Simone Egger

A cosmopolitan City, a cosmopolitan Life

Aspasia Schönwald from Smyrna and the spaces of a transnational biography


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On the basis of a historical stock of letters the project presented in this article is concerned with a dual biography: of a woman and of a city. In particular, it focusses on the lifeworld of Aspasia Schoenwald, who was born in 1891 in Ottoman Smyrna. Her story is unthinkable without the Levantine city on the Mediterranean Sea and its cosmopolitan lifestyle. The source material mainly dates back to the 1910s. By finding constellations and horizons of meaning from the perspective of a historical cultural analysis a widely interconnected, transnational past can be made visible on the example of this dual biography. In her letters and parcels to Wilhelm Boeck in Munich Aspa creates a Thirdspace (Soja 1996), where actors, lifestyles, practices and ideas are connected across geopolitical and social boundaries. This cosmopolitan space of communication, which was even maintained during the Great War, points to links and aspects in this transnational space that are not remembered in the present. And yet, it is these historical relations that are indicative of contacts, shared knowledge and translations and that may have implications for thinking in a new way about the future of Europe.

biographical analysis, cosmopolitan city, Levante, love, gender, communication in personal letters, First World War, Ottoman Empire

APA citation
Egger S. (2016). Eine kosmopolitische Stadt, ein kosmopolitisches Leben: Aspasia Schönwald aus Smyrna und die Räume einer transnationalen Biografie. Zeitschrift für Volkskunde, 112(2), 209-229.