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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Europäische Ethnologie

Stadtlabor for multimodal anthropology

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)

Tomás Criado & Ignacio Farías (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)

Chaired by Julia Schröder (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)


Join the livestream here: Zoom link


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

Joe Dumit (UC Davis)

Judith Ackermann (Fachhochschule Potsdam)

Chaired by Tomás Criado (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)


Join the livestream here: Zoom link


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

Judith Igelsböck (Institut für Organisation, JKU Linz) & Friedrich Kirschner (HFS ‚Ernst Busch‘, Berlin)

Alberto Vanolo (Università degli Studi di Torino)

Chaired by Ignacio Farías (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)


Join the livestream here: Zoom link



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.


Email: stadtlabor@hu-berlin.de

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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)