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. Within this field, his research projects centre 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 Social Project: Housing Postwar France (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), winner of the Spiro Kostof Book Award by the Society of Architectural Historians, an International Planning History Society award, the Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize by the Vernacular Architecture, and an honorary mention for the Wylie Prize in French cultural studies. 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. Other of his publications focus on the intersections between architecture and the social sciences; architectural manifestations of the welfare state and neoliberalization; the politics of participation; and cultural landscapes from wastelands and youth camps to street vending.
Cupers’s work has been supported by Fulbright, Chateaubriand, and Humboldt research fellowships. Educated in Belgium (KULeuven), Britain (Goldsmiths College), and the United States (PhD, Harvard University), he has taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he held the Reyner Banham Fellowship, and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 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’s current book project interrogates the entangled histories of empire and the environment, focusing on Germany and sub-Saharan Africa. Tentatively titled “Modernism and the Environment: An Epistemological History,” it examines how environmental thinking has shaped the rise of modern architecture and urban planning since the late nineteenth century.
CV of Kenny Cupers (pdf, 82.02 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.
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.
Postdoctoral Fellow, History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism
Ginger Nolan’s work focuses on how nineteenth- and twentieth-century architecture, aesthetic technologies, and landscape have contributed to a global division of labour and to related constructions of race and class. She is currently working on a book manuscript, “Savage Mind to Savage Machine: Architecture, Technology, and the Making of Magical Thought”, which has received support from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, the Social Science Research Council, and the Graham Foundation for Art and Architecture. She is also working on a project that explores the entanglements of biopolitics and citizenship, examining how architectural and urban plans that tried to promote notions of citizenship operated, at the same time, as biopolitical schemes for managing “bare life.”
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, and Volume.
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).
Associate Professor of African Studies
Elísio Macamo is Associate Professor of 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.
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.
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.
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.
Sandy Prita Meier
Assistant Professor of Art History
Prita Meier (PhD, Harvard University) is assistant professor of African art and architectural history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 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).
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.
Bárbara Maçães Costa
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.
Giulia Scotto is a Ph.D candidate at the Center for African Studies and in 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.
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.
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.