Figures of Misery: The Berlin Housing Survey (1901-1920) as an Epistemic Project

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung



From 1901 until 1920, Albert Kohn, director of the Berlin insurance organization Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse, conducted a systematic housing survey of defective apartments. The work included statistics, reports, and photographs. I situate the project within the context of social surveys in the years around 1900. In the larger history of housing surveys, Kohn’s project was one of the first that amalgamated diverse media and data visualizations. The original publication exhibits a crucial connection between statistics, reports, and apartment photographs. I will show that both reports and photographs epistemically hinged on numerical data gained from a questionnaire. The assemblage of shocking figures in statistics, reports, and photographs was intended to make visible an epistemic object: the misery of the lower classes. Hence, Kohn’s depictions of urban misery did not depend on a specific form of representation, but rather on the consistency between descriptive registers.


FachzeitschriftJournal of Urban History
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 9 Juni 2022
Extern publiziertJa

Externe IDs

Scopus 85131732876
Mendeley 6b29cba0-fb2d-3cdf-a87f-7ee54504ab3b


Forschungsprofillinien der TU Dresden

DFG-Fachsystematik nach Fachkollegium

Ziele für nachhaltige Entwicklung


  • Figures, housing, Housing conditions, numbers, data visualisation, narrative, Berlin, Hygiene, misery, surveys, data visualization, photography