Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Cities as Multiple Landscapes: Investigating the Sister Cities Innsbruck and New Orleans

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Cities as Multiple Landscapes: Investigating the Sister Cities Innsbruck and New Orleans

Article excerpt

Cities as Multiple Landscapes: Investigating the Sister Cities Innsbruck and New Orleans. Edited by Christina Antenhofer, Gunter Bischof, Robert Dupont, and Ulrich Leitner. Interdisciplinary Urban Research. (Frankfurt and New York: Campus Verlag, 2016. Pp. 529. $68.00, ISBN 978-3-59350647-0.)

At the very beginning of this book, the editors ask the question: "How should it be possible to compare two such different cities as Innsbruck and New Orleans?" (p. 11). It is with these two cities--the Austrian alpine city and the southern U.S. port city--that the volume, consisting of five hundred pages and twenty-five articles, is concerned. But of course the important question is not how to compare something--since anything can be compared. Rather, it is whether it is worth making a comparison in the first place. And this crucial question is also one that the editors pose with disarming candor in their introduction: "why should one even want to compare these cities which at first glance do not have much in common?" (p. 11).

As the editors reveal, the immediate impetus for the volume came from an International Summer School that the University of New Orleans has hosted in Innsbruck since 1976. Since then, 10,000 students, 454 professors, and 62 staff members have each spent six weeks in idyllic Innsbruck. But what is interesting about the book? Why is it worth comparing the two cities?

Some of the contributors do indeed refer to the concept of "Multiple Landscapes" that appears in the book's title, with this idea serving (as the editors write in their introduction) "as a heuristic concept to organize the approaches to the multiple layers and unique logic of each of the two cities alike" (p. 19). The question may immediately arise as to whether there are also non-multiple landscapes, but it sounds good in any case.

It is in this spirit that we should understand the historians, tourism experts, city planners, architects, geographers, and educationalists who fill the volume with their studies and who for the most part work at the University of Innsbruck and, to a lesser extent, at the University of New Orleans and other universities. Largely unburdened by research questions and released from any coherence that might unite the volume, the contributors tell of interesting events, places worth seeing, and curious insights, of facts worth knowing, and of all sorts of other things."

The geographer Richard Campanella, for example, reports on a unique treasure in New Orleans: the Notarial Archives, which contains more than 40 million pages of property transfer records spanning three centuries. The French Quarter, popular with tourists, is particularly well documented. Campanella also wonders why the narrow houses known as "shotguns" boomed after the Civil War. And we learn that this trend might well have had something to do with the end of slavery: since only a few households could still afford servants, there was no longer the need for extra space for staff in the houses. …

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