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Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies | Young Researchers | Urban Research Group: NYLON Berlin / Einstein Research Group

Urban Research Group: NYLON Berlin / Einstein Research Group

NYLON Berlin is the Berlin member of the international NYLON research network with counterparts based at New York University (NYU) and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). It is comprised of selected doctoral and postdoctoral researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, the WZB Berlin Social Science Center as well as the Humboldt, Freie, and Technical Universities.

NYLON Berlin has turned “Nachwuchsförderung” into a peer-run initiative. In an atmosphere of trust and collaboration at weekly meetings, members critically engage with close readings of theoretical texts and provide each other rich feedback on drafts of dissertation chapters, journal articles, and conference presentations.

Drawing on a unique combination of disciplinary backgrounds, the group investigates questions at the forefront of critical social theory. Ranging from urban planners to anthropologists, historians to geographers, sociologists to political scientists, members of the group explore the social, political, and material conditions that render large-scale social organization possible: How do strangers encounter and interact with one another? In which ways do infrastructures enable and shape social patterns? How do temporal orders structure social life?

NYLON Berlin was set up by Craig Calhoun in 2011 as part of his Einstein Fellowship at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. The group was hosted by the Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences until 2015 and has migrated to the Georg Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies in the summer term of that year. The network internationally extends to research institutions in New York City (NYU, Columbia University, Fordham, CUNY, New School for Social Research) and in London (LSE, King's College, Goldsmith's) as well as to Cambridge University and the University of Chicago.


Boris Vormann, group coordinator

Boris.vormann (at) fu-berlin.de


Boris Vormann is a researcher in urban political economy and political science at Freie Universität’s John-F.-Kennedy Institute and an associated researcher at the Chaire de Recherche du Canada en Études Québécoises et Canadiennes (CRÉQC), Université du Québec à Montréal. In addition to articles and book chapters in German and English-language publications, Boris Vormann has recently published his monograph ’Global Port Cities in North America: Urbanization Processes and Global Production Networks’ (Routledge, 2015) and his co-edited handbook ’Handbuch Politik USA’ (Springer VS, 2015). Earlier publications include the monograph ’Zwischen Alter und Neuer Welt. Nationenbildung im transatlantischen Raum’ (2012) and the co-edited volume ’Québec. Staat und Gesellschaft’ (2011).


Yaara Benger Alaluf

Benger (at) mpib-berlin.mpg.de


Yaara Benger Alaluf is a PhD candidate at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, where she is member of the International Max Planck Research School "Moral Economies of Modern Societies." She studied sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where she was also a member of the Center for the Study of Rationality students program and the research group "Rethinking Capitalism," led by Prof. Eva Illouz. Her PhD project traces the emergence of relaxation as one of the primary motivations for British holiday-making in the first half of the 20th century, thus exposing the historical contingency of the emotional states of stress and relaxation and their moral context. Her publications include:

Yaara Benger with Eva Illouz: Emotions, Consumption and, in: The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies, edited by Dan Cook and J. Michael Ryan. 2015.

Yaara Benger [Forthcoming]: Exploring the production of relaxation in Club Med resorts," in: Rethinking the History of Capitalism: How Emotions Became Commodities, edited by Eva Illouz.


Nihad El-Kayed


Nihad El-Kayed is a PhD candidate in sociology at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and an associated member at the Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences (BGSS). Her research interests include citizenship and migration, urban citizenship, social and political inequality and contextual effects. In her phd research she uses a mixed methods design to examine how the residential location of persons with a Turkish migration background in Berlin relates to political participation. She focuses mainly on how the local prevalence of social networks and immigrant organizations make a difference for paths to political participation. Her publications include:

El-Kayed, Nihad (2013): Review of Glick Schiller, Nina / Cağlar, Ayşe (eds.) 2011: Locating Migration. Rescaling Cities and Migrants. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. In: International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37(6), 2238-2240.

Blokland, Talja / El-Kayed, Nihad / Büchy, Jenna (2012): Beyond formal rights. Challenges to political participation. In. Dziewulska, Agata / Ostrowska, Anna (eds.): New neighbors – at the diversity of migrant's political involvement. Warsaw: Centre for Europe, 151-166.


Francesco Findeisen


Francesco Findeisen is a Doctoral Fellow in Sociology at the Max Planck Sciences Po Center on Coping with Instabilities in Market Societies (MaxPo) in Paris. Based on case studies in London and New York, his dissertation explores infrastructure finance and urban governance from a historical and comparative perspective. He studied Sociology, Political Science, and Philosophy at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, New York University (NYU), and the London School of Economics (LSE). His research interests include finance, infrastructure, city governance, valuation, and debt.


Fritz-Julius Grafe


Fritz-Julius Grafe is a human geographer at Humboldt University Berlin. The main theme of his research is the interaction of finance and cities, with a particular interest in systemic risk. His PhD focuses on how finance affects the urban by means of water infrastructure provision in London and Mumbai. Research interests include urban geography, financialization, and critical social theory. His work includes co-operations with the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS). His publications include:

Jain, J., Grafe, F.-J. & Mieg, H. A. (2013). Mumbai, the Megacity and the Global City: A View of the Spatial Dimension of Urban Resilience. In H. A. Mieg & K. Töpfer (Eds.), Institutional and Social Innovation for Sustainable Urban Development. New York: Earthscan/Routledge.

Mieg, H. A. & Grafe, F.-J. (2012). City development under the constraints of complexity and urban governance: A case study on the application of systems modelling and “Syntegration” to the city of Fürth. Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal, 6(1), 91–100.

Dijks, S., Grafe, F.-J., Hampel, M., Jarass, J., Kuttler, T., Thylmann, M. & Zimmermann, T. (Eds.). (2012). Generation Nachhaltigkeit: Tagungsband der Konferenz 2011 [Generation Sustainability: Proceedings of the 2011 Conference]. Berlin: HSK Nachhaltigkeit.


Till Großmann

Till Großmann is a PhD candidate at the International Max Planck Research School for Moral Economies of Modern Societies in Berlin. He has studied Modern German History at the Free University Berlin. His dissertation project engages with the discourses and practices on love in state-socialist East Germany. He employs emotions as an analytical tool to investigate the formation of the self, of personhood and its agency. This frames his occupation with the history of emotions as underpinned by an interest in body and gender history, history of science as well as material culture.


Katalin Halász


Katalin Halász is currently working on a practice-led PhD in visual sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research interests include race and whiteness, affect and emotion, feminist and queer theories, and visual and artistic methods. As part of her ongoing artistic research on the affective performances of white femininities she has staged a number of participatory and multimedia performances (I Love Black Men, UK, 2011; Freeing Up Shame, Brazil, 2012; The Blush Machine, Bolivia, 2013; The Chamber of White, Denmark, 2014) and curated the exhibitions Visualising Affect (UK, 2013) and The Future of Art is Urban-Artistic Research Practices and Methods in Social Sciences (UK, 2014).


Hanna Hilbrandt

Hanna Hilbrandt is a postgraduate researcher at the Open University's Department of Geography and an associate fellow at the Center for Metropolitan Studies (TU Berlin). Hanna´s research is concerned with the politics of urban planning, the ways in which urban development is encountered, negotiated or contested as well as the role of everyday practices in shaping urban change. Her doctoral dissertation explores the relationship of informal and regulatory practices in the everyday politics of urban governance. Prior to pursuing her PhD, Hanna studied Architecture (MSc) and Urban Studies (MSc) in Berlin (TU), Mexico City (UNAM) and London (UCL) and worked as a research assistant at the Technical University, Berlin and as an architect for various firms in Berlin and Mexico City. Her publications include:

Hanna Hilbrandt with Richter, A. (in review): Reassembling Austerity Research, Ephemera.

Hanna Hilbrandt with Zimmermann, N.; J. Baese; T. Le Bas; F. McDermott; A. Richter and L. Colini (2013): Das Geld liegt auf der Strasse – zur informellen Ökonomie des Flaschensammelns, ARCH+ (213): 124-125.


Daniela Krüger

Daniela Krüger is a PhD student and research assistant at the Disaster Research Unit in the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology of Freie Universität Berlin. She studied social sciences at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the University of Bologna and the City University of New York. Her research interests are in urban sociology, social theory and research on vulnerability and social segregation in the city. Her publications include:

Krüger, Daniela (2014) (accepted): The Square as Sanctuary. Hiding from Exclusions in Public Space. In: Blokland, Talja/ Giustozzi, Carlotta/ Krüger, Daniela/ Schilling, Hannah (Eds.): Creating the Unequal City. The Exclusionary Consequences of Everyday Routines in Berlin: Ashgate.


Joanna Kusiak


Joanna Kusiak is a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Warsaw. In the academic year 2012/2013 she was a Fulbright Advanced Visiting Researcher at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, with Neil Smith as her main supervisor. She studied sociology and philosophy at the University of Warsaw and the Humboldt University of Berlin. Her PhD project investigates the dialectics of chaos and order in Warsaw that ensued with the shock therapy of the 1990s, which was part of a process of neoliberal transformation. Together with Monika Grubbauer she has published a volume titled Chasing Warsaw: Socio-Material Dynamics of Urban Change after 1990 (Campus, 2012). In 2014 she was a spokesperson of the Urban Movements Alliance (Porozumienie Ruchów Miejskich), a Poland-wide coalition that aimed at helping activists win seats at the recent city council elections. She is also a jury member of the EUROPAN urban design competition and a program consultant to the Museum of Warsaw.


Natalie Mevissen


Natalie Mevissen is a PhD candidate in sociology at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, an associated member of the Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences, and a research fellow at the Science Policy Studies research group at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. She was a visiting fellow at the Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard University for the fall semester 2014. Her research interests are science and technology studies, science studies of the social sciences, sociology of knowledge, and philosophy and history of the (social) sciences. Her PhD is a study on German and US social sciences, with a particular focus on sociology and its engagement with society. Her dissertation thus explores sociologists` self-descriptions and their understandings of the discipline. The main question is how sociologists deal with issues of normativity and objectivity in their own work. She is also engaged in a variety of activities to foster the advancement of science studies of the social sciences.


Joseph Ben Prestel

Joseph Ben Prestel is a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, where he is part of the Research Center for the History of Emotions. He recently submitted his dissertation about emotions and urban change in Berlin and Cairo during the second half of the nineteenth century. Joseph’s research interests include the history of emotions, social history, urban studies, as well as the histories of Europe and the Middle East. His most recent articles include “Hierarchies of happiness: Railway infrastructure and suburban subject formation in Berlin and Cairo around 1900” (City: Analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action, forthcoming) and “Die Reform der Stadtmänner: Urbaner Wandel und Körperpolitik in Kairo am Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts” (Bodypolitics: Zeitschrift für Körpergeschichte, 2013). Before embarking on his PhD, Joseph studied history and political science in Berlin, Paris, and New York.


Julie Ren

Julie Ren is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Geography at the Humboldt University Berlin. She received her B.A. from the College of Social Studies at Wesleyan University and a Master of Public Policy from the Hertie School of Governance, where she wrote her thesis in partnership with the Berlin Senate for Urban Development. She was formerly a Fulbright Fellow at the Free University Berlin. Her research interests include migration and mobility as well as comparative and qualitative methodologies. Her doctoral dissertation is a comparative study of art spaces in Berlin and Beijing, which is supported with a scholarship from the Institute for Urban and Regional Research. Her publications include:

Ren, J. (forthcoming) The “creative class” subversions of artists-run spaces in Berlin and Beijing. In T. Oakes and J. Wang (eds.) Making Cultural Cities in Asia. Routledge.

Ren, J. (2015) Gentrification in China? In L. Lees, H.B. Shin and E. Lopez (eds.) Gentrification, Globalization and the Post-colonial Challenge. Bristol: Policy Press.

Ren, J. & Luger, J. (2014) Comparative Urbanism and the ‘Asian City’: Implications for Research and Theory. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. DOI:10.1111/1468-2427.12140


Hannah Schilling

Hannah Schilling is a PhD candidate in Urban Sociology and currently research associate in the project "Urbanizing Faith. Young Pathways to Urban Futures" at Humboldt University Berlin. She has studied sociology, political science and social anthropology at the Philipps-Universität Marburg, Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Université Paris VII-Diderot, Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris and at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Her research interests include labor relations in a global economy, global youth and urban sociability, on which she works with the perspective of relational sociology, urban theory from the Global South and comparative qualitative methodologies. In her dissertation, she compares young precarious worker's making of livelihood in Abidjan and Berlin, with a focus on the temporal rhythms of urban sociability in a context of precariousness. Her publications include:

Hannah Schilling with Blokland, T./ Giustozzi, C./ Krüger, D. (Hrsg.) (under contract): Constructing the Unequal City – The Exclusionary Consequences of Everyday Routines in Berlin, Ashgate.

Hannah Schilling (under contract): Not Losing Faith. Not Losing Faith. Religion as Resource to Create Capabilities in a Position of Marginalization, in (Blokland et al.): Constructing the Unequal City- The exclusionary Consequences of Everyday Routines in Berlin, Ashgate.


Sebastian Schlueter

Sebastian Schlueter is a PhD-candidate in Geography at Humboldt-University Berlin and King’s College London. He is also a research associate in Cultural Geography at Humboldt-University. His research interests include migration, urban citizenship, the formation of community and housing. Sebastian’s doctoral dissertation is a comparative study of growing evangelical communities in inner-city neighbourhoods in London and Berlin. His publications include:

Dirksmeier, P., Helbrecht, I. und Schlueter, S. (forthcoming): Arbeit und Protest im Postfordismus: Ein Vergleich alter und neuer Protestrituale sowie ihrer Ambivalenzen am 1. Mai in Berlin. (submitted and accepted, Europa Regional).

Schnur, O, Schlüter, S und Rosemann, T., eds., 2011: Quartiere neu denken. Arbeitsberichte des Geographischen Instituts 163. Berlin.


Patricia Schulz

Patricia Schulz is a PhD candidate and science studies scholar at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. Her current research project concerns the improvement of science communication and citizen participation in applied sciences. Her dissertation analyses the construction of science and scientific knowledge in scientists' public communication in the cases of anthropogenic climate change and the theory of evolution. Her publications include:

Weingart, Peter/Schulz, Patricia (eds.) (2014): Wissen - Nachricht - Sensation. Zur Kommunikation zwischen Wissenschaft, Öffentlichkeit und Medien. Weilerswist: Velbrück Wissenschaft.

Schulz, Patricia (2014): The Conflict between 'New' and 'Old' Governance Following the Introduction of Performance-Based Funding in German Medical Departments. In: Christine Musselin/Pedro N. Teixeira (eds.): Reforming Higher Education. Public Policy Design and Implementation. Higher Education Dynamics, Vol. 41. Dordrecht: Springer, 207-219.