Smellscape Project

Lublin – an Olfactory Urban History of the 20th Century in East-Central Europe

This olfactory urban history focuses on how Lublin’s smellscapes continuously have been changing and evolving according to socio-cultural, economic, ecological, and political transformations. The study locates different conflicted smellscapes that defined the city’s atmosphere and explores how these smells affected Lublin’s citizens and their everyday life.

Smells play a crucial role in urban space perception and define one’s environment and orientation within it. Smells are affective and the encounter with smells is strongly linked with emotions. Therefore, smellscapes cannot be isolated from social constructions of space and its various political and socio-cultural implications. The study hence addresses the following research questions, applied to certain micro-historical case-studies: Which were the dominant urban smellmarks shaping Lublin’s smellscape during the 20th century? How do olfactory constructions and social categories overlap and result in social, political and/or gender “othering”. Also, urban planning had always had a strong focus on odor control and odor management. Which were the strategies of dealing with odors?

Smells strongly influence us in how we appreciate the atmosphere of a given place. At the same time smells are socially and culturally classified and co-determine the symbolic order and imagination of urban spaces. The examination of odors helps to spotlight the air of a place and its history. By asking who smelled and what smelled the study scrutinizes power relations and narrates the transitions and continuities of the region. Lublin here stands exemplary for the history of the 20th century in East-Central Europe. It reflects the troubled, yet “ordinary” history of a city in the region.