Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Europäische Ethnologie

Stadtlabor for multimodal anthropology

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The values of multimodal projects (26.1 & 9.2.2022)

Stadtlabor Online Seminar Series (WiSe 21-22). A series of live-streamed events hosted at the Institut für Europäische Ethnologie, HU Berlin




In this Winter Semester's 21-22 Stadtlabor Online Seminar Series, we aim to invite ground-breaking anthropological projects where multimodality features not just as an add-on of particular inquiries, but as a central mode of research and intervention.

At a time where the conversation around ‘multimodality’ is gaining momentum, we aim to discuss ‘the values’ of multimodal projects. By this, we mean two main things: The aim of our series would not just be to find the conditions to praise (‘valorise’), but also to appraise (‘evaluate’) multimodal projects. In a nutshell, we want this event series to be an attempt at creating the conceptual grounds for evaluating and institutionalising multimodal endeavours. Hence, to foster multimodal productions.

In particular, we wish to discuss the anthropological value of (i) dramaturgical / performance interventions, and anthropological approaches to (ii) exhibiting and curating. In opening up this space, we seek to highlight projects that we take as valuable contributions: not only to make them more visible but also so that these projects could help us in articulating their multimodal values, as well as inspiring others in their own work.

Not only we want to be able to learn from concrete multimodal approaches – the peculiarity of the media employed, the reasons for their choices – but we wish to create the grounds for a detailed conversation between projects of the same kind, touching upon criteria of anthropological worth.

26.1.22 (3-5:30pm CET) – How to exhibit anthropologically? 

(Zoom link)

1. Francisco Martínez: How to Make Ethnographic Research with Exhibitions

Francisco Martínez is an anthropologist dealing with contemporary issues of material culture through ethnographic experiments. In 2018, he was awarded with the Early Career Prize of the European Association of Social Anthropologists. Currently, he works as Associate Professor at Tallinn University and convenes the Collaboratory for Ethnographic Experimentation (EASA Network). Francisco has published two monographs – Ethnographic Experiments with Artists, Designers and Boundary Objects (UCL Press, 2021) and Remains of the Soviet Past in Estonia (UCL Press, 2018). He has also edited several books, including Peripheral Methodologies (Routledge, 2021); Politics of Recuperation in Post-Crisis Portugal (Bloomsbury, 2020), and Repair, Brokenness, Breakthrough (Berghahn, 2019), He has also curated different exhibitions – including ‘Objects of Attention’ (Estonian Museum of Applied Art & Design, 2019), and ‘Life in Decline’ (Estonian Mining Museum, 2021).

2. Manuela Bojadžijev: Archive of Refuge

Manuela Bojadžijev, professor at the Institute for European Ethnology (HU Berlin) together with the publicist Carolin Emcke and in cooperation with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), have created the Archive of Refuge as a digital place of remembrance where stories of flight and expulsion to Germany in the 20th and 21st centuries are preserved and reflected upon. The people who tell their stories in the archive tell of flight and expulsion, of torture, exploitation and deprivation of rights, but also of hope and happiness; they tell of home and exile, of belonging and new beginnings - and ultimately also show surprising, far-reaching perspectives on German history. The archive asks: What does it actually mean to seek refuge?

9.2.22 (2:30-5pm CET) – How to stage issues anthropologically?

(Zoom link)

1.  Cristiana Giordano & Greg Pierotti: Affect Theater: Collaborations between Anthropology and Performance

Cristiana Giordano is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. She received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. Her book, Migrants in Translation. Caring and the Logics of Difference in Contemporary Italy (2014), won the Victor Turner Book Prize for ethnographic writing (2016), and the Boyer Prize in Psychoanalytic Anthropology (2017). Her current research investigates new ways of rendering ethnographic material into artistic forms. She has been collaborating with playwright and director Greg Pierotti on a new methodology, Affect Theater, at the intersection of the social sciences and performance. They have created Unstories and and Unstories II (roaming), two 50-minute performances around the current “refugee crisis” in Europe.

Greg Pierotti is a theater artist and assistant professor of theater studies at University of Arizona. His plays, including Unstoriesb moreThe Laramie Project, and The People’s Temple, have been seen in venues around the world and translated into over a dozen languages. He is a recipient of the Humanitas Prize, the Will Glickman Award, the San Francisco Critics Award, and has been nominated for an Emmy, a New York Drama Desk Award, and the Alpert Award for outstanding individual contribution to the theater. He and Cristiana Giordano investigate the intersection of ethnographic and theatrical research and production methods.


2. AnthropoScenes: Linking participatory methods with theatre to imagine sustainable futures

The Project AnthropoScenes is run by a group of people from interdisciplinary human-environment research and the Theatre of the Anthropocene. Competences reach from hard science to pop-up theatre. We aim to involve diverse publics in debates about water futures and bring two questions: Can multimodality help to balance divergent logics of science and theatre? What are tips and tricks to move beyond the usual suspects? Jörg Niewöhner (anthropology), Pauline Münch (science communication) and Frank Raddatz (theatre) will represent the team.


Questions we want to raise

1. What were the reasons to choose this peculiar approach, media or art form? What relation do these forms bear to specific ethnographic fieldwork studies or particular anthropological modes of inquiry? What were your aims in exploring this multimodal form?

2. What have been the knowledges you’ve needed to become acquainted with to use these media/forms? What does anthropological research and knowledge production become when shaped in this particular form or using these devices? Also, how could we critically reflect, as anthropologists, on the affordances, promises, challenges and predicaments of the particular devices of your multimodal ethnographic engagement? In a nutshell, what are the promises and challenges of this form for anthropological inquiries?

3. What effects have your multimodal form of choice had on the people you were working with: your interlocutors, your peers? How could we learn to appreciate and value these effects: that is, what contours of anthropological practice are being delineated in what your multimodal explorations made emerge?

4. Have you been able to document your project, in what form? What have been the main challenges or difficulties in doing so? Who have you addressed in doing so: that is, who are your audiences, publics?

A more informal conversation on these issues, with questions and comments from the hosts and the audience, will ensue.


Multimodal Projects Fund | WiSe 21-22 | Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology

The Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology of the Institute of European Ethnology, HU Berlin invites HU students at all levels – BA, MA and PhD – to apply for up to €750 funding for multimodal projects addressing urban spaces, transformations and/or concerns.

In recent years there has been a proliferation of experiments, devices and platforms of multimodal ethnographic practices involving not just different media, but also – and most importantly - a multiplicity of epistemic, affective and political modes for engaging with urban actors. Many of these projects, involving formats such as game design, participatory experiments and expert collaborations, aim to unsettle writing and reading as privileged and exclusive modes of knowledge production and circulation.

With this Multimodal Project Fund –which we plan to award every semester– we aim to foster urban ethnographic projects featuring more-than-textual research or public engagement and intervention formats, in a wide variety of products and in diverse genres of expression. Selected projects will contribute to expand and reflect upon multimodal strategies for ethnographic work on urban arenas, paying attention to how particular devices might enable or hinder particular descriptions and conceptual understandings of current urban conditions.

Who can apply?

The Fund is open for individuals and inter- and transdisciplinary groups. For group applications, it is enough if one member is a student, at any level (BA, MA and PhD), registered in the WiSe21-22 at the HU Berlin.

What can be funded?

The funding of up to €750 Euros covers the material costs of the project. Under no circumstances we will be able to cover for employment of the fund recipients. All expenses need to be documented with original invoices. The refunding will occur after the project has been implemented.

What is the time plan?

Deadline for application: November 30, 2021
Notification of results: December 17, 2021
Funding period: six months - It is expected that the awarded project would be ready to be presented in a public event hosted by the Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology by June 30, 2022.

To participate, please fill in this form:


Playing with method: Game design as ethnographic research (14.1, 28.1 & 11.2.2021)

A series of live-streamed events hosted by the Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology, Institut für Europäische Ethnologie, HU Berlin


Rationale of the workshop


What if in the face of very serious topics we developed conceptual, speculative and material tools, such as games, to find ways of intervening as ethnographers, social scientists or as activists in current design dynamics? 

The series of talks Playing with method wishes to open up a line of inquiry counting on practical examples (be they card, board, performative or video-games) theoretical repertoires, and speculative visions or positional arguments to address the promises and challenges of the ways in which games might be mobilized for different forms and genres of social intervention. 

In spite, or even because of their ludic dimension, we want to explore to what extent games might be capable of altering how we discuss issues, share knowledge, raise awareness, make problems public, imagine futures, and learn to care. Thus, we would like to collectively discuss critically on the contemporary cultural role of games, with the aspiration to ponder how games could redevelop our repertoires of ethnographic representation and intervention; or what vocabularies and considerations might allow us to unfold their full potential as relevant ethnographic or peri-ethnographic genres. 

What is more, we are particularly interested in how games open up a Spielraum (a degree of play) for transgressing the boundaries of academic disciplines and reinventing what research might mean.


Why this workshop now?


In the last years, members of the Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology have been approaching the potentialities and challenges of games as particular platforms or devices for anthropological research / intervention for the real estate crisis in Berlin. In our work not only we have been inspired by the activist/ pedagogic impetus of the Landlord’s Game (anti-monopolistic predecessor of Monopoly), but also by different works around games by social designers, artists and other anthropologists wishing to expand the reach of forms of urban intervention.

The games we have developed are not final products but open prototypes. They are result and method of our research, and work as devices to intervene in urban development processes. As such, they are open to be transformed and re-versioned, so that their specific languages, logics, gameplay, and effects could be adapted to specific situations and concerns of various urban actors.

In collaboration with ZK/U, we have produced a series of games, most centrally featuring House of Gossip, which re-enacts the threat of displacement of tenants from their homes, plunging us into the rumors circulating in a stairway and their truth effects. 

Drawing from our own work, for this series of talks we would like to gather around inspiring examples so as to discuss and discover together how developing games might also impact how we could do social-cultural research: from describing to intervening, from representing to performing (and breaching) reality, thus experimenting with what politics and critique might mean whenever we prototype and play.



14.1.2021 5-7pm – Urban matters (FB event)


Claudia Hummel (UdK & Spielclub Oranienstraße 25 / nGbK project group): "Spielclub Oranienstraße 25. Democratic art as capitalist-critical play practice"


From 1969 to 1972, the nGbK (Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, a grassroots democratic art association in Berlin) had a working group called AG Spielumwelt (play environment). It consisted of artists, educators, psychologists and interested parents. The basic idea of the working group was to develop an artistic form of practice for and with working class children to criticize capitalism. For the implementation, a factory floor was rented in Kulmer Straße 20a in Berlin-Schöneberg. Over a period of several months, the artists, together with children from the neighborhood, built a play city – the so-called Spielklub (play club). The city was than activated by role-playing. „Realitätsvermittlung“ was a declared goal of the group. The children were to learn to negotiate in the Spielklub, just as they learn to kick on the soccer field.

The experimental arrangement of the "Spielklub Kulmer Straße" was reenacted in the winter of 2019/20 as Spielclub Oranienstraße 25. For this, the exhibition space of the nGbK was transformed into a symbolic replica of Oranienstrasse. Berlin school classes spent play days there and played around the city - more precisely: around Oranienstrasse. Rent policy and participation in social change were the topics of negotiation.



Tomás Criado & Ignacio Farías (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin): "Spielräume. How games open up alternative urban anthropological inquiries?"


To answer this question, we discuss the process of House of Gossip: a board/performative game developed to re-enact and elicit housing conflicts. It was designed, tested and put to use as part of a research project on Berlin’s real estate markets, allowing us to experiment with modes of ethnographic representation, as well as to stage exchanges with different urban players who participated in different stages of the process. Design, testing and use not only invited paying attention to technical details and policies shaping sociopolitical dynamics in housing markets; they also led us to speculate with how games can allow us to rethink the forms of relevance of our anthropological engagements. As a result, we posit that the ethnographic capacities of games and game design need to be conceptualized in a pharmacological register: depending on the composition, preparation and administration of the gamification dose, ethnographic representations can be strengthened or poisoned, ethnographic relations thrive or die.


Chaired by Julia Schröder (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)



28.1.2021 6-8pm – Educational matters (FB event)


Judith Ackermann (Fachhochschule Potsdam): "Designing Hybrid Reality Games for Situated Learning in Higher Education "


The talk discusses a series of workshops conducted at Politecnico di Milano and Siegen University relying on collective Hybrid Reality Game design as a method to foster students’ relation with each other and the space(s) surrounding them. Activities follow the assumption that games need to be seen as performative media that are equipped with transformative power. By the example of different game prototypes designed by students and the process of their creation, it will be shown how bridging physical and digital spheres via joint game actions allows players and designers to analyze and experience familiar places anew as well as to become part of new interaction ensembles and to create memorable community experiences. Thereby Hybrid Reality Games come with the potential of altering people’s perspective towards the world surrounding them - a potential to even be increased, if they act as designers.


Joe Dumit (UC Davis): "Understanding Worlding Processes through Board Game Design"


Game design offers a powerful pedagogical practice for engaging students in thinking and researching sociotechnical systems. Inspired by Paolo Pedercini's paper videogame modding workshops, Joseph Dumit discusses the example of a class designing a game around fracking, and workshops with graduate students making games around their research. He’s interested in how game design grapples with emergent dynamic processes and non-human points of view and their matters of fact and matters of concern. It considers how students draw themselves into becoming STS researchers through serious play.


Chaired by Tomás Criado (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)



11.2.2021 5-7pm – Organizational matters (FB event)


Judith Igelsböck (Institut für Organisation, JKU Linz) & Friedrich Kirschner (HFS ‚Ernst Busch‘, Berlin): "Playing with Innovation Scripts in Enacting Innovation"


Enacting Innovation featured in the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz (September 2020, together with Sarah Buser, Tomás Montes Massa, Mónica Rikić, Leoni Voegelin, and Laura Zoelzer). It was a participatory performance inspired by social scientific research on ‘innovation scripts’ – the recipes followed in dealing with the pressure to prove innovative ability in contemporary organizational life. In the play, these innovation scripts were aesthetically dramatized for the festival audience to act out challenges and conflicts with each other and the technical infrastructures typically employed within such contexts. Enacting innovation attempted at making organizational innovation dynamics ‘experienceable’ and provoke thinking about power and powerlessness when it comes to steer and interfere with processes of change and renewal.

Judith Igelsböck and Friedrich Kirschner would like to take the presentation of enacting innovation as an opportunity to raise and discuss some of the potentially more transversal issues related to the ambition of playing with method in the social sciences by experimenting with artistic techniques or forming arts-research collectives: What does the fusion with research entail for gaming and playing as an artform? What does it mean to incorporate play into a field of research (such as organizational development), in which playfulness is praised as a key ingredient for being innovative and in which theatrical techniques are also used (for the exploration of team dynamics, for instance)?

Watch the trailer here:


Alberto Vanolo (Università degli Studi di Torino): "Games against cash: Italian experiments"


The presentation focuses on two recent Italian experiments concerning the gamification of VAT taxes through cashback and lottery programmes. Alberto Vanolo will discuss their gamified logics, and will try to critically explore the limits, possibilities, ambivalences and negotiations that take form in the folds of the initiative. The analysis is based on official sources, newspaper articles appearing in the main Italian newspapers, direct experiences and by the exploration of entries and comments in online forums from 1 December 2020 to 20 January 2021.

First, he will discuss the problem which the two initiatives try to fix, that it limiting tax evasion and informal (or grey) economy in general. He will then introduce Cashback di Stato and Lotteria degli Scontrini, and will scrutinise the game mechanics they mobilise. The main limits, critical elements, cheats and unplanned aspects of the games will be explored, and Alberto Vanolo will conclude with reflections on pervasive game cultures and the limits and complexities of the gamification of civic duties.


Chaired by Ignacio Farías (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)




The Stadtlabor for multimodal anthropology


We would like to unfold a double agenda:

1) The Stadtlabor should open up a forum for academic and non-academic researchers interested in practices, promises, processes and problems of city-making. Our idea is to develop something we have started calling ‘an anthropology of urbanism’, paying particular attention not only to the modern urban design discipline and its role in governmental formations, but also to insurgent, everyday and more-than-human ways in which cities are being re-designed and re-made. Following a ‘near ANT’ approach, we aim to explore socio-material articulations and onto-epistemic controversies surrounding current urban transformations.

2) The Stadtlabor should also become a space where to experiment with what a multimodal urban anthropology might involve, that is, one that resorts to material productions, in order to reflect and intervene in processes of city-making. Accordingly, we would like to render the Stadtlabor a working space, that is, a workshop or even a studio, where all sorts of projects could be developed in collaboration with different urban actors.



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For information on our current programme, check below!





Program WS 2019/20

(Mondays, 4–6pm ct / Room 107a / Mohrenstraße 41, 10117 Berlin)


21.10.2019 [Hands-on] 

Games as open research 

Stadtlabor Team: Ethnographic Games 


28.10.2019 [Opening] 

Agenda for academic year 2019/2020 + 

Presentation of Micol Rispoli (U. Naples) and Aaron Taylor (Goldsmiths) 


04.11.2019 [Seminar] 

Ethnographic Fiction of Sanitation Infrastructures in Jakarta 

Indrawan Prabaharyaka (EuroEthno, HU) 


11.11.2019 [Hands-on] 

Exploring Future Collaborations 

All members of Stadtlabor 


18.11.2019 [Seminar] 

Urbanism in a Decentred World. Good Governance, Common Knowledge and the Overflows of City Planning 

Julio Paulos (Architecture, ETH Zürich) 


25.11.2019 [No meeting!] 


02.12.2019 [Joint Session with STS-Lab] 

Psychic Life in the Green Metropolis: Rethinking Nature, Mental Health and the City 

Des Fitzgerald (Social Sciences, U. Cardiff) 


09.12.2019 [Hands-on] 

Protesting like an ethnographer 

Carolin Genz (Geography, HU)


16.12.2019 [Seminar] 

On the Surface of Text: A Reading Session with Props 

Ofri Lapid (artist, U. Hamburg) 


06.01.2020 [Hands-on] 

Towards a relational anthropological understanding of mental health!? The practices, promises and challenges of co-laboration 

Patrick Bieler (EuroEthno, HU) 


13.01.2020 [Hands-on] 

Exploring Future Collaborations 

All members of Stadtlabor 


20.01.2020 [Seminar] 


Alfredo Thiermann (GSD, Harvard) 


27.01.2020 [Seminar] 

Crossovers Between Art and Ethnography in Post-socialist Poland: Fieldwork Studies 

Tomasz Rakowski (Cultural Anthropology, U. Warsaw) 


03.02.2020 [Hands-on] 

Exploring Future Collaborations 

All members of Stadtlabor 


10.02.2020 [Seminar] 

Shifting perception - How to grasp ‘research-through-design’ in architecture 

Hannah Varga (EuroEthno, HU)




  • Identitätspolitiken im Südkaukasus. Nationale Repräsentation, postsozialistische Gesellschaft und urbane Öffentlichkeit (DFG-Projekt)

  • Transnationale Netzwerke, Religion und neue Migration (DFG-Projekt)
  • Urbane Kultur und ethnische Repräsentation: Berlin und Moskau auf dem Weg zur „world city“
  • Identitätspolitik und nationale Repräsentation: Armenien auf dem Weg nach Europa? (DFG-Projekt)
  • Bühnen der Macht: Zur Inszenierung des Berliner Regierungsviertels als Repräsentationsraum



  • Ehrlich, Kornelia: Stadtentwicklung unter dem Primat von Kreativität und Wissen: Eine Untersuchung der institutionellen und sozial-räumlichen Praktiken der politischen und kreativen Akteure Ljubljanas
  • Gromova, Alina: Junge jüdische Einwanderer aus der ehemaligen Sowjetunion in Berlin: urbane Räume und Praxen
  • Ha, Noa: Handel(n) und Wandel(n). Migration und informelle Ökonomie am Beispiel des Straßenhandels in Berlin
  • Kiepenheuer-Drechsler, Barbara: Vielfalt plus Zusammenhalt. Eine ethnologische Perspektive auf staatliche Integrationsstrategien und deren Aufnahme und Umgestaltung durch junge Migranten in Berlin
  • Kudriavtseva, Maria: Die vergleichende Analyse von Bettelpraktiken in St. Petersburg und in Berlin
  • Lorenz, Robert: Schlesische Metamorphosen. Ethnographie Görlitzer Identitätserzählungen nach 1990
  • Pilz, Madlen: Tbilisi: Symbolische Konstruktion einer Hauptstadt
  • Rauch, Viola-Donata: Städtische Identifikationen und Aushandlungen von Zugehörigkeit von Nachkommen von Migranten in Berlin
  • Bendixsen, Synnove: Being Young, Muslim and Female: Creating Space(s) of Belonging in Berlin, 2010
  • Grote, Katja: „Do svidaniya kommunalka?“ Kollektives Wohnen im post-sowjetischen Russland
  • Farías, Ignacio: Touring Berlin
  • Hegner, Victoria: Freiheit und historische Verpflichtung. Ein ethnographischer Vergleich der russisch-jüdischen Migration in den USA und in Deutschland am Beispiel von Chicago und Berlin (Publikation)
  • Nippe, Christine: KUNST UND STADT. Bildende Künstler in New York und Berlin: zum symbolischen Kapital von Metropolen
  • Schwanhäußer, Anja: Kosmonauten des Berliner Untergrund. Oder: Urbanität als kulturelle Form (Publikation)



  • Eine Straße in Berlin. Biographie und Ethnographie (2006/2007)
  • DRESDEN. Ethnographische Erkundungen (in) einer Residenzstadt (2004/2005)
  • Berlin – Gesichter einer Stadt (2003/2005)
  • Das leise Sterben moderner Massenvergnügen? (2001/2003)
  • Zwischen Weltstadtpolitik und lokaler Praxis: Karneval der Kulturen in Berlin (2001/2003)
  • Durch Europa. In Berlin (2000)
  • „Wer in den Osten geht, geht in ein anderes Land.“ Die Settlementbewegung in Berlin zwischen Kaiserreich und Weimarer Republik (1997)



  • Center for Metropolitan Studies (CMS), Technische Universität Berlin
  • Transatlantisches Graduiertenkolleg BerlinNew York: „Geschichte und Kultur der Metropolen im 20. Jahrhundert“, Center for Metropolitan Studies (CMS), Technische Universität Berlin
  • Arbeitsgruppe: stadtforschen - urbane kultur und ethnizität (kontakt)
  • Centre for Independent Social Research, St. Petersburg
  • Georg-Simmel-Zentrum für Metropolenforschung (GSZ), Humboldt-Universität Berlin (Forschungskreis Metropolen in Osteuropa)
  • Dipartimento di Architettura e Pianificazione (DIAP), Politecnico di Milano
  • Max-Planck-Institut zur Erforschung multireligiöser und multiethnischer Gesellschaften, Abteilung für sozi-kulturelle Vielfalt und Abteilung für religiöse Vielfalt
  • National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, Yerevan
  • Novator, Center for Independent Social Research, Baku
  • Tbilisi State University, Ivane Javakhishvili, Tbilisi, Fakultät für Archäologie und Ethnologie
  • Berlin-Labor – Berlin-Forschung für die Öffentlichkeit (eine Kooperation mit der Agentur Zeitreisen)