Emilio Distretti

Postdoctoral Fellow, History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism



Publications  (selection)

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