Dr. Mareen Heying (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)

Working Class Districts – spaces of subordination or self-determination? Activity areas of everyday life of the European working class around 1900

05 February 2018 – 05 April 2018

This project traces self-determination strategies of workers living in working class districts in European cities before World War II. As a result of the increasing industrialization in the 19th century the division of working-space and private life structures of family and work underwent profound changes.
People belonging to the so called working class were living in newly constructed working class districts. The growth of these districts as social spaces can be defined in three different levels: Urban planning, normative discourse and regularly policies. Therefore, the central question of the project is: Which regulations defined the working class districts from the outside and how have they been undermined by the workers themselves? Which appropriation processes were employed by the workers? Another object of enquiry is how everyday life in working class districts looked like; how workers subverted norms and regulations and how they adopted their districts as social spaces to escape subordination and domination.
Due to a lack of hygiene and the oppressive narrowness of the houses and flats workers tended to spend free time in public spaces of their home districts, which leads to further questions: Which buildings and places have been adopted by the workers and how? Which meaning did this spaces have, how have they been perceived, used or changed? Was there resistance against regulating political measures, for example through the evacuation of places, flats or other social spaces? Which roles played other social spaces like pubs? Were they primarily spaces of joy or recovery, of social exchange or political action?
The districts were not homogeneous spaces. Their inhabitants differed regarding their social position within the working class, with regard to their place of origin, age and gender.
Gender specific differences will also be analyzed within the framework of this project: In how far were the districts shaped by gender-roles? Which spaces where used by women, which by men?
The research project aims at contributing to Everyday History, Social History and to the Labour History of the working class.


Dr. des. Mareen Heying studied History, Gender Studies and Philosophy at the Universities of Bochum, Düsseldorf and Bologna. In March 2013, she received her Master’s degree with a thesis on the everyday life of a communist women living in Germany between 1934 and 1945, whose husband had been detained by the National Socialists.
In 2017, Mareen completed her PhD from the Universities of Bochum and Bologna, the topic of the dissertation was the prostitutes’ movements in Germany and Italy between1980 and 2001. The dissertation analyses politically active sex worker in both countries as social movements.
Since October 2016, Mareen is employed as lecturer at the University of Düsseldorf, where she is currently preparing her Post-Doc-Project on working class districts.

Hurenbewegungen und ihr Verhältnis zu Frauenbewegungen. Eine Annäherung an deutsche und italienische Prostituiertengruppen in den 1980er und 1990er Jahren, in: Ariadne. Forum für Frauen- und Geschlechtergeschichte, (2016) 70, S. 52-59.
Nachtexpress. Eine Zeitschrift als Spiegel und Sprachrohr der deutschen Hurenbewegung, in: Frank Jacob (Hg.): Prostitution: Eine Begleiterin der Menschheit / Prostitution: A Companion of Mankind, Frankfurt a. M. u.a. 2016, S. 337–354.

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