Current Institutional Affiliation
Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2016
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Art History/Architecture, Columbia University
Welt bildend: Architectures of Security and Infrastructural Modernism in Germany and Beyond, 1848-1930

With support from the SSRC's Mellon International Doctoral Research Fellowship, I propose to pursue a year of independent cross-regional archival and site-specific research in Germany, Tanzania, and Namibia. SSRC sponsorship would provide a significant opportunity to engage with archival and primary source collections that contain material vital to my dissertation. In this study, I follow several generations of German architects, engineers, planners and scientists, across Central Europe and colonial Africa, whose work gave shape to new forms of technical expertise through involvement in internal and external colonization projects and housing programs. Borrowing a pivotal concept from the political scientist Timothy Mitchell, I argue that a new and enduring "rule of experts" developed within the circuitry of a set of architectural technologies —colonial camps, settlement commissions, housing estates, and transnational infrastructural networks—paradigmatic technologies that helped shape a new image of the architect as an intervention-oriented planner. In charting this development, I explore the spatial politics of the social reform movement of the 1880s in the German states from the angle of its legislative legacy, from coercive tenancy laws, to colonial infrastructure, public health and land-use policies, and I follow its influence, decades later, on the cultural logic of avant-garde housing estates. The events and case studies that I examine in this project point to a new form of expertise that developed within the architectural profession, when the discipline and its machinery began to play a prominent, if under-diagnosed, role in global governance. The Mellon IDRF would fund a crucial course of international research in Europe and Africa that remains to be completed in the 2016 and 2017 academic year.