Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Europäische Ethnologie


I am currently leading four research projects

ERC-Consolidator Grant: Urban vibrations: How physical waves come to matter in contemporary urbanism (2022-2026) 🖉

Cities are critical zones where the intermingling of environmental processes, infrastructural arrangements and human lives is increasingly apparent and disputed. Physical waves, particularly heat radiation, sound waves and radio frequencies, constitute major environmental disturbances that invisibly cross the urban built environment affecting bodies, human and nonhuman, in harmful and uncertain ways. By asking how they come to matter, this project explores how waves become associated to specific bodies and environments, as well as how they become matters of public concern and design intervention.

To answer these questions, this project entails extended ethnographic fieldwork at key locations where urban projects aimed at mitigating the urban heat island effect, abating environmental noise and building 5th generation wireless communication networks are currently unfolding. Following techno-scientific researchers, city officials, professional consultants, affected groups and concerned residents, the project will address two major research problems:

  1. How bodily exposure is done in practice, paying attention to both knowledge production and controversies concerning wave-related exposure, as well as to how individuals learn to be affected by and bodily attune to physical waves.
  2. How waves problematize forms of urban coexistence leading to design interventions that reassemble (and disassemble) urban environments, as well as to practices of imagining other possible urban environments.
  3. A unique feature of this project is its emphasis on expanding conventional ethnographic research by means of multimodal collaborations with actors from the field, thus actively engaging in multimedia forms of knowledge production, prototyping or community building. This is indeed crucial to reassessing the material politics of the Anthropocene as entailing contested practices of materializing abstract or imperceptible environmental disturbances.

The overall aims of this research will be:

  • To analyse the practices, stories, concepts and things through which different urban actors relate to the problem of exposure and engage in urban design interventions.
  • To foster, in collaboration with concerned and affected urban actors, multimodal modes of inquiring and representing waves, their effects and alternative futures.
  • To develop a wave-centred conceptualization of the relationship between bodies and environments and, more generally, of cities as critical zones of the contemporary.


SFB 1265: The Urban Microclimate Regime: The Constitution of Spaces and Infrastructures of Heat (2022-2025) 🖉

SFB 1265: The Re-Figuration of Spaces

The DFG-funded collaborative research centre “Re-Figuration of Spaces” (CRC 1265) focuses on the wide-ranging spatial restructuring and new orders created by intensified forms of transnational economic activity, radical changes in political geographies worldwide, the development and proliferation of digital communication technologies and the global increase in the circulation of people and goods since the late 1960s.

Project C05: The Urban Microclimate Regime: The Constitution of Spaces and Infrastructures of Heat (see website)

Based on a conceptualisation of the city as a critical zone of the Anthropocene, the subproject investigates the reconfiguration of urban spaces associated with microclimatic adaptation strategies. The empirical focus is thus on the current formation of an urban microclimate regime for the purpose of mitigating negative effects of thermal stress on human and non-human life in the city. Based on two intertwined case studies of pioneering cities of microclimatic adaptation, namely Stuttgart in Germany and Fukuoka in Japan, three moments of regime formation are examined from a spatial sociology perspective: first, the problematisation of urban heat, which is related to certain socio-spatial arrangements of heat and affectedness; second, the infrastructuralisation of heat-resilient spaces, which is shaped by material-political strategies and conflicts with existing practices and infrastructures; and third, the translocal circulation of this urban microclimate regime, which reveals variations in the encompassing reconfiguration of spaces. The sub-project thus aims to make a threefold contribution to the research agenda of the collaborative research centre: first, by examining spatial arrangements of heat and affectedness, to explore which spatial figures are suitable for conceptualising current planetary reconfigurations; second, by examining urban microclimatic interventions, to examine how the current climate crisis and climate politics impact on the reconfiguration of spaces; third, to explore local variations of this reconfiguration through the interwoven histories of the case studies. 


Stadtentwicklung durch Public-Civic-Partnerships: Zusammenarbeit, Kontroverse, Modellierungen (2022-2023) 🖉

Im vom ZukunftBAu-Programm finanzierten zweijährigen Forschungsprojekt Stadtentwicklung durch Public-Civic-Partnerships wirken wir an zwei Berliner Modellprojekten kooperativer Stadtentwicklung mit: Am Rathausblock in Kreuzberg und am Haus der Statistik in Mitte.

An der Schnittstelle von Stadtanthropologie und gestaltender Planung erforschen wir vor Ort Formen der Zusammenarbeit dieser Public-Civic-Partnerships, machen zentrale Kontroversen sichtbar und gehen der Übertragbarmachung modellhafter Elemente nach. Dabei gehen wir multimodal und ko*laborativ vor: Gemeinsam mit lokalen Initiativen und Intermediären bauen wir das Modellprojekt-Archiv am Rathausblock aus, richten eine Zauderbude am Haus der Statistik ein, veranstalten Workshops und entwickeln Publikationen. Das Forschungsprojekt lässt sich unter anderem fruchtbar machen für ein anderes Verständnis von new municipalism, Modellierungspraktiken und Demokratisierung von Planungsprozessen.

Projektbeteiligte am Institut für Europäische Ethnologie der HU Berlin:
Ignacio Farías, Professor für Stadtanthropologie; Rebecca Wall, WiMi, Urban Designerin, vormals ZusammenStelle im Modellprojekt Rathausblock; Felix Marlow, WiMi, Europäischer Ethnologe, vormals WERKSTATT Haus der Statistik.

Unsere Website:


VW Aufbruch - Multimodal Appreciation: Prototypes for the evaluation and institutionalisation of more-than-textual ethnography (2023-2024) - Co-PIs: Tomás Criado (UOC) & Andrew Gilbert (HU) 🖉

This project takes on an impossible problem. Ethnographers from across the humanities and social sciences have recently experimented with multimodal forms of description, analysis and intervention in order to grasp slippery research objects that otherwise remain outside of the apprehensible. This multimodal turn has resulted in a proliferation of more-than-textual forms that are impossible to classify and at odds with institutionalised modes of disciplinary knowledge production. Despite the important openings created by multimodal works, they are rarely seen as of equal value when compared to articles and monographs. The current situation is problematic but to a certain extent understandable, as peers, reviewers and supervisors are confronted with a complex conundrum: What criteria should be employed to evaluate such multimodal singularities? This project responds to this conundrum through two experimental moments that correspond to the two challenges producing the current impasse, those of evaluation and institutionalization. The first moment is constituted by a set of immersive exercises designed to describe and compare the affordances of selected more-than-textual or multimodal research artefacts. The second moment is a set of prototyping exercises designed to produce and test a toolkit to facilitate the evaluation and institutionalization of future multimodal research.

I am also a PI in three research consortia

BUA-Exploration Project "Re-Scaling Planetary Health: Human Health and Multispecies Cohabitation in an Urban Planet" 🖉



Cluster of Excellence 'Matters of Activity' 🖉



SFB-1265 "Die Re-Figuration von Räumen" 🖉