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Praktikum Entwicklungszusammenarbeit Lateinamerika, Vivamos Mejor, Zürich, aufgeschaltet am 17.08.2016, Details

News & Events

Summer School Sept 2016

'Governance at the Edge of the State: Spaces of violent rule' is the title of the Summer School we are co-organising with the Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen, and with the Conflict Research Groups, Ghent University.

It took place in Zürich on 12-14 September 2016.

The summer school call can be found here (PDF, 280 Kb)

Polit seminar HS16

Meet the team and join the discussion in one of the many events (presentations, seminars, ...) scheduled this semester. Download the programme here




Recent Publications

Johnson, Deborah (2016) Taking liberties and making liberty: Religious bounding and political violence in Sri Lanka in Religion 46(2)

Vogel, C. and T. Raeymaekers (2016) Terr(it)or(ries) of peace? The Congolese mining frontier and the fight against 'conflict minerals' in Antipode 48(2): 1-20

Kern, A. (2016). Accept the Unexpected. In Wintzer, J. (Ed.) (2015). Herausforderungen in der Qualitativen Sozialforschung. Berlin: Springer.

Rowan, R. & Minca, C. (2016). On Schmitt and Space. New York: Routledge.

Raeymaekers, T. (2015):The migration scheme as an embodied experience (PDF, 10.9 Mb). Europe...Island full of noises. Warsaw: The City of Ghettos Today. Click here to access the project's homepage.

Hollenbach, P. (2015): Book review of 'THE GOLDEN WAVE: Culture and Politics after Sri Lanka’s Tsunami
Disaster' by Michele Ruth Gamburd. In Pacific Affairs, 88(2): 343-345. Download it here (PDF, 61 Kb).


Political Geography

Department of Geography
University of Zurich (Irchel)
Winterthurerstr. 190
CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland

E-Mail: perscheng.assef[at]geo.uzh.ch

Political Geography

Thinking about borders  (courtesy of Timothy Raeymaekers)Thinking about borders (courtesy of Timothy Raeymaekers)

Political geography is the study of the co-production of space and power. Our research unit is particularly interested in this dynamics at the margins of a globalizing world. We study the spatial production of political order, uneven development and governance through specific discursive practices and places in Africa, South East Asia and Europe.


The political geography unit offers courses, supervises theses at both Bachelor and Master levels, and organizes field trips. For an overview over the lectures, seminars and tutorials offered, please consult the department of Geography information for prospective students and the electronic university calendar.


For more detail about our unit and our research please click here. Our latest events and publications can be found below.

Recent Announcements

December 2016

Rory Rowan will give a talk on geo-social futures in the age of the Anthropocene at the artist-run space Editorial in Vilnius on Saturday December 3rd. 


September 2016

Rory Rowan will take part in the '9th Futurological Congress' on September 24th as part of Warsaw Gallery Week. He will be discussing the increasing role of private business in extra-planetary geographies and particularly speculative industries emerging around the possibility of mining astral bodies. The event is the first of a series of multidisciplinary gatherings that bring artists and scholars together to explore different ways of thinking about the future.

Pia Hollenbach is holding a seminar in the Wintersemester at the private Zeppeling University Friedrichshafen/Germany (https://www.zu.de) for the Department of International Relations on ‚Governance, International Humanitarianism and Disaster Response’.  Date: 9/10 September; 23/24 September and 2/3.December 2016 (full day weekend seminar for Bachelor and Master Students).

June 2016

Christoph Vogel will moderate a panel at an IFRI conference on Congo and Burundi on June 7 in Paris.

Two members of our Political Geography unit will take part in the European Biennale of Contemporary Arts. Alice Kern has written a piece entitled 'Life on the edge of existence' drawing on her research in Sri Lanka, and read also Stephan Hochleithner's research-based reflections on 'What people in Eastern Congo do for money'.

May 2016

Thiruni Kelegama co-wrote a blogpiece entitled ''Snapshots of change': How focusing on change affects perspectives on research materials'.

April 2016

Pia Hollenbach, affiliated researcher of PGG, with two colleagues: Dr Jennifer Barenstein, World Habitat Research Centre, University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland, and Dr Patrick Daly, Earth Observatory of Singapore are starting a  research project titled 'Towards an inclusive urban reconstruction policy development process in Nepal' funded through the International Institute for Environment and Development. Through an action-oriented approach the research project aims to document and analyze how various stakeholders (national/international, central/local government) are involved in the policy making process for urban reconstruction in post-earthquake Kathmandu. Through its cooperation with UN Habitat Nepal the project will inform and support the practice and formulation process of the urban reconstruction policy in Nepal that is currently formulated. 

Muriel Côte published a blogpost on the territorial politics of gold mining exploration in Burkina Faso on The New Political Geographies and the POLLEN network

On April 14th, Sarah Byrne and Ulrike Müller-Böker will speak at the Norlha Symposium “Empowering Women in Rural Himalayan Communities” at Espace Dickens in Lausanne. More information and registration: http://norlha.org/en/symposium-norlha-empowering-women-rural-himalayan-communities/.

March 2016

Josaphat Musamba and Christoph Vogel just published an analysis (PDF, 366 Kb) of Congolese demobilisation politics for the Rift Valley Institute.

Rory Rowan will give a public talk on the question of geo-social futures in the Anthropocene at Podium, a public arts institution in Oslo. He will be discussing ecomodernism, its critics and the possibility of optimism in the face of earth system change. 12.03.2016, 16:00-18:00.

At the ISA conference in Atlanta from 16 to 19 march, Christoph Vogel will co-chair two panels: ''Geographies of peace and conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa: Mapping political violence, contested statehood and political authority'' (with Peer Schouten) and ''Roots of Conflict and the Nature of the State in the Great Lakes Region'' (with Patrycja Stys).

The Political Geography unit hosted a panel on ‘Geographies of Violence’  at the annual meeting of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung (AFK) on 3-5 March in Bonn. The AFK is an interdisciplinary association of conflict and peace analysts from German speaking countries.


February 2016

Deborah Johnson's article 'Taking liberties and making liberty: religious bounding and political violence in Sri Lanka' was published in the journal Religion.

In February 4th the Polit Unit hosted an international workshop and public debate on 'blood tomatoes' and the alternatives to South Italy's criminalised agro-business. More information here:  www.shedhalle.ch/2016/en/366/Ghetto_Out

The political geography research seminar programme for the upcoming spring semester has been published. Access it by clicking here.

January 2016

Christoph Vogel has announced two new master topics in Political Geography on 'The political geography of (social) media and conflict in Eastern Congo' and 'A market for conflict(-free) minerals'.
Click here to see a list of all announced master topics (and remember that your own ideas are always welcome)

December 2015

Muriel Côte has proposed two new master topics in Political Geography on 'Contested Semantics of Landscape and Land Cover Categories in Switzerland' and 'Governing agroforestry at the timber, cocoa and mining frontier in Ghana'. Click here to see a list of all announced master topics (and remember that your own ideas are always welcome).

November 2015

On November 22-24, Timothy Raeymaekers received the Toyin Falola book award from the Association for Third World Studies for his ‘outstanding study’ Violent Capitalims and Hybrid Identity in the Eastern Congo: Power to the Margins (Cambridge University Press).

On November 20, Christoph Vogel published with Jason Stearns "The Landscape of Armed Groups in the Eastern Congo" (in French here), including a mapping exercise, in the frame of the launch of the Congo Research Group at New York University's Center on International Cooperation, for which Christoph has also been named a Senior Fellow. Download the essay by clicking on the links.

Rony Emmenegger's recently published blog article on "new political geographies" offers an ethnographic reflection on space and the state. Read it here.

On November 12, Sarah Byrne spoke at the Annual Conference of the Swiss Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries. The conference theme is “Doing Research in Conflict Areas: Being Sensitive to Conflict and Managing Risk”. Click here for more details.

'Accept the Unexpected' is the title of Alice Kern's chapter in the recently published book 'Herausforderungen in der Qualitativen Sozialforschung' on the challenges on qualitative research. Access the chapter here.

On November 6, Christoph Vogel published a review of the new feature-length documentary 'We Will Win Peace'  that deals with the local impact of transnational mineral regulation in eastern Congo on the website 'Africa Is A Country'. Access it by clicking on the link.

October 2015

On October 9, Christoph Vogel spoke in a panel discussion on the humanitarian and security situation in Eastern Congo at the 17th Humanitarian Congress in Berlin, organised by Doctors Without Borders.

Christoph Vogel gave a lecture to master students at Paris X University on 5 October. The topic was 'Research in War: The case of the Democratic Republic of Congo'.

September 2015

On September 29, Sarah Byrne successfully defended her PhD with a public lecture followed by a discussion with PhD supervisor Benedikt Korf, committee members Andrea Nightingale and Ulrike Müller-Böker, external examiner Christian Lund, and other faculty members. The thesis is entitled “Becoming a Contender: Legitimacy, Authority and the Power of Making Do in Nepal’s Permanent Transition.”

Timothy Raeymaekers chaired a panel at the 9the pan-European conference on international relations in Sicily on 24-25 Septemebr 2015 with a presentation on ‘the grey zone of sovereign power’. Download the panel programme here (PDF, 341 Kb).

The Political Geography Department was represented by Benedikt Korf and Timothy Raeymaekers at the four-day PhD course 'Governance at the Edge of the state: Public authority and property in conflict environments' from 8-11 September 2015 at the University of Copenhagen. For more information about the course, visit the website of the Conflict Research Group here.

August 2015

Alice Kern published a paper titled 'The middle space of migration: A case study on brokerage and recruitment agencies in Nepal' in Geoforum together with Ulrike Müller-Böker. Download it here.

July 2015

Rory Rowan wrote an article for an art theory publication in conjunction with the 56th Venice Biennale on geo-social futures and left optimism. You can read it here.

The new book titled 'On Schmitt and Space' by Rory Rowan and Claudio Minca was published by Routledge. The authors conduct a comprehensive sutdy of Carl Schmitt's spatial thought which they tackle from a Geographic angle. For more information, click here.

From July onwards, Christoph Vogel coordinates the second edition of an essay series on eastern Congo in collaboration with Radio Mutaani, a local radio and journalism centre and with the support of the United Nations. More information can be found here.

On July 10, Christoph Vogel co-organised a panel at the ECAS conference in Paris titled "Contest and Collusion: Local Adaption to Externally Induced Policies and Practices in Eastern DRC". More details here.

June 2015

Benedikt Korf and Conrad Schetter published a new book titled Geographien der Gewalt. Kriege, Konflikte und die Ordnung des Raumes im 21. Jahrhundert (PDF, 264 Kb) [Geographies of terror. Wars, conflicts and the reorganization of national borders in the 21st Century]. Download the flyer by clicking on the title or have a look at this extract [in German].

Christoph Vogel attended the 'Congo Tribunal' in Berlin on 27 June and spoke as a witness on the topic of 'conflict minerals' and local impact of transnational regulation. You can find more information on the event by clicking here.

On June 26, Christoph Vogel gave a presentation on political instability ahead of the coming elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The conference programme can be downloaded here.

Alice Kern presented her work about a remote village in Nepal on Friday 12 June at the Tibetan-Asian Culture Centre Songsten House in Zurich. Download the flyer here (PDF, 410 Kb).

On June 12, Christoph Vogel published a viewpoint article in The Extractive Industries and Society with Ben Radley. To download the article, click here.

Timothy Raeymaekers wrote a chapter titled The migration scheme as an embodied experience (PDF, 10.9 Mb) in the newly published project report "Europe...Island full of noises: The City of Ghettos Today". Click here in order to access the project's homepage.

Pia Hollenbach had a book review of Ruth Gamburd's title 'THE GOLDEN WAVE: Culture and Politics after Sri Lanka’s Tsunami Disaster' published in the current issue of Pacific Affairs. Download it here (PDF, 61 Kb).

May 2015

On 27 May, the students, who travelled to Sri Lanka in January/February with Pia Hollenbach and Thiruni Kelegama, presented their experiences, pictures and thoughts in an open presentation at the University of Zurich. Download the flyer here (PDF, 0.9 Mb).

Marc DuBois, who used to work for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) for nearly 15 years, joined the Political Geography Master's seminar on 12 May to talk about the principles and current issues affecting humanitarian action. He has a very interesting blog, in which he regularly reflects on the challenges of humanitarian aid, wanting to spark a more critical discussion. Access his blog via this link.

Christoph Vogel has spoken to Radio France Internationale and the BBC on the current political violence and electoral crisis in Burundi. You can listen to the broadcasts here and here (MP3, 9.1 Mb).

On 6 May, Christoph Vogel participated in the 9th ICGLR-OECD-UN GoE Forum on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains, discussing in a panel on on-the-ground progress and impacts of responsible production and sourcing efforts.

April 2015

Pia Hollenbach participated in a discussion about how to do humanitarian aid in Nepal after the earthquake. The programme was broadcast on SRF 1 on 23 April. You can listen to it here (in German).

The new book by Timothy Raeymaekers titled 'Violent Capitalism and Hybrid Identity in the Eastern Congo: Power to the Margins' has received a very positive review in the May/June 2015 issue of Foreign Affairs. The review by Nicolas van de Walle can be accessed via this link on the Foreign Affairs website.

On 16 April, the Political Geography Unit welcomed Davide Chinigò from the University of Bologna to give a talk about claimed space and contested authority in dealing with agrarian transformation in the Malawian tea economy.

March 2015

On 4 March, Christoph Vogel was invited to a study day on 'conflict minerals' in Brussels, where he gave a presentation on the local impact of current mineral traceability schemes in Eastern Congo. The programme for the study day, which was titled "Beyond 'conflict minerals': Artisanal mining as local livelihood?" can be found here (PDF, 466 Kb).

February 2015

From 26 January until 13 February, the Political Geography Unit co-organised a student excursion to Sri Lanka with their partners from the University of Colombo and Peradeniya which gave Swiss students the opportunity to experience Sri Lanka and some issues and challenges at first hand. Together with Sri Lankan students they also learned about and practised qualitative research in a different surrounding. More information about the excursion (incl pictures and reflections) will follow.

On 5 February, Timothy Raeymaekers presented his project 'working the Black Mediterranean' focusing on migrant labour in North and South Italy at the Department of Anthropology in Leuven. Link up with the project by clicking here.

The book by Timothy Raeymaekers and Benedikt Korf titled 'Violence on the Margins: States, Conflicts, and Borderlands' was reviewed among other books in an essay titled 'Mapping Border Studies' by James A. Sidaway from the Department of Geography of the National University of Singapore. Access the article through here.


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