Professor of History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism / Head of Urban Studies
Kenny Cupers is an architectural and urban historian with expertise in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe and its relationship with the transatlantic world and (post)colonial Africa. His research focuses on questions of human and material agency, the epistemology and geopolitics of modernism, and design as a technique of social intervention.
Cupers is the author of the award-winning The Social Project: Housing Postwar France (University of Minnesota Press, 2014). 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 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 (Verlag Müller + Busmann, 2002), coauthored with Markus Miessen, explores the importance of leftover spaces for public life in Berlin—a theme he has recently revisited in Spaces of Uncertainty: Berlin Revisited (Birkhäuser, 2018).
Other of his publications concern housing histories and the politics of participation; intersections of design and the social sciences; the role of architecture in the welfare state and its neoliberal transformations; territorial design and economic planning; and cultural landscapes from wastelands and youth camps to the urbanism of street vending. Forthcoming publications include Architecture and Neoliberalism from the 1960s to the Present (co-edited with Helena Mattsson & Catharina Gabrielsson, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019) and La banlieue, un projet social: Ambitions d’une politique urbaine, 1945-1975, the French translation of The Social Project (Parenthèses, 2018).
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. from Harvard University in 2010. He taught in the United States before co-founding the University of Basel’s Urban Studies division in 2015. His teaching integrates approaches from the history and theory of architecture, urban and social history, cultural geography, and the history of science and technology.
Cupers’ ongoing research explores questions of infrastructure, environment, and colonialism.
His current book project, entitled The Earth that Modernism Built, situates the development of modern architecture, planning, and design in the politics of land during the age of empire. Focusing on Germany and its global entanglements, the book brings the history of modernism to bear on what it usually ignores, namely the very ground under our feet and our fundamentally colonial relationship to it.
Cupers co-directs Highway Africa, a collaborative research project on infrastructure and decolonization. He leads the SNF-funded project, How Infrastructure Shaped Territory in Africa, and co-coordinates (with PI B. Ayata) the SNIS-funded project, Infrastructure Space and the Future of Migration Management.
CV of Kenny Cupers (pdf, 85.84 KB)
Professor of Architectural, Urban, and Territorial Design
Manuel Herz 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.
University of Basel–University of Cape Town Professor of Urban Studies
Sophie Oldfield 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 holds 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.
Postdoctoral Fellow, History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism
Emilio Distretti is a researcher, writer and educator. Prior to joining the University of Basel, he taught at SOAS, University of London, at the Department of Politics and International Studies. Between 2015-2017 Emilio was Postdoctoral Fellow at the Kenyon Institute (Council for British Research in the Levant) in East Jerusalem and Assistant Professor and Director of the Urban Studies and Spatial Practices program at Al Quds Bard College for Arts and Sciences (AQB), in Abu Dis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. While in Palestine he founded with his students at AQB The Jerusalem of Things, an experimental project of collective creative writing, critical pedagogy and public engagement which document the material histories of Palestinian refugees in Jerusalem.
Emilio’s research takes on interrelated avenues on architecture, material culture, human rights, migration, spatial practices in the colonial and post-colonial Mediterranean (Italy, North Africa and the Levant) and extends across natural, scientific and digital fields. His research project The Production of the Desert: Architecture and Environmental Design in the Age of Colonialism explores the role of architectural practices in the transformation of deserts as colonial spaces. Through two case studies of desert colonisation and their cultural and historical convergences around the dream to "make the desert bloom" the project investigates the relation between Fascist Italy’s colonisation of the northern Sahara in Libya and the Zionist colonisation of the Naqab/Negev in Palestine.
Also, in collaboration with awarded documentary photographer Mimi Mollica, Emilio started the project Paleontopolitics. It is a multi-site exhibition project in the making that looks at human remains as a way to draw connections and understand the linkages between the colonial past and the (post)colonial present. It creates an interactive display of different post mortem stories of colonialism, anti-colonial struggles, migration and return across Europe’s Mediterranean southern shores and North Africa. Emilio’s writings appear in academic journals, magazines and books, and most recently in The Routledge Handbook of Postcolonial Politics and Cabinet Magazine.
Emilio holds a PhD from the School of Art and Design at Portsmouth University (UK), with his doctoral thesis looking at Italian colonialism in Libya and the Horn of Africa, exploring the capacity of colonial material legacies to transform geographies and inspire new possibilities for reparations and agreements between former colonisers and colonised.
Emilio has previously taught at the Cass School of Architecture in London and has been collaborating with Forensic Architecture, Amnesty International and DAAR-Decolonizing Art and Architecture Residency
Assistant Professor of Political Sociology
Bilgin Ayata is Assistant Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Basel since August 2015. She obtained her PhD in Political Science at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, USA), and her MA degree from York University (Toronto, Canada). Her research interests center on transformation processes spurred by forced migration, conflict, protest movements, contestions of memory and postcolonial interventions. Her regional expertise includes the Middle East and Europe, in particular Turkey, the Kurdish regions and postcolonial Germany. She has published on transnational activism of Diasporas, the politics of displacement, foreign policy, Genocide denial and memory regimes. She is an associate member of the Research Cluster „Affective Societies“ at the Freie Universität Berlin with an ongoing research project on the affective dynamics of urban protest and political transformation in the Middle East. At the University of Basel, Prof. Ayata has organized the public lecture series „Topographies of Displacement and Resistance“ that took place during Spring Term 2016.
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). I also teach and publish 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.
Chair of Social Anthropology
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).
Professor for African Studies
Elísio Macamo is Professor for African Studies at the University of Basel. Previsouly (until 2009) he taught development Sociology at the University of Bayreuth, where he was a founding member of the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies. Elísio Macamo was born and grew up in Mozambique. He studied in Maputo (Mozambique), Salford and London (England) and Bayreuth (Germany) and holds an MA degree in Translation and Interpreting (Salford), an MA degree in Sociology and Social Policy (University of North London) and a PhD and “Habilitation” in General Sociology (University of Bayreuth).
A post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Bayreuth, a research fellowship at the Centre for African Studies in Lisbon (Portugal), an AGORA-Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin and a visiting lecturer at Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique are some of the stations in his academic career. As a member of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) he regularly offers methodological workshops to Portuguese speaking African doctoral students. Furthermore he regularly engages in teaching in Brazil.
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.
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.
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.
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)
Assistant 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).
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.
Lotte Knakkergaard Nielsen
Lotte Knakkergaard Nielsen
Lotte Knakkergaard Nielsen is a PhD fellow at the Institute of Social Anthropology and in the Urban Studies department at the University of Basel. Lotte took her B.A. and M.Sc. in Anthropology at Aarhus University, Denmark. To collect data for her master thesis, she lived in Detroit for 4 months in 2014 focusing on decaying infrastructure and community self-reliance practices.
Throughout her studies, Lotte has been engaged in various projects both concerning urban studies and food studies, experimental ethnography and ethnographic exhibition. In 2015, she took part in creating an exhibition about the harbour site in Aarhus, Denmark. She is also the planner of a podcast series about the aesthetics and sensorial experience of food.
In her PhD, Lotte will be focusing on urban, social practices and experiences of uncertainty that form the city of Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa. This project is supervised by Prof. Till Förster and architect Manuel Herz, and it is a part of the SNF-funded project entitled Making the City: Agency, Urbanity, and Urbanisation in Ordinary Cities.
Maren Larsen is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Social Anthropology and in the Urban Studies department at the University of Basel. Prior to joining the Institute, Maren 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 also held consultant positions with the OECD and the UNESCO-based International Association of Universities in Paris, France.
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.
Maren’s PhD research focuses on practices of urban planning and dynamics of urbanization in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Her project falls under the larger project Making the City: Agency, Urbanity, and Urbanisation in Ordinary Cities funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Her PhD is supervised by architect Manuel Herz and Prof. Till Förster.
Giulia Scotto is a Ph.D candidate and research assistant 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, Italy and the ETSAB of Barcelona, Spain. Prior to joining the University of Basel, Giulia worked as 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.
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