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Department of Geography

Hanna Hilbrandt
Hanna Hilbrandt, Prof. Dr.

Social Geography and Urban Studies

Tel.: 044 635 51 42
Room number: Y25 L 26


At the junction of social and cultural geography, and with a particular focus on the urban experience, my research focuses on the everyday politics of struggles, negotiations, and regulations through which global inequalities manifest themselves in cities. Using a variety of methodological perspectives including qualitative and interpretive approaches, as well as postcolonial, social, and critical urban theory, my current work centres around three entangled research strand: 

First, my research concentrates on spaces of mundane transgression, planning conflict, and socio-spatial exclusion. My forthcoming book Negotiating Formalities. Housing, Governance and the State in Berlin's Allotments examines informal housing practices at the peripheries of Berlin. Through ethnographic research on the ways in which Berliners dwell in allotment gardens despite a law that prohibits housing at these sites, it illustrates how these gardeners negotiate the possibilities of residency with the local bureaucracy, gardening associations and amongst themselves. Building on postcolonial theory, anthropology of the state and critical legal geography, the book draws attention to the power of negotiations in the governance of urban space. Previous studies in this research strand have centred on small-scale conflict and insurgency in urban politics, using the participatory approaches launched to regenerate the former airport Berlin-Tempelhof as a case study.

My second focus of enquiry centres around the hurdles, conflicts, and power shifts that accompany the spread and 'landing' of 'footloose' financial capital and its imprints on cites and urban planning. Recent postdoctoral work explored the ways in which global financial markets are expanding to cities of the Global South. In particular the project investigated the adoption of Green Municipal Bonds (GMBs), debt instruments that allow cities to raise capital for sustainable urban projects in Mexico City and resulting transformation in urban government and planning. Other research in this field includes a study on the temporalities of financialization in the development of the Thames Tideway Tunnel (TTT), a 25km 'super-sewer' underneath the river Thames. 

The third strand of my work is concerned with questions regarding conventions of knowledge production. In my doctoral thesis I aimed to contribute to the vibrant debate on a 'Southern turn' in geography and urban studies by translating informality, a concept that stems predominantly from empirical research in the South, to research sites in Berlin. Related collaborative projects explored strategies that help to pursue comparisons across seemingly incommensurable sites. 

I have conducted research in Mexico, Germany, and the United Kingdom.