In Memoriam of Hartmut Häussermann

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

After three years of illness, Hartmut Haeussermann died on Friday October 31st. He was president of RC21 from 2002 to 2006, during which time I served as RC21’s secretary. Together, we launched important changes in the management of the Research Committee (yearly conferences, a new website, a new mailing list, a new online payment system, etc.) which helped to consolidate RC21 as one of the most successful scholarly networks in urban studies.

I met Hartmut for the first time in 1990 when he was still teaching in Bremen and I was entering my PhD studies. He became my co-supervisor and I benefitted greatly from his concrete and practical advice. My research compared poverty in two rich cities (Milan and Stuttgart) and he drew my attention to the importance of identifying the mechanisms behind social inequalities and poverty, reproducing and consolidating them in real life. This led me to become interested in how institutions work and shape social processes.

Like the rest of us, Hartmut had his quirks, but they did not prevent him from being a generous person, engaged in the public debate, committed to the ideal of social justice. When we last met – less than one year ago – we had breakfast in a nice French Cafè in Prenzlauerberg and discussed how to put this into practice by being “critically involved” in “changing the world”.

The following collection of short texts – written by friends and colleagues who worked with him on various research activities – provides a tribute to him as a person and as a scholar, not only from the scientific point of view, but appreciating him as a person.

— Yuri Kazepov

Urbino, January 2nd, 2012

Hartmut Häussermann has been a dear friend during the last 15 years. I will greatly miss his intellectually stimulating company and personal warmth. 
With Hartmut we have been part of a small group focused on social and spatial change in large European cities, along with Edmond Preteceille, Chris Hamnett, Jesus Leal and Hans Thor Andersen. We met regularly twice a year for many years; in all kinds of places, and using any possible opportunity as the initial financing stopped after some time, and we had to become inventive. The book we were meant to produce has not materialized (yet); it eventually became a constantly remodelled target. Outlines were constantly modified, and chapters written and rewritten. In every meeting we started by discussing the new work each one was concerned with, along with broader new issues, leading often to a redefinition of our book plan; without the anxiety of formal deadlines, and without imperatives of any sort. It may sound as a quite unproductive arrangement, but for me it has definitely been the most stimulating discussion group I have ever participated in. The formal objective of the group may have not been achieved, but the journey was so rich that it bears no comparison with the frustratingly bureaucratic atmosphere in many typical research groups and networks. In one of our last meetings, and while discussing the increasing financial difficulties for maintaining our group’s regular operation, it was Hartmut who expressed most vividly the eagerness to go on. It was a luxury that we have missed these past two years, and with Hartmut’s definitive departure it can never be the same again.
We have been drawn together in this group by similar preoccupations against dominant explanatory models. Hartmut expressed such concerns in the ‘End of the European city’, which is a powerful comment on the importance of context and politics for urban analysis. Early on he makes it clear that the complexity of the city cannot be reduced to the necessarily limited interpretative angles of the theoretical claims that, after Simmel, became increasingly context dependent and, at the same time, context blind. Context blind approaches have particularly flourished in the US, from the Chicago School to the recent global city thesis. Although, according to this thesis, a more autonomous position within nation-states is argued for global cities in capitalist globalization, context and politics largely disappear. Politics disappear following the idea of an increasingly powerless nation-state before global financial forces, and context disappears following the implicitly exclusive focus on the American global city and its ultra-liberal regulation. Hartmut perceptively and persuasively argued that the question about the European city is whether its contextual preconditioning –going back to roots in the guilds of the precapitalist city– to act as a political entity related to the general interest (and hence to redistributive justice) can endure increased commodification pressure. This role is in fact to what the ‘European city’ boils down according to Hartmut, and therefore its future depends absolutely on whether such a role can be reinvented and sustained as we are moving further and further away from the Keynesian period. For the time being at least, the pressure of global forces is increasing and neoliberal winds seem to sweep our intellectual subtleties along with our inevitably delicate physical existence; but, maybe the next swing of the pendulum is not far away.

— Thomas Maloutas

Athens, November 6th, 2011

When I received the sad news of Hartmut’s death, I was editing the translation of his contribution to a book on gentrification to be published in French. My co-editor translated it, and my German is almost nil, but there were a number of doubts on the translation I could clarify because his chapter is about Prenzlauerberg, where he lived. I had been there at different times with him, and walking through the neighborhood he had shown and explained the history of urbanization of the area, from the initial splendor of the XIXth century bourgeois architecture to the decay and abandonment during the DDR times to the present day renovations and transformations. He would tell the story in such a lively and scholarly way that you would end up feeling a clear understanding of complex social structures and transformations as well as the policy debates and processes, but also a warm sense of familiarity with the place, as if he had invited you to become almost a neighbour. His insights as a participant observer, through the experience of the collective enterprise of renovation of the building he lived in with other colleagues and friends of his, gave a personal flavour to the learning experience, and even more so the delicious dinner he would invite you to in his kitchen, such a good cook as he was.
He was interested in the city from all points of view, from the political economy of its production to the detailed analysis of urban inequalities and processes of exclusion and segregation, from policy debates to urban lifestyles, from the analytical point of view of the social scientist to enjoying urban life as a bon vivant. For many years we have had, in a small group with Chris Hamnett, Hans Thor Andersen, Jesus Leal and Thomas Maloutas, an intense conversation about segregation in our European cities. He would bring in his deep understanding of Berlin and the German urban context, with a strong theoretical background in the German tradition, but also his wide curiosity for different national urban experiences. Meeting in each of our cities was an occasion for learning, for testing different empirical methods and theoretical interpretations, enjoying different urban experiences where each of us in turn was the guide, and our meetings in Berlin were particularly intense, relaxed and enjoyable. He was explicit that it was the format he liked: intense, friendly and informal. Now he has left us, and we don’t know how to continue the conversation without our very dear friend.

— Edmond Préteceille

Paris, November 11th, 2011

Remembering Citizen Häussermann
Having grown up in a small town in the South West of Germany, Hartmut spent most of his professional career in the two federal city states of Bremen and Berlin. Suebia - the wider region around Stuttgart - is home to a variety of Protestant Christianity that is markedly activist, responsible, and "this-worldly", as Max Weber put it; Hartmut was brought up in that tradition. Although being not a religious person, he preserved this spirit of what might be called public affairs Protestantism throughout his life and work, as much as he kept to his Suebian accent, easily recognizable to German listeners even when he spoke English.

A student leader in the Berlin of the mid-sixties, Häussermann dedicated most of his work since the late sixties through the present to the study of (large) cities and metropolitan regions. As an urban sociologist, urban economist, and urban political scientist, he took the city as an interdisciplinary prism through which a wide range of the realities of modern societies, both state socialist and capitalist, can be studied: the labor market and unemployment, inequality and poverty, social work and public housing policy, the economics and esthetics of urban planning, manufacturing  vs. service economy, the making and implementation of public policies, the administration and management of social problems, community and identity, urban macro structure vs. urban life world, strangeness and social conflict, everyday culture and neighborhood, the public vs. the private spheres and forms of property,  European vs. non-European patterns of urban life and urban structures - these were all key themes of his research and wide-ranging academic writings, much of it in life-long cooperation with Walter Siebel.

Häussermann was a master at linking the three levels at which social scientists can make a contribution: the empirical, the theoretical, the normative. In his role as a policy adviser and through his advocacy interventions, he became a public intellectual whose diagnoses and recommendations were reported in the media and sought after by policy elites. He was also an activist in organizing, developing and inspiring academic institutions (such as RC 21) and scholarly cooperation, both nationally and internationally. I remember him as one of the most modest and unpretentious, at the same time most focused and energetic scholars I ever encountered. Far more than being a superb expert on cities, he was an exemplary citizen.

— Claus Offe

Berlin, November 12th, 2011

I met Hartmut for the first time in the nineteen eighties at a meeting of the ISA Research Committee on Urban and Regional Development. At the time Hartmut was already a prominent urban sociologist in Germany teaching at the University of Bremen. He was already known internationally  for various contributions on urban questions in Germany with particular attention to urban change and renovation, segregation and gentrification. Since then we met often and we worked together on various international projects. I went to Bremen and then Berlin various times and Hartmut often came to Milan particularly, but not only, around his summer working sessions on Lake Orta. When he moved to Humboldt we intensified our collaboration through the Bicocca Doctorate of Urban Studies (of which Harmut was one of the founding members and remained active in the scientific board up to his retirement) and the European Research and Training Network UrbEurope. His contribution in the education of a young generation of European urban scholars has been valuable. Hartmut was a clever, open and stimulating colleague and a good friend. I shall certainly miss both his vivid intellectual contribution and his generous friendship.

— Enzo Mingione

Milan, November 15th, 2011

Hartmut Häussermann gave me the gift of friendship for more than twenty years, partnered in the Humboldt-CUNY Graduate Center urban exchange program for ten, and we both had an intellectual and political commitment to understanding urban exclusion and promoting inclusion. He had many wonderful qualities which he shared with others in an unstinting way.

These qualities are evident in the broad reach and deep insight of his investigating, thinking, writing, talking, and teaching about cities. Although our friendship began when he was working in Bremen, it grew after he moved to Berlin to become a professor at Humboldt in 1993. His invitation to participate in a conference in Bremen in June 1991 gave me the first of many chances to learn more about the newly reunified but still divided city. Since then, the great pleasure of his company has helped me come to know that wonderful and freighted city more intimately. Hartmut was an unequaled guide, whether through his studies, his networks of friends and co-workers, visiting places he found interesting or noteworthy, walking through the neighborhoods, or having long talks on these walks. A trip to the Hoppegarten racetrack in the former East to see a fireworks contest was only one of many unforgettable moments.

Hartmut set high standards for how to be a social scientist. He was critical of sloppy thinking and would firmly call it out, yet he had endless curiosity and willingness to see things in new ways and to reconsider old ideas. He was adventurous about his urbanism, not settling for dry statistics about “moving to opportunity” in the U.S. but going out to visit both the neighborhoods from which the families in this experiment came and the ones where they resettled. He felt that careful empirical scholarship would not only highlight the fundamental problems facing urban dwellers, but could point toward ways of making urban life more inclusive and democratic. For him, there was no contradiction between excellent scholarship and active citizenship. This was evident not only in the “quarter management” program inspired by his work for the Berlin Senate or in the many conferences he organized for the SPD and Green party foundations, but also in how he inspired generations of students to learn how to apply the tools of critical social science to build a fairer and more humane city. It was also apparent in his leadership of the social science faculty at Humboldt, his service to RC21, and his participation in many international conferences and research projects.

Most profoundly, it was just plain fun to be part of Hartmut’s extended family. This might involve learning the fine art of making spätzle or scouting out good Swabian restaurants or finding the best pretzels. He had a wonderfully playful side, reflected in the cow figurines collected in his kitchen or the postcard in his bathroom announcing that “all was in order” there. For all these and many other ways he enriched our lives, there are really no words to describe the sadness of his loss.

— John Mollenkopf

Palo Alto, November 17th, 2011

The death of Hartmut Hausserman is a great loss to urban sociology and to European urban studies in general. He was a warm and generous colleague with a great breadth of vision and insight and as well as being a rigorous social researcher he was committed to social and political engagement with contemporary urban issues and problems. Urban research for Hartmut was not a purely theoretical exercise, but one with important policy implications, particularly for the situation of disadvantaged groups. He also had a strong interest in comparative urban change and problems and was keen to develop an understanding of the forms and causes of variations across different European cities.

I first met Hartmut in 1991 at an ESF conference in Oporto on the Future of the European city and was fortunate to subsequently meet him in at a variety of ESF and ISA conferences. I remember our first major conversation was about our parents and our upbringing in postwar Germany and Britain. But the most memorable meetings with Hartmut were at three main fora. The first was a series of urban research summer schools in Urbino, Italy organized by Yuri Kasepov. A group of academics, usually 2 or 4 each week, were put up in a wonderful converted religious foundation in the centre of the town, and had the pleasure of running a series of seminars for urban PhD students from all over Europe. We spent several happy weeks there over the course of 2-3 years, discussing urban and other issues over breakfast in the courtyard, and over lunch or dinner with the students at local restaurants. Hartmut was always a stimulating and warm colleague and companion for all of us. 

The second, and much longer, series of meetings involved a group of urban researchers, including Hartmut, Jesus Leal, Edmond Preteceille, Thomas Maloutas and Hans Thor Andersen and myself, which generally met twice a year in our respective cities, or near Volos in Greece, for almost 10 years to grapple with the issues of comparative urban change. Many of the meetings were combined with some sort of seminar at one or other of our universities, and sometimes at City hall to politicians and local officials. These seminars provided the basis for a number of joint publications, on for example, urban social segregation in the Greek Review of Social Research, 2004 and on housing segregation in a book published by Madrid City council in 2007. It was at one of these meetings in Athens, that we first became aware of Hartmut’s deep classical education in Germany. He knew all the major historic sites in Athens and could talk knowledgeably about them. A trip through Athens or to the national archeological museum with him was always memorable as was the Pergamon museum in Berlin.

Hartmut always played a key role in these meetings and it was a pleasure to be in his company and to hear what he had to say and for us to walk round the cities together, often with our partners. It was at one of these meetings, in Athens, where we first met Ruth, Hartmut’s delightful partner and subsequently second wife. At the meetings in Berlin, we saw the reshaping of the city first hand, had tours around Prenzlauerburg and, if we were lucky, enjoyed some of Hartmut’s cooking.

The third forum was the variety of RC 21 and other conferences we were able to attend together including a memorable conference on Globalization, socio-economic change and political divisions in the major cities of the 21st Century , organized by Hartmut in 2008 at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung building in Berlin, with Saskia Sassen, john Mollenkopf, John Logan and many other speakers. We were also able to meet in Harvard in 2009 at a conference organized by Edmond Preteceille on the subject of urban inequality. This was the last time we all met together, though Hartmut had been trying to organise a small meeting in Berlin on urban riots in London, Paris and Berlin not long before he died. We had hoped that he had beaten his illness, but this was not to be and we will all miss him deeply. Our sympathies go to his daughter and grandson and to Ruth and her children.

— Chris Hamnett

London, November 19th, 2011

Thinking of Hartmut makes it hard to acknowledge that he is no longer with us. He has enriched my life and those of many others so much with his intellectual curiosity, his joy in sharing and developing ideas together, his great sense of humour, and his generous hospitality. Last Friday in Berlin, family, friends, and colleagues commemorated Hartmut in a moving, comforting ceremony organized by Ruth, his wife, and Johanna, his daughter. The large crowd of mourners from different generations testified to Hartmut’s wide impact as a teacher, scholar, citizen, and friend.

Even in his last days, Hartmut wanted to make a statement against the government’s policy of cutting funding for the social component of the Federal Urban Development Program (Städtebauförderungsgesetz). It was a matter of the mind and of the heart for him to fight the injustice of urban social inequality aggravated by spatial inequality. A deep intellectual understanding was a precondition for doing that.
Hartmut’s books and articles, many written with his friend Walter Siebel, were path breaking in the field of urban studies. But theory was not enough. Practical consequences had to follow. More than most other academics, Hartmut was quite successful in insisting on the need for political action. On Hartmut’s initiative, the government of Berlin introduced Quartiersmanagement, a neighbourhood-based institution promoting the participation of citizens and the cooperation among different administrative bodies to prevent social exclusion. Hartmut also developed with colleagues a statistical instrument for regularly monitoring social changes on the neighbourhood level in

Berlin to track the impact of preventive measures. It became a model for other German cities as well.

To all of us who are so sad to have lost him, Hartmut would probably say: move on, as he did.

— Martin Kronauer

Berlin, November 14th, 2011

In memory of Hartmut Häussermann
Hartmut Häussermann was the towering figure in German urban sociology.  And he was, as Günther Uhlig has pointed out, an engaged scholar who knew how to combine practical involvement with critical distance. Generations of students have been influenced by his spirit of ‘science with responsibility.’ Hartmut was above all interested in the question how social inequalities shape the city and how, in turn, the city reshapes and sharpens such inequalities. His outrage over the actual inequalities he observed was a driving force behind his academic work. But he never wrote angrily. His political commitment was the foundation of the questions he asked, but did not influence the tone of his writings.

Others have described his scholarly and intellectual achievements well. I would like to relate some of the experiences we shared in working together for forty years, recollections that will be similar to those of many others who had the pleasure of working with him.
Our collaboration began when he sent me a research report that the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which had commissioned it, had not yet released to the public.  In return, I sent him drafts of my PhD thesis. At that time I admired his courage in pushing aside political restrictions and he admired mine in sending him my unfinished draft text.  That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that was very productive for both of us.

Back then, we learned to trust each other and that we could each count on the other.  And this trust has supported both of us for forty years.

We used to have this beautiful rule: whoever makes the criticism does the revisions.  In this way, we could explore unknown territory in our thinking and writing with the certain knowledge that the other would get us back on track again if we strayed too far. To put something complex into simple terms, we have been able to develop our own thinking through an intimate dialogue.  Many others will forever join me in thanking him for that.

— Walter Siebel

Oldenburg , November 16th, 2011

Just as diverse as our personal experiences of cities are, Hartmut Häussermann wrote with colleague Siebel in their German introduction to urban sociology, so are the perspectives which sociology can bring to understanding the city. In his work, Hartmut Häussermann made clear that he had a very precise understanding of the most important themes in the study of the urban. Motivated by a belief in social and democratic (dare I say social democratic?)  equality, the themes he worked on all boiled down to an understanding of the city as the site that expressed social inequalities as well as organized them spatially, often reinforcing them.

When I came to Berlin to take over his Chair at Humboldt three years ago, I got to know Hartmut Häussermann personally. We learnt quickly that we had very different approaches to the way we dealt with methodologies and theories, with me saying to him that I did not think he was enough of an empirical fundamentalist to make the often very thought-provoking claims he made about the empirical world, and him saying to me at times that what I wrote was interesting but not urban sociology, resulting in exciting and long discussions about what ideally urban sociology should and should not be.

We also learnt quickly that we had a very fundamental commonality when it came to the motivations behind the work we did, both with regard to the bigger issues behind the questions that we asked in our work as well as the need for social science to engage with the real world, though not in a prescriptive way. I am grateful to have had these discussions; retiring was nothing for Hartmut, I believe, but he was an extremely good emeritus. Giving me, as a novice coming from abroad with little understanding of  German debates, all the support that I could have wished for, he was there to provide advice whenever I asked, always accepted my deviations from that advice, and in many subtle ways taught me about German university bureaucracies, about teaching tricks and more about the city of Berlin than I could ever remember. And he did all this invisibly.

I never had the honour of working directly with him, we were not ‘old friends’ and the time for friendship, intellectually as well as personally, was too brief: I regret that, but cherish the memories of the moments we had.

— Talja Blokland

Berlin, November 22nd, 2011

Hartmut and I shared a friendship that began in the 1950s, when we went to the same high school in the Swabian town of Waiblingen, near Stuttgart. After taking different paths during our university years – Hartmut studied sociology and political science, I engineering and political economy – we met again in Berlin in the mid-sixties. Hartmut was already deeply involved in the student movement as a leader of the student union at the Free University and a few months later I became the student union leader at the Technical University of Berlin. By the 1970s, we were both assistant lecturers at the Institute of Sociology at the Free University. It was a great pleasure to learn together how to teach and do research. At this time the city and metropolitan region became my main fields of research, for which I really have to thank Hartmut, who was already an advanced scholar of these topics. We went our different ways once more, working in different cities of Germany or Europe, but always maintained contact, meeting often to have intense conversations, work on common projects, or just get together. Our nearly “archaic” mutual reliance on our Swabian provenance was always in the background.

Many other colleagues have already highlighted Hartmut’s unique and distinguished role in the German and international urban sociology community. I would like to focus on his role as a public intellectual. In an article entitled “What 1968 Means for Us,” Hartmut concluded that the rise of a distinctive political self-confidence and independence was the most important result of this movement. Hartmut embodied this political spirit during his entire professional career through the ethos of a critical researcher, though one who could always question his own positions. Such figures are common in the Anglo-Saxon and French academic worlds, but we lack such a tradition in the German University, where, for historical reasons, they are rare. Hartmut was just such an unusual person, always taking clear, strong stands imbued by the value of social equity and everyone’s right to equal opportunities. This normative stance guided his ceaseless fight as academic scholar against the injustices of urban inequality and exclusion. But Hartmut was also a joyful man, with a great sense of humor and an ability not to take himself too seriously. It was a great gift to know him, to work with him, or just to spend time with him in the kitchen cooking, eating, drinking, and laughing.

Dieter Läpple

Hamburg, December 1st, 2011

2011 ©