The only game in town? Anthropology and the housing markets in Berlin

Today, maybe more than ever in the last decades, housing and the real estate markets are becoming a growing concern in many European cities, particularly in Berlin. Gentrification, displacement, speculation, eviction, money-laundering, residential alienation and many other such processes shape the current urban condition. But how to inquire into such transformations from an urban anthropological perspective?

In this study project, we propose four entry points to these issues: firstly, the cultural logics of real estate agents and the question of how value and values are calculated by such actors; secondly, the social life of policy instruments and the question of how legal reasoning is done in practice; thirdly, the practice of dwelling within commodities and the multiple forms of value articulated in the practice of making a home; and finally, the politicization of housing issues and activism as a form of making the city inhabitable.

In weekly double sessions, we will engage in a collective research process of these issues leading to an individual identification of research questions and problems. In parallel to that we will read literature on urban assemblages, anthropology of markets, dwelling theory and also current design anthropology. The latter should inspire us to re-design our ways of conveying anthropological knowledge and potentially intervening in ongoing controversies by prototyping a board game based on empirical insights from all research projects.

By the end of the first semester, each student is expected to submit a detailed project proposal based on preliminary ethnographic research and a research documentation portfolio. By the end of the second semester, each student is expected to submit an approx. 8000 words research report and the whole group will submit and present the collectively designed game (including a physical prototype plus documentation).

Link to the course catalog