historian of urbanism and architecture working on issues of war, race, and memory in cities in the 20th century, with a focus on the United States, Germany, and Japan during and after WWII. Schmidt is currently working on a book manuscript that expands on the research done for his dissertation, tentatively titled Global War, Race, and the City: How WWII Shaped Urbanism in New York, Berlin, and Tokyo. His project positions the global and racial nature of WWII as a shaping force of urbanism—with important consequences for the methodologies of urban history. The war built vast infrastructures that became the foundation for civilian aviation, and it made the world seem a lot smaller and a lot more vulnerable. The war was also charged with strong racial discourses—the US presented itself as a bringer of global freedom while maintaining segregation at home, Germany’s aggressive quest for Lebensraum culminated in the Holocaust and the postwar struggle of dealing with this racial legacy, and the loss of Japan’s multi-ethnic empire in East Asia after WWII shaped the country’s reimagining as a monoethnic nation state. Based on evidence from urban policy, planning, architecture, and art, Schmidt investigates the urbanism of New York, Berlin, and Tokyo—the principal cities of three nations deeply implicated in the war—to challenge the notion that economic globalization alone made cities global. Instead, his work positions the postwar city as a response to war-driven global infrastructures and racial ideologies, and contributes to an understanding of the complex relationship between WWII and urbanism.