Prof. Dr. Monika Dommann

October 2011 - March 2012

Monika Dommann (born 1966 in Switzerland) is professor at the Department of History of the University of Basel. She studied history and economics in Zurich, and worked as a researcher at the Department of History at the University of Zurich from 1997 to 2004. She received a Ph.D. in 2002 for her dissertation on the history of the x-ray and submitted her Habilitation on the history of copyrights after book printing (1850-1980) in 2011. From 2004 to 2005, she was a research fellow at the Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften (IFK) in Vienna, and in 2007, she was granted a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. She then became visiting professor at the Communication Studies Department at McGill University, Montreal from 2007 to 2008 as well as postdoctoral research fellow at the German Historica Institute in Washington DC in 2008.

Fields of research

Cultural and social history from the 19th to the 21st century (with a focus on technology, economics, science, and law); contemporary history; history of material culture; logistics "in the long run"; methods of reproduction and copyright; the history of copyright in the age of reproduction; the global history of warehouses since 1800

IKKM Research Project

Space of wares and economies of space: cultural techniques of storage

My research project deals with the history of the warehouse in the context of global economy since 1850. I intend to elaborate on my previous research and publications on the history of the material culture of logistics (see bibliographical references) in order to develop the material into a book with the working title "Warenräume und Raumökonomien: Kulturtechniken des Lagerns seit 1800".

Until recently, when enterprises like IKEA started transforming their stores into warehouses, and made their customers pick up the merchandise directly in the storage rooms, warehouses were not spaces that were part of the experience or perception of the everyday life of average people. Neither were they buildings of interest to historians of architecture or economy. However, the insight they can provide should not be undervalued. In fact, they can serve, and that is the starting point of this project, as a focal point for further analysis, because they are situated at one of the pivotal points of the extensive socio-economical and culture-technical changes that have taken place since 1850. New storage techniques based on scientific engineering and founded by mercantile practice were an element of the first wave of globalization in the second half of the 19th century. The handling of space and time was transformed by the development of new infrastructures of transport as well as through the use of new materials and construction techniques, and the development of legal and technical norms.

Through an analysis of architectonic, epistemic, economic, judicial, and social practices, I intend to put those developments into a historical context, which has been termed vaguely "post-Fordist society" and "postindustrial society" in the 1970.

During my stay in Weimar, I plan to work on case studies concerning so-called "colonial produces" (e.g. caoutchouc imported from the Congo at the beginning of the 20th century), as well as the mathematical modeling of inventory in the 1950s (e.g. Kenneth J. Arrow), and the development of the high rack in the 1960s. My focus is on the analysis of those cultural techniques that are able to bridge spatial distances and establish temporal durations.

The IKKM with its annual topic of "Localization—the Production of Sites" will serve as an ideal framework for the work on the manuscript of my book.

The following texts should provide you with an impression of my approach to the subject:

  • "'Be wise – Palletize': Die Transformation eines Transportbettes zwischen den USA und Europa im Zeitalter der Logistik". In: Traverse 3, 2009, p. 21-35.
  • "Spediteure, Papiere und andere Begleiterscheinungen des Welthandels im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert". In: WerkstattGeschichte 57, 2011. (forthcoming)
  • "Warenräume und Raumökonomien: Kulturtechniken des Lagerns (1870-1970) ". In: Tumult: Schriften zur Verkehrswissenschaft Vol. 38. (forthcoming in autumn 2011)