Faculty and Staff

Kenny Cupers

Professor of Architectural History and Urban Studies / Head of Urban Studies / Head of the Department of Social Sciences

Publications (35)
Projects (6)
Courses (27)

Kenny Cupers is a scholar and educator who works at the intersection of architectural history, urban studies, and critical geography. Grounded in primary research, his work analyzes built spaces and systems in order to answer questions about power and historical change. His research focuses on the role of housing in urban and state transformation, the epistemology and geopolitics of modernism, and the power and aesthetics of infrastructure. Central to these interests is a focus on design—understood as a technique of governing and as a lens on human and material agency.

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).

His forthcoming book The Earth that Modernism Built is a historical study of German imperialism in southern Africa and central Europe that proposes a new account of how land and life became objects of design.

Cupers leads the SNF-funded project, How Infrastructure Shaped Territory in Africa, co-directs (with Orit Halpern and Claudia Mareis) the Sinergia project Governing through Design: An Interdisciplinary Phenomenon, and co-coordinates (with PI Bilgin Ayata) the SNIS-funded project, Infrastructure Space and the Future of Migration Management. Through these collaborative projects, he is developing a research agenda centered on the relationship between infrastructure, sovereignty, and the urban—with a particular interest in African struggles for decolonization.

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.

Sophie Oldfield

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

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

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.

Shourideh C. Molavi

Senior Lecturer

Publications (2)

Courses (3)

Shourideh C. Molavi is a writer and scholar in specializing in critical state theory, migration and border studies, 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, citizenship and statelessness, 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); and Environmental Warfare in Gaza: Contemporary Practices of Israeli Settler-Colonialism (Pluto Press, 2021 forthcoming). Shourideh’s past and ongoing investigations with Forensic Architecture can be found here.

Emilio Distretti

Postdoctoral Fellow, History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism

Publications (9)

Courses (11)

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 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 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 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 Cass School of Architecture in London and at SOAS at the Department of International Studies. He collaborates with DAAR - Decolonizing Art and Architecture Residency (Beit Sahour, Palestine).

Maren Larsen

Publications (7)
Projects (1)
Courses (3)

Maren Larsen is a 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.

Laura Nkula-Wenz

Lecturer and Coordinator

Publications (6)
Projects (1)
Courses (5)

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

Michelle D. Weitzel

Postdoctoral Fellow

Publications (2)
Projects (1)

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.

Jana Häberlein

Dr. des. 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 (highly) skilled 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, health and wellbeing in the context of forced migration, qualitative social research methods, inter- /transdisciplinary and intersectional approaches and Southeast Europe.

Recent publications:

• Häberlein, Jana / Wilopo, Claudia (2021), Illegalisierung und Race. Konturen einer rassismuskritischen Analyse der Situation von abgewiesenen Asylsuchenden in der Schweiz, in: dos Santos Pinto, Jovita / Skenderovic, Damir / Purtschert, Patricia, et al. (Hg.), Rassifizierung in der Schweiz – Racialisation en Suisse, Seismo (under review).

• 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 und 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.

Mona Fawaz

Prof. Fawaz is an associate professor of urban planning and studies in the Department of Architecture and Design at the American University of Beirut. Based on an interdisciplinary approach that looks at actor strategies, legal/informal regulatory frameworks, and property regimes, her work investigates the social production of city spaces in a series of empirical case studies taken in informal settlements as well as in large-scale public and private urban developments. Fawaz is writing a book provisionally titled “When the Plan Fails and Urban Regulations Are Bypassed: Narrating Beirut from its Peripheries.” Juxtaposed against a dominant historiography that describes Beirut’s growth as a process originating from a central core, the project brings to light narratives taken from the city’s peripheries that together posit a revised vision of the city’s production: one where informal settlements, refugee camps, and old villages appear as laboratories of city making. The project focuses on the formative period 1950–1975 and seeks to describe an alternative history of the production of Beirut, rather than a history of its peripheries. Fawaz completed her graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after earning a bachelor of architecture at the American University of Beirut. Recent publications include “The Politics of Property in Planning: Hezbollah’s Reconstruction of Haret Hreik as Case Study,” in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (May 2014), and “Towards the Right to the City in Informal Settlements,” in Locating Right to the City in the Global South (Routledge, 2013).

Charles Heller

Charles Heller is a researcher and filmmaker whose work has a long-standing focus on the politics of migration. In 2015, he completed a Ph.D. in Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is currently Research Associate at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP), Graduate Institute, Geneva. Together with Lorenzo Pezzani, in 2011 Heller co-founded Forensic Oceanography, a collaborative project based at Goldsmiths that has developed innovative methodologies to document the conditions that lead to migrants’ deaths at sea. Heller and Pezzani have also launched the WatchTheMed platform, a tool enabling nongovernmental actors to exercise a critical right to look at the EU’s maritime frontier. They have authored a number of human rights reports, including "Report on the Left-to-Die Boat" (2012); “Death by Rescue” (2016) ; “Blaming the Rescuers” (2017); "Mare Clausum" (2018) and “The Nivin” (2019), which have contributed to strategic litigation and have had a major impact both within the fields of migration and border studies, nongovernmental politics and the public sphere. Based on their research, they have lectured internationally and generated a number of theoretically innovative articles on the transformations of the Euro-Mediterranean border regime, the politics of aesthetic practice and nongovernmental politics at sea, which have been published in several edited volumes and in a number of international journals such as Cultural Studies, Postcolonial Studies, the Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales, ACME, Spheres, Global Media and Communication, Philosophy of Photography, New Geographiesand the Harvard Design Magazine. Their videos "Liquid Traces" (2014), “Death by Rescue” (2016), "The Crime of Rescue" and “Mare Clausum” (2018) have been exhibited internationally, including at the HKW, the Venice Biennale, the MACBA, the MOMA, the ICA and Manifesta 12.

Aylin Tschoepe

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.

Alaa Dia

Publications (1)
Projects (1)
Courses (2)

Alaa Dia is a PhD candidate in Urban Studies at the University of Basel. He is currently working as a researcher for the project “Infrastructure space and the future of migration management: the EU Hotspots in the Mediterranean borderscape”, addressing the power of infrastructure in transforming borders, handling the spatial and architectural aspect of the project. Alaa’s studies interest lies in the intersection between Architecture and Migration studies. He has received both his Bachelor and Master in Architecture at the Lebanese University and his postgraduate Master in Urban Design from ETH Zürich, where he studied the influx of refugee communities in Germany. Prior to joining the project, Alaa worked as a researcher and teaching assistant in ETH Zürich, Department of Architecture (D-ARCH) Institute of Historic Building Research (IDB).

Jacob Geuder

"Anywhere, where something is happening in the world, there is a cellphone. Almost everywhere, there is 3G”, said an activist film-maker in our interview in Cape Town. Certainly, citizens’ news production has been redesigning mobilisation and viewers’ perception of protests worldwide. Consequently, an exploding number of online videos shows protesting masses roaming the streets, burning barricades and police forces clashing with civilians.

My dissertation “Images of Movements – Video-activist Visions of Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro” researches the rising phenomenon of video-activism in two metropoles in the “Global South”. Video-activism signifies the appropriation of video production and distribution by activists and citizens to foster political emancipation and blame abuses of power. My research analyses practices of video-activism employed in protest waves such as service delivery protests, #RhodesMustFall, community activism in favelas and the Jornadas de Junho.

Debates about the role of “online repertoires” in contemporary social movements on the one side urge further empirical investigation to grasp the effects of the technological innovations on “glocal” street politics. On the other side, these debates demand conceptualisation of the relations between urban spaces, media landscapes and protest cultures. Based on ethnographic data, the goal is to present a thick description of video-activism. Conceptually, my investigation appropriates Henri Lefebvre’s “Right to the City” and ideas of “autogestion” to develop the notion of “utopian practice”. Thus the work substantiates current debates about the “everywhere” of viral videos of protests. Sketching the effects of transforming visibility regimes in non-institutional politics, my research offers an interdisciplinary and innovative approach to the rising subject of video-activism in two major cities from the “Global South”.

Lea 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.

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

Giulia Scotto

Publications (9)
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.

Ernest Sewordor

Publications (1)
Projects (1)
Courses (2)

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.

Lotte Knakkergaard Nielsen

Projects (1)

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.

Artemis-Maria Fyssa

Publications (1)

Artemis Fyssa is a PhD student in Sociology, at Basel University. She currently is one of the principal researchers for the project “Infrastructure space and the future of migration management: the EU Hotspots in the Mediterranean borderscape” focusing on the Greek case studies. She holds a Master of Science in Urban Studies by Vrije Universiteit Brussel – under a scholarship from the Onassis Foundation – and a Master of Arts in Anthropology of Music by National & Kapodestrian University of Athens. She received her Bachelor Diploma in Sociology from Panteion University of Social & Political Sciences. She has worked as a Web Editor for prominent Media outlets, and a Project Proposal Writer and Project Coordinator for “Antigone - Information and Documentation Centre on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non-Violence”.

Shirley-Ann Jennifer Felsenberg

Bilgin Ayata

Assistant Professor of Political Sociology

Publications (3)
Projects (1)

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.

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). 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.

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).

Elísio Macamo

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.

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).

Dr. Anna Selmeczi

Anna Selmeczi’s urban studies research is grounded in social and political theory, and focuses on the connections between urban spatial ordering and knowledge production, and how various forms of popular politics contest and change these orders. Based at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town and in Urban Studies at the University of Basel, Anna is working on a project with Sophie Oldfield in partnership with Clive Barnett (University of Exeter, UK), titled ‘Knowing the City: South African Urban Research Past, Present, Future’. The project 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. Going beyond a disciplinary history approach, ‘Knowing the City’ attends to both how theory travels between cities, countries, and continents via mentorship and other scholarly encounters, as well as how urbanists navigate the multiple lineages of their situatedness in the urban terrain. Criss-crossing the shifting socio-political landscape of the country during and after apartheid, what are the professional, spatial, and personal trajectories that make up the shifting body of South African urban studies?

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.

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 (1)
Projects (4)
Courses (12)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Faranak Miraftab (2018)

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).

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

Viviana Pupeza