Faculty and Staff

Kenny Cupers

Professor of Architectural History and Urban Studies / Head of Urban Studies

Publications (41)
Projects (7)
Courses (34)

Kenny Cupers co-founded and leads the Critical Urbanisms program at the University of Basel. He is committed to the development of the urban humanities through collaborative pedagogy and public-facing research at the intersection of architectural history, urban studies, and critical geography. He has published widely on mass housing, architectural modernism, and planning history. Grounded in primary research, his scholarship analyzes spaces and landscapes in order to answer questions about power and historical change.

Cupers is currently working on two book projects. The Earth that Modernism Built is a historical study of German imperialism in southern Africa and central Europe that traces how land and life were turned into objects of design. The second project explores infrastructure as African worldmaking. In this context, Cupers is currently working in Kenya with Kamirithu community actors and Dr. Makau Kitata to build a digital archive of decolonization, and with Save Lamu to address social and environmental justice in Africa’s mega-infrastructure boom.

Cupers is the author of the award-winning The Social Project: Housing Postwar France (2014), translated into French as La banlieue, un projet social: Ambitions d’une politique urbaine, 1945-1975 (2018). The book reveals how France’s unprecedented building boom after WWII turned dwelling into an object of modernization, an everyday site of citizen participation, and a domain of social scientific expertise. His co-edited volume Architecture and Neoliberalism from the 1960s to the Present (with Helena Mattsson & Catharina Gabrielsson, 2019) explores the multivalent role of architecture and urbanism in processes of neoliberal transformation. His edited volume Use Matters: An Alternative History of Architecture (Routledge, 2013) examines how architecture depended on changing definitions of use throughout the twentieth century. Spaces of Uncertainty (2002), co-authored with Markus Miessen, focuses on the importance of leftover spaces for public life in Berlin—a theme he has recently revisited in Spaces of Uncertainty: Berlin Revisited (2018). Most recently, he has co-edited What is Critical Urbanism: Urban Research as Pedagogy (2022), and is currently co-editing (with Ernest Sewordor) a journal issue of on “How Urban Africa Challenges the Coloniality of Infrastructure.”

Cupers leads the SNF-funded project, How Infrastructure Shaped Territory in Africa, and co-directs (with Orit Halpern and Claudia Mareis) the Sinergia project Governing through Design: An Interdisciplinary Phenomenon. As part of this project, he co-coordinates (with Laura Nkula-Wenz) South Designs: Planetary Futures. Together with PI Bilgin Ayata, he co-coordinated the SNIS-funded project, Infrastructure Space and the Future of Migration Management (2018-2021).

Cupers received a B.Sc. and M.Sc in Architecture from the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), studied photography and cultural theory at Goldsmiths College (London), and received his Ph.D. in architectural and urban history from Harvard University in 2010. He taught in the United States before co-founding the University of Basel’s Urban Studies division in 2015.

Jon Schubert

SNF Eccellenza Professor

Publications (12)
Projects (2)
Courses (6)

Jon Schubert is a political and economic anthropologist with long-time ethnographic research experience in urban Angola and Mozambique. His research interests include the social life of infrastructures, the impact of extractive industries on African polities, authoritarian politics, middle class urbanism in the Global South, and sustainable urban development in times of climate crisis.

Schubert leads the SNF-funded research project PRECURBICA — Precarious Urbanisms in Coastal Africa. African cities are in many ways ahead of the curve, yet while they are scripted as the ‘most vulnerable’ to climate change, they remain largely invisible in current debates about urbanism and climate change. PRECURBICA reverses the perspective to centre African actors on the same analytical plane as the ‘global’ urban planners and policymakers that typically dominate these debates. Rather than seeing urban ‘precariousness’ as an endemic condition that mires African societies in a position of dependency, the project takes it as an invitation to uncover strategies of living and making the city in the face of looming climate crisis, and learn from these.

His monograph, Working the System: A Political Ethnography of the New Angola (Cornell University Press 2017), is a landmark ethnographic study of contemporary neo-authoritarianism seen through the prism of the emic notion of the ‘system’, and offers important theoretical insights on African politics, urbanism, capitalist development, identity politics, and the co-production of hegemony. Based on subsequent work in Mozambique, he co-edited Extractive Industries and Changing State Dynamics in Africa: Beyond the Resource Curse (Routledge 2018, with Ulf Engel & Elísio Macamo), which offers a critical, interdisciplinary perspective on how African states are reconfigured at the nexus of national politics, advocacy, and transnational capital flows.

His last research project (2018-2021), the Afterlives of Extractive Capitalism, funded as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Brunel University London, used the economic architecture and transport infrastructures of the Angolan port town of Lobito as a lens to study the political and economic effects of cycles of commodity-dependent boom and bust in everyday life. Building upon the latest advances in the anthropological study of infrastructures, affect, and financialization, this research charts the affective reverberations of people’s engagement with the promises of development and modernity of the city’s economic infrastructure to interrogate the notion of crisis as an emergency.

Schubert holds an MA in African Studies from the University of Basel and a PhD in African Studies from the University of Edinburgh. Before joining the Urban Studies division in Basel, he has held research and teaching positions in social anthropology and area studies at the Universities of Leipzig, Geneva, Brunel, and Konstanz, and was a visiting professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. In the last ten years of precarious academic nomadism he variously lived in the UK, Germany, Angola, Kosovo, and Switzerland. He is a co-editor of the International Africa Institute’s book series ‘Politics and Development in Contemporary Africa’ and a member of the editorial collective at Allegralab.

Jon Schubert is happy to supervise students working broadly on his thematic or regional interests.

Andrew Tucker

Andrew Tucker’s research focuses on the relationships between sexuality, health and urban development in Africa. He gained his PhD from the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge in 2006. His monograph Queer visibilities: Space, identity and interaction was published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2009. This text explored how the history of apartheid regulation in Cape Town had affected the abilities and diverse strategies of men with same sex desire in the present to overcome the heteronormativity of urban spaces across the city’s historically racially segregated communities. Tucker’s PhD and monograph were both funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Subsequently Tucker worked to develop the first community-based HIV prevention programs for township men who have sex with men (MSM) in South Africa. This work, via funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), also resulted in the publication of a series of journal articles which highlighted the need to take into account psycho-social factors such as depression when planning and implementing HIV programmatic work among township MSM. This work also highlighted the successes that could be gained when HIV programmes were co-created between NGO and community members.

Tucker’s work is currently exploring the interface between the agendas of international development agencies and the needs of marginalised same-sex communities in the global South. This work is also calling on urban scholars to think more directly about the relationship between urban development and scholarship on sexualities. This work is in part funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) “PEAK Urban Project”.

Research Funding

RISE Africa Summit (2021) · South African National Research Foundation Conference fund award · Funding to bring together leading experts across Africa to discuss urbanisation challenges and opportunities · Total value of ZAR900,000

Health, sexuality and emergent urban development needs in Cape Town (2018 – 2022) · Part of PEAK Urban, a Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) project · Exploring the interface between international policy and funding processes, urban governance and community stakeholders in relation to HIV/AIDS programming for marginalised same-sex communities Cape Town · Total value of ZAR1.97m (including cost of one full-time Junior Research Fellow)

MSM Ecosystem / ‘Ukwazana’ (‘bringing people together’) (2010 – 2013) · Anova Health Institute NPC (USAID funds) / University of Cambridge Collaborative agreement · Examining how to have lasting positive impacts on MSM health in South Africa, via collaborative research with stakeholders including biomedical specialists, community health workers and community groups. Setting up health interventions and evaluating their efficacy. · Total value of GBP56,000

Reconfiguring and contesting post-colonial sexualities: articulating regionalism, identities and health (2010 – 2012) · British Academy grant · Exploring how post-colonial environments enable or constrain sexual identities in relation to divergent health needs · Total value GBP7,000

Racing the closet: male homosexuality in Cape Town (2006 – 2007) · ESRC post-doctoral research grant · Examination as to how apartheid racial histories shaped the opportunities for men with same sex desire to overcome the heteronormativity of different urban spaces – to become visible in space – and the contemporary policy and health implications of divergent forms of visibility · Total value GBP63,000


Tucker, A. 2021. ‘Gesturing towards broader sexuality-based conceptualisations of HIV assemblages beyond the Minority World’ Dialogues in human geography DOI: 10.1177/20438206211054604

Tucker, A., 2021. ‘Geographical interventions into debates regarding ‘men who have sex with men’ (MSM)’ Gender, place and culture DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2021.1994929

Hassan, N.R. and Tucker, A., 2021. ‘“We have to create our own community”: Addressing HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Neuropolis’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 46(3), 598-611

Tucker, A.,and Hassan, N, R. 2020 ‘Situating sexuality: An interconnecting research agenda in the urban global south’, Geoforum, 117, 287-290.

Tucker, A. 2020. ‘What can homonationalism tell us about sexuality in South Africa?: Exploring the relationships between biopolitics, necropolitics, sexual exceptionalism and homonormativity’, Journal of Gender Studies, 29:1, 88-101

Tucker, A., 2019. ‘Geographies of sexualities in sub-Saharan Africa: Positioning and critically engaging with international human rights and related ascendant discourses’ Progress in human geography 44(4), 683-703

Oldfield, S., and Tucker, A., 2019. ‘Persistent pasts, present struggles, imagined futures: gender geographies in South Africa after apartheid’ Gender, place and culture 26(7-9), 1243-1252

Smit, W. and Tucker, A., 2019. ‘Mapping the body: the use of the body mapping method to explore health and the built environment in Cape Town, South Africa’ TAD: Technology, architecture and design 3(1), 45-47

Jobson, G., Tucker, A., de Swardt, G., Rebe, K., Struthers, H., McIntyre, J, and Peters, R., 2018. ‘Gender identity and HIV risk among men who have sex with men in Cape Town, South Africa’ AIDS Care 30(11), 1421-1425

Tucker, A., Liht, J., Swardt, G., Arendse, C., McIntyre, J. and Struthers, H. 2016. ‘Clinic training on MSM health needs in the Western Cape, South Africa: Examining differential training for clinicians and clinic support staff and relationships between knowledge and homophobia’ LGBT Health 3(6), 443-450

Tucker, A., de Swardt, G., McIntyre, J., Struthers, H., 2015. ‘How do community-based HIV prevention programmes ‘travel’? Lessons learned from the Ukwazana/Zwakalani journey in South Africa’ Culture, health and sexuality 17(8), 977-989

Tucker, A., Liht, J., de Swardt, G., McIntyre, J., and Struthers, H., 2014. ‘Homophobic stigma, depression, self-efficacy and unprotected anal intercourse for peri-urban township men who have sex with men in Cape Town, South Africa: a cross-sectional association model’ AIDS care26(7), 882-889

Tucker, A., Liht, J., de Swardt, G., McIntyre, J., and Struthers, H., 2013. ‘An exploration into the role of depression and self-efficacy on township Men who have Sex with Men’s ability to engage in safer-sexual practices’ AIDS care 25(10), 1227-1235

Tucker, A., de Swardt, G., Struthers, H., and McIntyre, J. 2012. ‘Understanding the needs of township Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) health outreach workers: exploring the interplay between volunteer training, social capital and critical consciousness’ AIDS and behavior 17(1), 33-42

Tucker, A., 2010. ‘Reframing sexual subjectivities and their political efficacy in the Global South: potential directions for future queer geographies of difference’ Political geography 29(8), 460-462

Tucker, A., 2010. ‘The ‘rights’ (and ‘wrongs’) of articulating race with sexuality: the conflicting nature of hegemonic legitimisation in South African queer politics’ Social & cultural geography 11(5), 433-449

Tucker, A., 2010. ‘Shifting boundaries of sexual identities: the appropriation and malleability of ‘gay’ in South African township spaces’ Urban forum 21(2), 107-122

Tucker, A., 2009. ‘Framing exclusion in Cape Town’s Gay Village: the discursive and material perpetration of inequitable queer subjects’ Area41(2), 186-197

Book chapters

Tucker, A., 2016. ‘Reconsidering relationships between homophobia, human rights and HIV/AIDS’ in G. Brown and K. Browne (eds.) The Routledge research companion to geographies of sex and sexualities. Abingdon: Routledge

Tucker, A., 2016. ‘Sexual Health: Section introduction’ in G. Brown and K. Browne (eds.) The Routledge research companion to geographies of sex and sexualities. Abingdon: Routledge [Also section editor]


Tucker, A., 2009. Queer Visibilities: Space, Identity and Interaction in Cape Town Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell

Maren Larsen

Publications (6)
Projects (3)
Courses (11)

Maren Larsen is a Senior Lecturer and Post-Doc in Urban Studies at the University of Basel. Prior to joining the faculty, Maren was writing her doctoral dissertation at Urban Studies and Social Anthropology titled, «Worlding Home: Peacekeepers, Camp Space, and Urbanity in Goma, DRC.» Before moving to Basel she worked as a Research Associate for the Institute for International Urban Development (I2UD) in Cambridge, MA, where she maintains a Research Affiliate status. She has held consultant positions with the OECD and the UNESCO-based International Association of Universities. She has written policy and research reports for the World Bank, UN-Habitat, IOM, and the International Institute for Environment and Development.

She holds a B.A. with honors in the liberal arts from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with majors in International Studies and Political Science and a certificate in African Studies. She graduated summa cum laude from Sciences Po Paris in 2013 with an M.Sc. from the “Governing the Large Metropolis” program.

Anna Selmeczi

Anna Selmeczi’s urban studies research is grounded in social and political theory, and focuses on the connections between orders of urban space and knowledge production, and how various forms of popular politics contest and change these orders. Extending these themes through the lens of her teaching practice over the last few years, she’s also been thinking about the transformative and even emancipatory possibilities of pedagogical and research methods that emerge through creative experimentation.

Anna received her PhD in Political Science at the Central European University in 2012. She is based at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town, where she is a senior lecturer and the convener of the Southern Urbanism masters programme and the pedagogical lead of the Urbanisms from the South track of Critical Urbanisms MA.

Currently, she is in the final stages of a book project with Sophie Oldfield, co-edited with the late Clive Barnett (University of Exeter, UK), and titled Knowing the City: Urban Scholarship from Apartheid to Democracy. The book traces the dynamics of urban theory building in South Africa over the past four decades, and aims to give insight to the intergenerational tensions and transformations of the scholarly imperatives, as well as ethical, social, and/or political commitments of urban scholarship.

Emilio Distretti

Postdoctoral Fellow, History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism

Publications (12)

Courses (15)

Emilio Distretti is a researcher and an educator. He studied Philosophy at the University of Bologna (Italy) and holds a PhD in Aesthetics and the Politics of Representation from the School of Art and Design at Portsmouth University (UK).

Prior to joining the University of Basel, Emilio was Postdoctoral Fellow at the Kenyon Institute (Council for British Research in the Levant) in East Jerusalem and the Director of the Urban Studies and Spatial Practices program at Al Quds Bard College for Arts and Sciences (AQB), in Abu Dis in Palestine.

Emilio's research takes on interrelated avenues on the politics of space, architectural heritage, Italian fascist colonialism, postcolonial and decolonial politics in the Mediterranean (Italy, North Africa and the Levant) and in the Horn of Africa.

Emilio has previously taught at the School of Architecture, Metropolitan University in London and at SOAS at the Department of International Studies. He collaborates with DAAR - Decolonizing Architecture Art Research.

Laura Nkula-Wenz

Lecturer and Coordinator

Publications (7)
Projects (1)
Courses (8)

Laura Nkula-Wenz is a lecturer and coordinator for the MA in Critical Urbanisms. Based at the African Centre for Cities and in Urban Studies at the University of Basel, Laura is an urban geographer with a keen interest in postcolonial urban theory, African urbanism, and public culture. Her research focuses on the transformation of urban governance and the construction of local political agency, on questions of urban experimentation and knowledge networks, as well as the nexus of cultural production and urban change. She holds a PhD in Geography from the University of Münster/Germany, where she also completed a degree in Human Geography, Communication Studies and Political Science. Prior to joining the Critical Urbanisms program, Laura completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Pôle de recherche pour l’organisation et la diffusion de l’information géographique (Prodig) in Paris, funded by the Laboratory of Excellence “Territorial and Spatial Dynamics” (Labex DynamiTe).

Recent publications:

NKULA-WENZ, L. (2018): Of ‘godziners’ and ‘designer citizens’: The emergence of designers as political subjects in Cape Town. Journal of Urban Cultural Studies, 5 (2), pp. 165-185

NKULA-WENZ, L. (2018): Worlding Cape Town by design: Encounters with creative cityness. Environment & Planning A ,18(2), DOI: 10.1177/0308518X18796503

NKULA-WENZ, L. (2018): A Closer Look at the Role of International Accolades in Worlding Cape Town’s Urban Politics In: Bassens, D., Beekman, L. & B. Derudder (eds.) The City as Global Political Actor, Routledge. [peer-reviewed]

WENZ, L. (2015): The local institutional dynamics of international accolades: Cape Town’s designation as World Design Capital 2014. In: Haferburg, C. & Huchzermeyer, M. (eds.): Urban Governance in Postapartheid Cities. Stuttgart: Schweizerbart; Durban: UKZN Press, pp. 251-270 [peer-reviewed]

WENZ, L. (2015): Worlding - Zwischen theoretischer Annährung, kritischer Intervention und gelebter (Forschungs-) praxis. Kommentar zu Stephan Lanzs “Über (Un-) Möglichkeiten, hiesige Stadtforschung zu postkolonialisieren”. Sub/urban Zeitschrift für Kritische Stadtforschung, 3(1), pp. 97-102

WENZ, L. (2013): Changing Tune in Woodstock: Creative industries and local urban development in Cape Town/ South Africa. Gateways - International Journal of Community Research & Engagement, 5, pp. 16-34

Book reviews

NKULA-WENZ, L. (2017) „Dekolonisieren wir unsere Köpfe“…und unsere Städte! Rezension zu Zwischenraum Kollektiv (eds.) Decolonize the city. Zur Kolonialität der Stadt. Münster: Unrast Verlag. Sub/urban Zeitschrift für Kritische Stadtforschung, 5(3), pp. 172-175

NKULA-WENZ, L. (2016) Christine Hentschel 2015: Security in the Bubble: Navigating Crime in Urban South Africa. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 40(3), pp. 714-16

Alaa Dia

Lecturer, and PhD candidate

Publications (1)
Projects (1)
Courses (5)

Alaa Dia is an architect, PhD candidate, and lecturer in the Urban Studies department at the University of Basel. He earned his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Architecture from the Lebanese University and completed his postgraduate Master's in Urban Design at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zürich). Alaa's research interests lie at the intersection of architecture and migration studies.

Before joining the faculty at the University of Basel, Alaa served as a principal researcher for the research project "Infrastructure Space and the Future of Migration Management: The EU Hotspots in the Mediterranean Borderscape." Funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) and hosted at the University of Basel, this project examined the role of infrastructure in transforming borders through a comparative, interdisciplinary, and multi-sited exploration of migration management infrastructure in five Mediterranean countries (Greece, Italy, Libya, Tunisia, and Turkey). Alaa was responsible for the spatial and architectural aspects of the project.

Previously, Alaa worked as a doctoral researcher and teaching assistant at ETH Zürich's Department of Architecture (D-ARCH), within the Institute of Historic Building Research (IDB).

During his postgraduate studies at ETH Zürich under the guidance of Marc Angélil, Alaa focused on the impact of incoming refugee communities in Germany. He showcased his Master's research and design project at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt (DAM Frankfurt) as part of the "Inclusive Urbanism" exhibition in 2017.

Ambre Elsa Alfredo

Ambre is a PhD candidate in Urban Studies at the University of Basel, under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Jon Schubert. She is part of the SNF-funded research project PRECURBICA – Precarious Urbanisms in Coastal Africa. Her research focuses on the impact of climate risk on social and infrastructural processes in Cotonou, Benin.

Prior to starting her PhD, Ambre worked as consultant, monitoring and coordinating the implementation of social infrastructure projects in West and Southern Africa. She also worked for several years as an architect and urban planner in Mozambique.

Ambre holds a M.Sc. in Urbanism Studies from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden, and a 6-years degree in Architecture and Urban Planning from the Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique.

Saad Amira

Saad Amira is a Phd candidate at the Graduate School of Social Sciences and in the Urban Studies department at the University of Basel. Saad has six years of experience in research, education, and international cooperation. His main academic interests include the Modern Social History of Palestine, Settler Colonialism, Post Colonialism-Environmentalism, State Development and Conflict Resolution. Prior to joining the Phd program, Saad worked in different institutional capacities; as a lead researcher for the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Asia & Africa department, and as a lead researcher and project coordinator for the Palestinian Museum at the Research and Collections Department where he lead the development of the ‘Palestinian Journeys‘ Project. Prior to that, Saad worked as project officer on a EU capacity building project in Palestine. Saad is the founder of the ‘Thakira’ initiative’ a research in progress, where he maps out, collects, archives, and classifies endangered oral history testimonies and visual archives on Palestine. In his Phd project, Saad uses the concept of 'slow violence' in a Palestinian village to explore the role of 'nature' as a fundamental dimension of Israeli settlers' colonial paradigm. His research explores and maps out the structure of slow violence in the Palestinian political environment where the development models of the Palestinian National Authority and the settler colonial enterprise unfold in a neo-liberalizing world.

Thomas Betschart

Projects (1)
Courses (1)

Thomas Betschart is a Ph.D candidate and research assistant at Urban Studies, University of Basel. Thomas holds an M.A. degree in Geography, Modern History and English Literature from the University of Freiburg, Germany and the certificate for teaching at secondary levels from the FHNW, Basel. Prior to joining Urban Studies, Thomas worked as a geographer for the Federal Environmental Department (BAFU), Bern. He has furthermore taught Geography on secondary levels in Basel and engaged as a researcher at the Institute for Pedagogy at FHNW, Basel.

Fabrizio Furiassi

PhD Candidate

Fabrizio Furiassi is a PhD candidate in Urban Studies at the University of Basel and a Lecturer at Parsons School of Design in New York, where he teaches architectural history/theory and design studio. He works at intersection of research and practice and has over ten years of international experience at design firms and cultural institutions. Fabrizio graduated in Architecture and Urbanism from La Sapienza University of Rome (BSc and MArch), Columbia University GSAPP in New York (MSc), and completed the postgraduate research program at the Strelka Institute in Moscow. He is the founder of Distributed Architecture, a New York-based research and design office focusing on urban politics and public projects. Fabrizio’s awards include the GSAPP Incubator Prize and the Avery Scholarship from Columbia University, the Extra-EU Mobility Scholarship from La Sapienza University, and the Doc.CH research grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Fabrizio’s doctoral thesis “Mafia, Concrete, Territory: A Material History of Power in Postwar Sicily, 1945-1975” questions the role of architects and planners during Italy’s postwar building boom, identifying the Mafia’s monopoly on the industry of concrete as a key factor in the rapid urbanization of the region. With the combination of archival research, oral history, and ethnographic methods, the project analyses the transformations of the Sicilian territory by tracing the trajectory of concrete constructions to the very landscapes where the aggregates of concrete were sourced. Concrete is examined not as a static product but as continuous with the land and people that shape its transition from liquid to solid. As such, the thesis centralizes the crucial agency of materials in historical and social changes, showing how the form and condition of postwar Sicily have been regulated by nontraditional actors otherwise considered external to the discipline’s discourse and practice. An introduction to the project was published in Log 53: Why Italy Now?

Shahin Haghinavand

Shahin is a doctoral candidate in Urban Studies under supervision of Prof. Dr. Jon Schubert at the University of Basel. In his research, he revisits the past fifty years of oil-driven, uneven urban development in Tehran Metropolitan Area (the capital city of Iran), with attention to historical depth and contemporary dynamics and challenges. In this research he is aiming to develop a novel critique of ‘rentier state urbanism’ in a broader context and formulate new perspectives for a better understanding of mega-cities and urban growth in comparable, resource-dependent states in the Middle-East and across the Global South.

In 2021 she graduated from the M.A. Critical Urbanisms with a thesis on Urban Informality in Switzerland. As a part of his MA program, he spent a semester at the University of Cape Town in which his individual research was namely on unrevealing various interconnections and correlations of urban informality in informal settlements and slum areas.

Prior to joining Urban Studies group, he studied a BSc. in Urban Studies and Planning, and a MSc. in Regional Planning in Iran. Afterwards, he began working in urban and regional planning career in Iran. His professional experience in numerous municipalities in the Tehran Metropolitan Area, and the Research and Planning Centre at the Municipality of Tehran, allowed him as a young planner to engage with the decision-making process, governing a metropolitan area and the complexity of its policy-making process.

Semhar Haile

Semhar Haile is a PhD candidate in Urban Studies, in the SNF funded research project PRECURBICA. Her research aims to uncover strategies of urban living and making the city in the context of looming climate crisis, in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Previously, Semhar worked as a policy analyst in urban development and climate change, particularly in African cities. She also has interest and worked in refugee and migration studies as well as on practices of participatory research methods.

Semhar holds a BSc in Development Economics and MA in Globalisation and Multinational Corporations (Public Policy) from SOAS, University of London.

Andreea Midvighi

Andreea Midvighi is a PhD candidate in Urban Studies at the University of Basel. In her research, she is looking at Yarmouk Refugee Camp in terms of camp-city relations and the ways in which the camp as a space of resistance continues to exist in the imaginary of the, now, Palestinian double-refugees from Yarmouk in Sweden, focusing on issues of power, space violence and everyday forms of resistance. Prior to starting her PhD, Andreea worked with Cultures of Resistance Films on documentaries including Wantoks: Dance of Resistance in Melanesia, From Trash to Treasure: Turning Negatives into Positives, and Stalking Chernobyl: Exploration After Apocalypse. Andreea holds a B.A. in Philology from the University of Transilvania, Brasov, an M.A. in Cultural and Critical Studies from the University of Westminster, London, and a joint M.A. in Global Studies from the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg and FLACSO Buenos Aires. She has also been involved in various awareness-raising campaigns on Palestine and Western Sahara

Lea Marie Nienhoff

Lea Marie Nienhoff is a cultural worker and Ph.D. candidate in Urban Studies at the University of Basel. Her research on large-scale modernist urban planning in the global East focuses on the formal and informal politics, the critical and artistic reflections that accompanied the construction of ‘socialist space’.

Lea is part of the SNF-funded research project “Decolonizing Socialism: Entangled Internationalism. An Intersectional Study of Cold War Projects from East Germany in Cinema and Cybernetics with Relevance for the 21st Century”, based at HEAD Genève.

Lea studied History, Political Science, and Cultural Studies at the Universities of Freiburg (Germany) and Warsaw. In 2020 she graduated from the M.A. Critical Urbanisms with a thesis on the decolonial politics of Mozambican contract workers in East Germany. Apart from her studies, Lea has worked as assistant director at Theater Freiburg and is part of the cultural funding team at the Edith Maryon Foundation.

Natalie Schöbitz

Natalie is a doctoral candidate in Urban Studies under the supervision of Prof. Dr Jon Schubert at the University of Basel. Her doctoral research looks at infrastructural fetishism as a means to explore the pushes and pulls of economic urban development, changing weather patterns and ordinary everyday life in Kampala, Uganda. Prior to starting her doctorate Natalie worked for several years as a product engineer for an urban planning software. Her role involved digitalising urban planning workflows within 3D GIS to promote more integrate city planning amongst numerous stakeholders.

Natalie holds a MSc in City Design and Social Science from London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where she worked on housing and policy research within the South African context.

Samuel Giraut

Samuel is a PhD student in Urban Studies at the University of Basel under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Kenny Cupers. His proposal questions the notion of public space in a postcolonial perspective, focusing on urban identities, class-based relations and intersubjectivities, urban fragmentation and securitisation in Cape Town's peripheries. Samuel pursued his Bachelor's Studies in Geography and Urban Planning in Grenoble and Bordeaux. He graduated in Master’s Geopolitics and Political Geography at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne in 2021. Samuel wrote two Master theses focusing on the intricate role of private security in the spatial production of hyper-securitised (semi)public spaces in post-apartheid Johannesburg (South Africa), and the role of social action networks in the socio-political space of the fragmented Northern neighbourhoods of Marseille (France). Prior to starting his PhD, Samuel participated in the action-research project GRAPHITE "Youth and the City" with research laboratory LPED (University of Aix-Marseille). He also worked in an associative shared space committed to issues of discriminations and inequalities in Marseille.

Solveig Qu Suess

PhD Candidate

Solveig Qu Suess works within the fields of documentary film, art and research, and is a PhD candidate in Urban Studies at the University of Basel. Her practice looks at how optical regimes reconfigure spaces and times, insides and outsides, the intimate to the universal. Her research sits on the intersections of visual ethnography, infrastructural studies, environmental humanities, post-colonial and feminist science and technology studies. She is half of Geocinema, whose collective work researches how environmental sensing has articulated Earth transformations, using expanded cinema as a method to investigate aesthetics in geopolitical systems. She is currently a Junior researcher on the SNF-funded research project Cycles of Circulation at Critical Media Lab, FHNW Basel.

Solveig is postgraduate of the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths London, during which she focused on how the calculation and management of weather and environments were crucial in the formation of supply chain capitalism, with her case-study on the Belt and Road Initiative cutting across desert spaces in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Western China. Her writing has appeared in E-Flux Architecture, Synoptique Journal of Film and Moving Image, the Funambulist, Lausan and has lectured internationally including at the ICA London, HKW Berlin, Cornell University New York, Ashkal Alwan Beirut, NYU Shanghai, Sonic Acts, amongst others. Her past films have been screened widely, including at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Kassel Dokfest, Images Festival Toronto, ArtScience Museum Singapore, Jameel Arts Centre Dubai, Institute for Post-Natural Studies Madrid, Kyiv Biennale with her work exhibited in solo shows at Kunsthall Trondheim, and in group shows at the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, OCAT Beijing, Guangzhou Image Triennial, Gothenburg Biennale and other venues. In 2020, Geocinema was nominated for the Schering Stiftung Award for Artistic Research. Previously, she worked as a freelance designer in many collaborative constellations, creating alternative online archival platforms, collaborative tools, exhibition designs and independent publishing projects.

Dany Tiwa

Dany Franck A. Tiwa is a researcher with a broad disciplinary background. He holds a joint PhD in cultural and global criminology from the Universities of Hamburg (Germany) and Utrecht (Netherlands), and master’s degrees in sociology (University of Yaoundé 1, Cameroon), conflicts studies (University of Lille 3, France) and migrations studies (University of Dakar, Senegal). He is the founder and director of the African Centre for Crime and Security Studies (ACCSS Africa), a Yaoundé-based think tank whose overall mission is to improve security indicators on the continent so that most African live their lives without fear of crime and conflicts. Before joining the University of Basel, Dany taught for many years an elective course titled "Justice in the ‘jungle’: crime, punishment, and justice in the post colony" at the universities of Hamburg and Utrecht. He has published on topics as varied as vigilantism, climate change, organized crime, refugees, and the Covid-19. Dany’s current research mobilizes ethnographic techniques to investigate the impact of climate change people’s aspirations and relations (with their mates, their neighbors, the state, the market, the global capital etc.) in Douala, Cameroon largest coastal city. More specifically, he seeks to document how various local actors including, architects, constructions companies, urban planners, authorities, dwellers etc. incorporate climate related security risks in their daily activities with the aim of complicating our understanding of notions such as vulnerability, resilience, adaptation etc. Besides academia, Dany is also a development practitioner specialized in program and project evaluation. He has worked as international consultant for the UN, FAO, IOM, IDLO, GI-TOC and several others.

Makau Kitata

Research Fellow

Projects (1)

Makau Kitata is a lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. His research works are on literature and geocultural studies. Focusing on narrative analysis and fieldwork primary data research, his works evaluate how the cultural practices of writing and artistic performances help in associating geocultural phenomena with values such as national identity, individual and community aspirations, and even environmentalism. He has published on postcolonial literature and performance studies. His publications include: The Challenges of Naming in the Kenyan Fictional Narratives. Published in the East African Literary and Cultural Studies Journal. Volume 6, 2020- issue 1; Sexualizing the Dance, Objectifying the Performer: The Twerk Dance in Kenya, published in Agenda (Empowering Women for Gender Equity) Journal, June 2020, Online; and Re- narrating the Eastern Africa Coast through YouTube: Vitali Maembe’s Little Town Bagamoyo. African Identities. 2021. Situating Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Theatre and its Afterlives, Routledge Handbook of Architecture, Urban Space and Politics is his collaborative article with Kenny Cupers, a scholar in architectural history and urban studies. He is currently engaged in research on the intersection between literature and new approaches to housing, mobility, transport and infrastructure. He is also involved in producing a documentary from the work of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s literary and theatre productions as well as creating a digital archive from narratives of individuals encountered from field research. Email:

Patricia Noormahomed

Patricia Noormahomed is an architect and postdoctoral researcher in the field of architecture, heritage, and urban habitat.

In her postdoctoral research project entitled “Whose ‘shared’ heritage? A counter-narrative to the ‘authorized discourse' through the modern heritage of Mozambique”, she draws from recent decolonial theory to develop a broader conception of what is heritage and foreground other epistemologies of modern architecture. The project is supported by the Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship.

Previously, Patricia was a lecturer at Wutivi University (UniTiva) in Mozambique and a visiting researcher at Habiter – Study Center in Development, Territory, and Landscapes of the Free University of Brussels (ULB).

She obtained her M.Sc. in Architecture at the University of Granada (UGR), completed a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Integral Management of Built Heritage and Existing Buildings at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), and developed her PhD thesis in Architectural Heritage at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM). In her PhD thesis, Patricia proposed a new way of understanding and interpreting Mozambique's architectural modernity for its (re)definition as cultural heritage by analyzing this legacy through its successive phases of social production: from the project to its appropriation and resignification.

She is also an associate researcher in the FCT-funded project ArchWar – Dominance and mass-violence through Housing and Architecture during Colonial Wars.

Nadja Imhof

Nadja Imhof is a visiting researcher from the University of Lausanne and is finishing up her PhD thesis titled “The Multispecies City: Becoming with rats in Zurich” under the supervision of Prof. Martin Müller. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science Degrees in Geography at the University of Zurich and also holds a Teaching Diploma for Secondary and Higher Education in Geography and Biology.

Nadja's research is positioned at the intersection of Urban Political Ecology, Animal Geographies, and Urban Studies. She applies an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing on anthropology, ethology, political and biological approaches, to study the dynamics of multispecies interactions and cohabitations in urban ecosystems which shape human and other-than-human realities. A primary focus of her research revolves around challenging anthropocentric biases and rethinking human-animal relationships, particularly focusing on the rat-human dynamic in city environments.

Thinking through and with more-than-human approaches, Nadja employs a range of qualitative research techniques within a multispecies ethnographies approach. Doing so, Nadja advocates for the acknowledgment of the interconnectedness of all urban inhabitants, emphasizing a recognition of other-than-human forms of agency, social organization, and subjective experiences. Furthermore, she highlights the importance of ethical considerations and response-ability in regards to studying and speaking for animals.

In her thesis, Nadja explores how the rat-human relationship in Zurich has been shaped through socio-cultural and spatial interactions. In particular, her thesis focuses on the how rats become killable and under what circumstances a multispecies co-existence between humans, rats and other-than-humans could be achieved in urban environment.

Valerio Rocco Orlando

Visiting PhD Candidate

Valerio Rocco Orlando is an Italian Artist, a PhD Candidate in Engineering-based Architecture and Urban Planning at Sapienza Università di Roma, and a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Basel. Through practices ranging from workshops to video installations, he conceives art as a process of mutual knowledge and understanding. The core of his work is the exploration of osmosis among institutions, museums, academia, and the social sphere. Valerio’s doctoral thesis follows the process of founding an independent and transdisciplinary school in a state-owned building granted to the artist by the city of Matera for thirty years. This process-based research and long-term art project aim to explore a fresh perspective on the urban and pedagogical spaces shaped by artists together with local, self-organized communities in the Global South. His works are held in public and private collections, including: A. M. Qattan Foundation, Ramallah; Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, Havana; Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato; Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon; La Galleria Nazionale, Rome; MACRO, Rome; MAGA, Gallarate; Mart, Rovereto; Museo del Novecento, Milan; MUSMA, Matera; Nomas Foundation, Rome; VAF Stiftung, Frankfurt am Main; Villa e Collezione Panza, Varese.

Shirley-Ann Jennifer Felsenberg

Administration Urban Studies

Biography Administration:

Central Administration, German Bundestag, Berlin, Germany

Max-Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Berlin, Germany

Earth Sciences Department, Oxford University, Oxford, UK

Critical Urbanisms, Social Sciences Department, Basel University, Basel, Switzerland

Vinicio Altmann

Student Assistant

Vinicio Altmann is an MA student at the Critical Urbanisms program of the University of Basel. He has concluded his BA in Social Anthropology and Philosophy at the University of Fribourg (CH) in 2020. Lately, he focuses on the study of informal settlements, employing methods and concepts stemming from varied traditions of sociology of action and cultural studies.

Since November 2021, he works as a student assistant for the Urban Studies at the University of Basel.

Fabian Konopka

Student Assistant

Fabian Konopka is a landscape architect and journalist with a B. Sc. in Landscape Architecture at the Technical University of Munich. During his studies he worked as a teaching student assistant and as a journalist. After his graduation in 2020 he worked for several landscape architecture studios and became the head of the editorial department for the landscape architecture and planning magazine 'nodium'. His specific focus lays on landscape architecture in and writing about informal landscapes as well as social and environmental justice in urban public space. In spring 2022 he joined the MA program Critical Urbanisms at the University of Basel.

Since January 2023 he works as a student assistant with a focus on public communication for the Urban Studies at the University of Basel.

Ernest Sewordor

Projects (1)
Courses (5)

Ernest Sewordor is one of three Ph.D. candidates researching on an SNF-funded project titled ‘How Infrastructure Shaped Territory in Africa’. He holds an M.Phil. degree in History, earned from the University of Ghana in 2017. His academic interests broadly hinge on urban and architectural history and has previously researched Basel Mission encounters in the Gold Coast/Ghana in changing contexts to demonstrate how missionary activities shaped urban space through the invention of separatist Christian enclaves. This is evident in his master’s thesis titled ‘The Basel Mission and the Establishment of a “Model Town” in Ghana—The Case of Abokobi, 1854—1926’. Throughout his master’s degree studies, he was a grant recipient from the Adjaye Endowment Scholarships in History. From 2015 to 2017, Ernest held Graduate and Teaching Assistant responsibilities in the Department of History and University Studies Abroad Consortium respectively (both in the University of Ghana) and actively worked with Professors Robert Addo Fening (retired Prof. of History, University of Ghana) and Jesse Weaver Shipley (Prof. of African and African American History, Dartmouth College, U.S.A.), among others, as a Research Assistant. These experiences foregrounded his exposure into professional academic circles. As a young scholar, Mr. Sewordor presented his first international conference paper at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana (Jan. 2018). His paper—under review as a chapter in a book publication following the conference—focused on urban violence in 1948 Accra by decoding evidence from a map and photographs to question formalized narratives that forgets ordinary colonial subjects whose agency contested the legitimacy of British colonial rule. Similarly, he expects to appear in the Journal of West African History soon.

Jana Häberlein

Dr. Jana Häberlein studied English, German and Education in Cologne, Hamburg and London. At the University of Basel, she completed her dissertation on the biographical life plans of refugee women in Britain in sociology and coordinated two doctoral programmes in Gender Studies at the Center for Gender Studies. She was postdoc in the nccr – on the move at the University of Neuchâtel in a project on border control practices.

Jana Häberlein's core areas of research and teaching at various Swiss universities and universities of applied sciences are critical migration and border regime research, difference and the politics of belonging, Gender Studies, Affect Studies, anti-racism, life worlds of sans-papiers and rejected asylum seekers in Switzerland, health and wellbeing in the context of forced migration, qualitative social research methods, inter-/trans-disciplinary and intersectional approaches, and Southeast Europe.

Recent publications:

• Wilopo, Claudia / Häberlein, Jana (2022), Illegalisierung und Race. Konturen einer rassismuskritischen Analyse der Situation von abgewiesenen Asylsuchenden in der Schweiz, in: dos Santos Pinto, Jovita / Ohene-Nyako, Pamela / Pétrémont, Mélanie-Evely / Lavanchy, Anne / Lüthi, Barbara / Purtschert, Patricia / Skenderovic, Damir (eds), Un/doing Race. Rassifizierung in der Schweiz, Seismo (pp. 77-100).

• Häberlein, Jana (2020), Abgewiesene Asylsuchende in der Nothilfe – wie weiter? Ein Bericht zur Situation von Nothilfebezüger*innen in der Region Basel, terre des hommes schweiz.

• Cuttitta, Paolo / Häberlein, Jana / Pallister Wilkins, Polly (2019), Various Actors: The Border Death Regime, in: Cuttitta, Paolo / Last, Tamara (eds.), Border Deaths and Migration Policies: State and non-State Approaches. University of Amsterdam Press, S. 35-50.

• Häberlein, Jana (2019), Race Matters. Macht, Wissensproduktion und Widerstand an der Schweizer Grenze, in: Wa Baile, Mohamed / Dankwa, Serena O. / Naguib, Tarek / Purtschert, Patricia / Schilliger, Sarah (eds.), Struktureller Rassismus und anti-rassistischer Widerstand. Transcript S. 211-227.

• Häberlein, Jana (2019), The Vitality of Borders. Migration Through and Bordering Practices in Switzerland, in: Lüthi, Barbara / Skenderovic, Damir (eds.), Changing Landscapes. Switzerland and Migration. Palgrave, S. 165-187.

Claske Dijkema

Visiting Lecturer

Claske Dijkema is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Basel and teaches courses in the M.A. programs Critical Urbanisms and Changing Societies. In 2021 she initiated a collaborative student research projects exploring what it takes to decolonize urban landscapes. She is simultaneously Senior Researcher at swisspeace and carries out research on Urban Peacebuilding (2021-2023). For the latter she has been awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie post-doctoral fellowship. She works with a geographies of peace approach that breaks with the tendency of peace and conflict studies to focus on the Global South, state processes and armed conflict which makes it very relevant for studying initiatives in European cities that deal with the aftermaths of paroxysmal violence and with racism. She is interested in the critical project of making alternative realities visible that have so far remained under the radar of social science research and of making space for subalternized voices in academic research and in academic writing.

Her post-doc research builds on her PhD research at the University of Grenoble-Alpes, “Subaltern in France: a decolonial approach to voice, violence and racism in marginalized social housing neighborhoods in Grenoble”. Her thesis rethinks the stigmatization of marginalized social-housing neighborhoods in France through a post and decolonial analytical framework. Its novelty lies in the application of postcolonial theories first to the French present instead of the colonial past, and second to geographical areas of a former colonial power, instead of to its former colonies. This decolonial approach helps to analyze the ways in which racial injustice continues to be reproduced.

Claske conceives her research as decolonial explorations, which are driven by an epistemological inquiry into more horizontal ways of being in research relationships; they are a methodological inquiry into developing research methods that create the conditions for researchers to speak with marginalized persons on a basis of equality and motivated by mutual interests. In the past her research has for example taken the form of creating spaces for debate with citizen collectives that formed in the aftermath of paroxysmal violence. Prior to her PhD, Claske has worked for 20 years in the domain of conflict transformation for the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (South Africa), the Network University (The Netherlands), Modus Operandi (France) and the University of Grenoble. She has extensive teaching and training experience (University of Grenoble-Alpes, University of Savoie, University of Innsbruck, Université Catholique en Afrique Centrale, Université Pédagogique à Kinshasa, The Network University).

Projects: Geographies of peace in the wake of violence in the city (URPEACE - 2021-2013) Studies have provided valuable insight into the dynamics of urban violence and terrorism but a lot still needs to be learned about urban peace-making. The EU-funded URPEACE project aims to contribute to the knowledge about the peace-building agency of civilian actors in marginalised social housing neighbourhoods that deal with the consequences of terrorist violence in European cities. The approach of this study is novel; it uses a 'geographies of peace' framework to interpret existing and new data on dealing with violence. This approach views peace as an everyday and relational process concerned with the building of ever-expanding networks that share life-affirming rather than life-destroying values. The project's results will help policy makers integrate urban peace-building initiatives of civilian actors into security policy.

Dr. Lorena Rizzo

Lecturer, Centre for African Studies

Lorena Rizzo is an associate researcher and lecturer at the Center for African Studies, and the Principal Investigator in a project entitled Aesthetics from the Margins. She is a historian of Namibia and South Africa, with a special interest in visual history and theory, gender history, and aesthetics in the colony and postcolony. She was the Oppenheimer Fellow at the Hutchins Center at Harvard University in 2016/17; an associate fellow at the Center for African Studies at Harvard University in 2015/16; a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Bielefeld 2013/14; and a visiting scholar in the Center for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town 2011/2013. She is currently preparing a book manuscript for publication entitled Shades of Empire. Photography & History in Colonial Southern Africa (forthcoming Routledge 2019).

Julia Tischler

Assistant professor of African History

Julia Tischler is tenure-track assistant professor of African History, specialized on central-southern Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries. Her research has focused on the themes of development, race, labor, and human-environment relations. Archival studies and oral history interviews led her to South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Great Britain, and the United States.

Her book Light and Power for a Multiracial Nation (2013) studied the Kariba Dam project in 1950s Zambia and Zimbabwe as a case study of development and nation-building in the age of decolonization. Her ongoing project deals with rural-agricultural planning in South Africa, c. 1900-1950. It examines the links between the country’s “agrarian question” and segregation, in dialogue with international discourses on race and agriculture and the model of the US south.

Max Bergman

Chair of Social Research and Methodology

Max Bergmann is Chair of Social Research and Methodology at the University of Basel, Switzerland. His previous academic affiliations include the Universities of Cambridge, Essex, Free State, Florence (European University Institute), Geneva, Johannesburg, Lausanne, Pretoria, Stellenbosch, St. Gall, the Witwatersrand, and Zurich. The main focus of his work is on sustainability and global studies in relation to the UN SDGs, particularly the interdependence between societies, business, and governments in a globalized world. In pursuing policy-relevant and change-oriented research relating to societal sustainability, his team is working on a new social science research approach, entitled Social Transitions Research (STR). He also teaches and publishes on qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research. Bergmann is a member of the Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Swiss UNESCO NatCom, and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative for the United Nations.

Till Förster

Chair of Social Anthropology

Projects (1)
Courses (1)

Till Förster is an anthropologist. He holds the chair of Social Anthropology and is founding director of the Centre for African Studies at the University of Basel, Switzerland. He has specialised on visual culture and political transformations in West and Central Africa and conducted field research for many years, mainly in Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon. His recent publications focus on questions of urban governance and social creativity in northern Côte d’Ivoire and on urban visual culture in Cameroon. He has published extensively on questions of urban politics and culture in Africa and beyond. Together with Lucy Koechlin he has edited The Politics of Governance (London 2014).

Marie-Laure Allain Bonilla

Postdoctoral Fellow, Art History

Trained in curatorial studies, Marie-Laure Allain Bonilla holds a PhD in contemporary art history from the University of Rennes 2 (France). She specializes in the history of exhibitions—her PhD dissertation highlights a history of the uses of postcolonial theories by curatorial practices in contemporary art since the 1980s—and is particularly interested in contemporary African art practices and the way they are promoted, marketed, purchased, and displayed. Her primary research concerns museum acquisition policies in the global era and the possibilities to decolonize institutional practices through collaborations, both in the West and in former colonized areas.

Allain Bonilla has published on subjects such as the biennial phenomenon (particularly the Johannesburg biennale), on museum and curatorial studies, as well as on contemporary art practices challenging Western prerogatives, always using cultural studies, anthropology, and postcolonial and decolonial theories as a toolbox to write a non-Eurocentric art history. She is also a regular contributor to Critique d'Art. Apart from working on the publication of a book based on her PhD dissertation, she is currently coediting a book of collected papers for an international conference she co-organized in 2015 at the University of Rennes 2 on feminist, queer, and post/decolonial subjectivities in contemporary art.

Allain Bonilla has taught at University of Rennes 2, where she was involved in the Master in Curatorial Studies program, and in January 2016 she joined the University of Basel for her post-doctoral research. A member of Urban Studies, she is also affiliated with the Seminar of Social Anthropology, where she works with Prof. Dr. Till Förster. She is a member of the Global Art Prospective program at the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA) in Paris.

Manuel Herz

Assistant Professor of Architectural, Urban, and Territorial Design

Publications (2)
Projects (4)
Courses (12)

Manuel Herz co-founded the Critical Urbanisms program at the University of Basel. He is an architect whose research focuses on the relationship between the discipline of planning and (state) power. He has worked extensively on the architecture and urbanism of refugee camps, with a regional focus on Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa. His book From Camp to City—Refugee Camps of the Western Sahara (Lars Müller Publishers, 2013) documents how camps can be spaces of social emancipation and are used to prefigure the institutions of a nation by a refugee population living in exile.

His award-winning book African Modernism—Architecture of Independence (Park Books, 2015) presents the architecture of countries such as Ghana, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Zambia at the time of their independence in the 1960s and 1970s. The book’s main thesis is that this architecture is witness to, and provide evidence for, the complexities and contradictions of the decolonizing process that was specific to each country. The accompanying exhibition, shown at the Vitra Design Museum, is currently travelling to cities across Europe, the United States, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Herz’s architectural office is based in Basel. Among other recently completed projects, the office is responsible for the construction of the Jewish Community Center of Mainz, the mixed-use building “Legal / Illegal” in Cologne, and a museum extension (in collaboration with Eyal Weizman and Rafi Segal) in Ashdod, Israel. Current work include housing projects in Switzerland, Germany, and France. His projects have received several prizes, including the German Facade Prize 2011, the Cologne Architecture Prize 2003, the German Architecture Prize for Concrete in 2004, and a nomination for the Mies van der Rohe Prize for European Architecture in 2011.

Shourideh C. Molavi

Senior Lecturer

Publications (2)

Courses (4)

Shourideh C. Molavi is a writer and scholar in specializing in critical state theory, decolonization, migration and border studies, and decolonial ecologies, and trained with a background in International Humanitarian Law. She has over 15 years of academic and fieldwork experience in the Middle East—focusing on Israel/Palestine—on the topics of border practices, citizsenship and statelessness, militarized landscapes, and human and minority rights, with an emphasis on the relationship between the law, violence and power.

Shourideh studied Political Science at the University of Toronto (B.A. 2008) and completed her graduate studies at York University in Canada (M.A. 2010; PhD 2018). She has taught on the above topics in liberal-arts schools across the Middle East region, including at Bard College in Al-Quds University in Palestine (2013-2015), at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in Qatar (2016-2018), and at the American University in Cairo, Egypt (2018-2020).

Since 2014, she has worked as a Lead Researcher on Israel-Palestine and fieldworker with Forensic Architecture, an interdisciplinary research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London. The spatial analyses and human-rights oriented investigations on the Middle East that Shourideh oversees at Forensic Architecture examine how mapping and visualization of physical environments undergoing political violence may enhance the data and scholarship produced—and complement the anti-oppression struggles of communities.

Her publications include Stateless Citizenship: The Palestinian-Arab Citizens of Israel (Brill, 2013); Contemporary Israel/Palestine (Oxford University Press, 2018); Environmental Warfare in Gaza: Contemporary Practices of Israeli Settler-Colonialism (Pluto Press, 2022 forthcoming); and Interrogating the Citizen: The Israeli Logic of Colonial Exclusion and Global Citizenship Restrictions (I.B. Tauris, 2022 forthcoming). Shourideh’s past and ongoing investigations with Forensic Architecture can be found here.

Ginger Nolan

Postdoctoral Fellow, History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism

Ginger Nolan’s work is situated at the intersections of architecture, media theory, and race studies. Specifically, she examines how constructions of race have been formulated through spatial, aesthetic, and technological practices. Nolan is currently finishing a book manuscript, “Savage Mind to Savage Machine: Architecture, Technology, and the Making of Magical Thought”, to be published by the University of Minnesota Press. The project has received support from the DAAD, the Social Science Research Council, the Terra Foundation, and the Graham Foundation for Art and Architecture. She is also currently researching the architectural-infrastructural constitution of citizenship (and non-citizenship), examining how the expansion of cash-crop agriculture in the Americas and Africa required new architectures and infrastructures to link rural, colonized, enslaved, and landless peoples to systems of governance and commerce. Related to this project, she has a short book forthcoming in the University of Minnesota Press's Forerunners series, entitled "Semiotic Poverty in the World: From Villagization to Global Village".

Nolan holds a PhD in architectural history and theory from Columbia University and a master’s degree in architectural design from MIT. Her work has been published in Grey Room, Thresholds, AI (Architecture and Ideas), Avery Review, Architecture Theory Review,_ and Volume magazine.

Sophie Oldfield

University of Basel–University of Cape Town Professor of Urban Studies

Publications (19)
Projects (3)
Courses (18)

Sophie Oldfield co-founded the Critical Urbanisms program at the University of Basel. She is internationally recognized as an urban and human geographer for research on cities in the Global South through her theoretical and primary research and as coeditor of the pathbreaking Routledge Handbook on Cities of the Global South (Routledge, 2014). She is a leader in her discipline, serving as president of the Society of South African Geographers from 2012 to 2014 and helping to establish and develop the Southern African City Studies Network from 2007 to the present.

Her research is grounded in empirical and epistemological questions central to urban theory. Focusing on housing, informality and governance, mobilization and social movement organizing, and urban politics, her work pays close attention to political practice and everyday urban geographies, analysing the ways in which citizens and organized movements craft agency to engage and contest the state. She has a track record of excellence in collaborative research practice, challenging how academics work in and between “university” and “community.” Trained in the United States (PhD, University of Minnesota), Oldfield held the University of Basel–University of Cape Town Professorship in Urban Studies, based at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town, before being appointed Chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University in 2021.

Giulia Scotto

Publications (11)
Projects (2)
Courses (8)

Giulia Scotto is an architect, Ph.D candidate, and faculty member at the Urban Studies department at the University of Basel. Giulia holds a master’s degree in architectural design from the IUAV University of Venice and from the ETSAB of Barcelona. Prior to joining the University of Basel, Giulia worked as an architect and urban planner for ‘OMA Office for Metropolitan Architecture’ and for ‘KCAParchitects&planners’. She has also worked as research assistant at the ‘UTT Chair of architecture and Urban design’ at the ETH Zurich.

Giulia’s PhD research “Postcolonial Logistics: ENI’s ‘Disegno Africano’” investigates the territorial, urban and cultural consequences of ENI‘s (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi) infrastructural, architectural and propagandistic operations in early postcolonial Tanzania. This research is part of the project “Territorial Design: How Infrastructure Shaped Territory in Africa” funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Michelle D. Weitzel

Postdoctoral Fellow

Publications (2)

Michelle Weitzel is the Sinergia Postdoctoral Fellow in the Urban Studies program at the University of Basel. She received her PhD in Politics at the New School for Social Research in New York, where she trained in comparative politics and international relations, specializing in the political systems of the Middle East and North Africa. Her research brings topics in conflict, security, political violence, and governance into conversation with the sensory and material world. Her papers have been accorded the Wilson Award (2018) and the Hayward R. Alker Award (2017) at the American Political Science Association.

Weitzel’s book project, Drones, Sirens, and Prayer Calls: The Unheard Consequences of a Politics of Sound, theorizes sound’s power in the political sphere via empirical, inductive case studies based in Algeria, France, Palestine, Israel, and Morocco. The book traces ways that States regulate public space and sensory bodies to effect control and demonstrates how ambient sound constitutes a mechanism of political power.

She received an ALM in Government from Harvard University, and a BS in Journalism from the Medill School at Northwestern University. Her research has been supported by the American Institute of Maghrib Studies, the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius the Palestinian American Research Center, and the Graduate Institute for Design, Research and Ethnography.

Kanishka Goonewardena (2022)

Kanishka Goonewardena is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Directory, Program in Planning, at the University of Toronto. He received his Ph.D. in city and regional planning from Cornell in 1998.

His research interests include critical theory and Marxist philosophy, architecture and urban planning, and colonialism, imperialism, nationalism.

Ananya Roy (2019)

Visiting Faculty

Ananya Roy is Professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare, and Geography and The Meyer and Renee Luskin Chair in Inequality and Democracy at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is inaugural Director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA, which promotes research and scholarship concerned with displacement and dispossession.

Ananya’s research and scholarship has a determined focus on poverty and inequality and lies in four domains: how the urban poor in cities from Kolkata to Chicago face and fight eviction, foreclosure, and displacement; how global financialization, working in varied realms from microfinance to real-estate speculation, creates new markets in debt and risk; how the efforts to manage and govern the problem of poverty reveal the contradictions and limits of liberal democracy; how economic prosperity and aspiration in the global South is creating new potentialities for programs of human development and social welfare. Her books include City Requiem, Calcutta: Gender and the Politics of Poverty, Urban Informality: Transnational Perspectives from the Middle East, South, Asia, and Latin America, Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global, Territories of Poverty: Rethinking North and South, and most recently, Encountering Poverty: Thinking and Acting in an Unequal World.

Ananya is the recipient of several awards including the Paul Davidoff book award, which recognizes scholarship that advances social justice, for Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development (Routledge, 2010), and the Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest teaching recognition that the University of California, Berkeley bestows on its faculty.

Jana Magdalena Keuchel (2019)

Visiting Faculty

Jana Magdalena Keuchel is a film director and artist based in Leipzig. She worked as a lecturer at Bauhaus-University Weimar, the Masterclass Werkleitz and the Film Institute in Liberia. 2018 she was part of Berlinale Talents. She worked inter alia as camerawoman for the web series „Kishasa Collection“, shot in DR Congo and China.

Both of her previous works have been released and awarded at International Film Festivals. With the documentary „Last Year in Utopia“ Jana Keuchel and Katharina Knust won the Basler Filmpreis 2018. The film premiered at CPH:DOX in the main competition and was screened, among others, at Sheffield Doc/Fest, Crossing Europe Festival and Max Ophüls Preis.

Katharina Knust (2019)

Visiting Faculty

Katharina Knust is a filmmaker based in Basel. She holds a Master in Media Arts and works as production manager for film and cultural projects. Both of her previous works have been released and awarded at International Film Festivals. With the documentary „Last Year in Utopia“ Jana Keuchel and Katharina Knust won the Basler Filmpreis 2018. The film premiered at CPH:DOX in the main competition and was screened, among others, at Sheffield Doc/Fest, Crossing Europe Festival and Max Ophüls Preis.

Remo Reginold (2017/2018/2019)

Independent Scholar

Remo Reginold is a semiotician and affiliated with the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge. His research focuses on the articulation of geopolitics of knowledge and its implications in semiotics, aesthetics and economics. The study of urban and architectural theory with special emphasis on South Asia is another key topic of his research. Currently he is working on a manuscript theorising the shift from phenomenological perspectives to performative realities. In addition, he is preparing a research project examining Jaffna’s (Sri Lanka) architectural and urban landscape through the lens of human dwelling. It is an analysis of South Asian built and lived designs probing the condition possibilities of urban modernity.

Faranak Miraftab (2018, 2021)

Visiting Faculty

Faranak Miraftab is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA. Her interdisciplinary research empirically based in Latin America, Southern Africa, Middle East and North America, draws on feminist, transnational and urban scholarship. Her research and teaching concerns the global and local development processes involved in the formation of cities and citizens' struggles to access dignified urban livelihood.

Xenia Vytuleva (2018)

Xenia Vytuleva is an architecture historian, theorist and curator. Her scholarship is focused on new modes of preservation, governance by design and knowledge production, the intersection of architecture, art and politics. Before joining the team of Philosophy II at the ETH Zurich, Dr. Vytuleva was teaching at the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation at Columbia University in New York. She also serves as an affiliated member of Centre of History of Knowledge ETH Zurich. Dr. Vytuleva has curated a number of exhibitions including: "Music on Bones" in "Recycle" at MAXXI Museum in Rome, Experimental Preservation at the 2014 Venice Biennale and a Diary of the Cold Universe by Walter Benjamin at Slought Foundation, Philadelphia. A recipient of various grants and awards, including from the Graham Foundation for the project "Secret Cities", Vytuleva is currently working on manuscripts “Secret Zones, Communicating Knowledge throw Invisible Terrain”, "Aesthetics of Uncertainty in Contemporary Artistic Practices" and a project entitled “North Trans-National”. Her work has been published among others in Perspecta (MIT Press), Future Anterior (The University of Minnesota Press), Avery Review (Columbia University Press) and Cabinet.

Bárbara Maçães Costa (2017/2018)

Bárbara Maçães Costa graduated in 2008 from the University of Porto Faculty of Architecture and in 2013 from the University of Lisbon Faculty of Fine Arts (Master in Drawing). She worked for architecture offices in Copenhagen and Porto and was project architect for the Belgian landscape architecture office Bureau Bas Smets. She was teaching assistant in figure and landscape drawing for undergrad courses of painting and sculpture at the University of Lisbon Faculty of Fine Arts and landscape architecture at the École de la Cambre in Brussels. She has been invited to lecture at Hogeschool Sint-Lukas, Erasmus Hoogeschool Jette, ENSAS Strasbourg, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, University of Liechtenstein, and the ETH Zurich. She is currently employed by the EPF Lausanne as a doctoral assistant to Prof. Harry Gugger’s Laboratory Basel, as well as lecturer of the Teaching Unit U – Cartography. Her fields of expertise include drawing, landscape theory and environmental aesthetics.

Dominique Malaquais (2017/2018)

Senior Researcher CNRS

Dominique Malaquais (Ph.D. Columbia University, New York City) is a scholar and writer. Her work focuses on intersections between emergent urban cultures, global, late capitalist market forces and political and economic violence in African cities. She has taught extensively in the United States (Columbia and Princeton Universities, Vassar, Trinity and Sarah Lawrence Colleges) and is currently based in France, where she holds the position of Senior Researcher at CNRS - the National Science Research Centre, Paris. Dominique is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles, as well as essays, poems and short stories in English, French and Spanish. She is Associate Editor of Chimurenga magazine (South Africa) and sits on the editorial board of the journal Politique africaine (France). In 2003-2004, she was invited to lead a team of nine artists, scholars and activists in an eighteen-month multinational, trans-disciplinary reflection process around themes and approaches to be addressed by the Africa Centre. 2010 brings her to the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research, at Harvard University.

Prita Meier (2017/2018)

Associate Professor of Art History

Prita Meier (PhD, Harvard University) is assistant professor of African art and architectural history at New York University. Her research focuses African port cities and histories of transcontinental exchange and conflict. She is the author of Swahili Port Cities: The Architecture of Elsewhere (Indiana University Press, 2016) and has publications in Art History, African Arts, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, Artforum, and Arab Studies Journal, as well as contributions in several exhibition catalogs and edited books. Currently she is working on a new book about the social and aesthetic history of photography in Zanzibar and Mombasa and is co-organizing an exhibition and edited volume titled World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean (which received a 2016-17 NEH Humanities Projects grant). She has also held fellowships at the Clark Art Institute (2014-2015), Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities (2009-2010), Johns Hopkins University (2007-2009), and The Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art (2017-18).

Claudia Wilopo (2023)

Claudia Wilopo is a postdoctoral researcher in the field of European migration, borders and citizenship studies. Her research and teaching interests are asylum, racial profiling, racism, intersectionality, urban governance, and illegalized migration as well as feminist, engaged and ethnographic methods.

In her postdoctoral research project titled "Who speaks? Who acts? Who listens? An analysis of the discussion of (anti)racism in cities," she examines how urban anti-racist groups and institutional urban actors conceptualize, problematize and counter racism through different grassroots and institutional practices. Her postdoctoral project is supported by the fund for outstanding junior researchers at the University of Basel and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

Claudia Wilopo holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Basel. Her PhD project analyses the process of illegalisation of migrants in the Canton of Zurich. Based on interviews, observations and go-alongs, she analysed how rejected asylum seekers navigate and contest bordering practices and politics of control. She was awarded the G3S-start-up grant, an SNSF scholarship (Doc.CH) and an FAG (Freiwillige Akademische Gesellschaft) grant.

She is also a member of the research group on racial profiling and is part of various political projects in the city of Zurich.

Nikolay Erofeev (2021/2022)

Postdoctoral Researcher in History of Architecture and Urbanism

Nikolay Erofeev is an architectural historian whose work focuses on socialist architecture and urban planning. Nikolay received his D.Phil (PhD) in History from the University of Oxford where he was a Hill Foundation Scholar and his specialist degree (M.A.) in the History of Art from the Moscow State University. Nikolay had academic appointments at Manchester School of Architecture where he taught M.Arch dissertations. Nikolay’s fellowship at the University of Basel is supported by the Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship.

Nikolay’s doctoral thesis discussed the design and production of prefabricated mass housing in the Soviet Union and argued the architectural story of this understudied ‘bureaucratic modernism’ represents a much more creative and influential development in the history of modern architecture as a whole. His current project, ‘Architecture and housing in the Comecon’ looks at architecture and urbanization patterns produced by global socialism. Combining in-depth scrutiny of the design of the built environment with an analysis of the everyday processes of subject-making that shaped the socialist project in Mongolia, his project aims to provide a new understanding of the urban and domestic spaces produced in the Global South.

Megan Eardley (2022/2023)

Megan Eardley studies the intersections of architecture, science and technology, and political philosophy in southern Africa in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Her current research examines how the South African mining industry shaped models and concepts of life in deep space during the Cold War. While attending to histories of labor, race, and gender, she foregrounds questions about measurement, the language of standards, and the future of 'the human' in environments that are hostile to biological life. In recent years, her work has been supported by NASA, the National Science Foundation, the History of Science Society, as well as the Canadian Center for Architecture. In 2021-2022, Megan is a PhD Candidate in Architectural History and Theory at Princeton University and a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Basel.

Gernot Biersack

Michelle Killenberger

Solange Mbanefo

Solange is a Master’s of Science graduate in Architecture from the Accademia di Architectura di Mendriso (AAM), Switzerland, with a Post-Master’s course in Building Information Modelling (BIM) at the Dublin Institute of Design, Ireland. She dedicates her career to enhance the quality of life and increase sustainability through innovative spatial solutions in urban development in African cities, by incorporating intelligent technological solutions with positive social impact. Her Masters’ Thesis (Recognizing the Potential Value of Sub-Saharan African Architectural Heritage) was nominated by the Legacy Heritage Foundation at the Lagos Nigeria Art Biennale 2017. Solange is currently a University Researcher and Assistant-Lecturer at the Critical Urbanism Department of African Studies under Prof. Arc. Manuel Herz the University Basel. Solange has a multi-cultural background and has lived, studied, and worked in Switzerland, Nigeria, Thailand, Italy, Brazil, Cuba and Ireland. She is fluent in English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

Myriam Claire Perret

Publications (1)

Viviana Pupeza