Using a variety of methodological perspectives, the work of the Social and Cultural Geography team centers around three entangled research strands concerned with:
(1) Marginality and exclusion in housing and urban development;
(2) Processes of financialization and their socio-spatial effects, particularly in the context of Global Climate Finance;
(3) The challenges of Southern, comparative urban theories and related questions of Eurocentrism in academic knowledge production.
We incorporate different regional foci (including Basel, Athens, Mexico City, and Berlin) and theoretical approaches (including postcolonial, feminist, and critical urban theories).
Current research projects:
The urbanization of Global Climate Finance: Power shifts in the municipal restructuring of Mexican and Indian cities
Funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), duration: Jan 2021 - Dec 2024
Cities in the global South are increasingly tasked to meet the challenges of the climate crisis. Particularly since the 2015 adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), International Financial Institutions (IFIs) have participated in this task through so-called Global Climate Finance (GCF): financing in accordance with the United Nations 48 Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In linking ecological sustainability with agendas of financialization and financial market expansion, IFIs and other international agencies have put forth a number of initiatives that support municipalities in fundamental governance reform that aims not only to build an investment-friendly policy regime but also to enhance a city’s own financial performance. The research project investigates these processes of urbanizing GCF and the power shifts these processes entail. It asks how Southern cities are impacted by GCF as these initiatives are translated to the urban scale, how GCF shapes global geographies and modalities of green investment and how it advances municipal reform.
Urban Studies Foundation Seminar Series
Decentering urban climate finance: relational comparison in theory and practice
Drs Hanna Hilbrandt, Sarah Knuth, Enora Robin, Fritz Julius Grafe, Zac Taylor, Emma Colven, and Sage Ponder
Host institution: University of Zurich, Durham University, University of Sheffield (UK)
Funded by the Urban Studies Foundation, duration: Mar 2021 - June 2022
Within the context of the unfolding ecological crisis, financial agendas centering on the ‘global fight against climate change’ have increasingly turned to cities and urban re/development projects as ideal candidates for investment. This turn has generated a proliferation of finance-driven resilience, retrofitting and decarbonisation projects around the world. Yet research documenting the resulting financialisation of urban climate and nature remains primarily concerned with cities in which consolidated financial markets are already the norm, or with case studies that conceptualise ‘climate finance’ in relatively narrow terms (frequently, financial instruments created by market actors for the express purpose of ‘impact’ investing). This seminar series proposes both to provincialise these imagined geographies of climate finance and to decenter notions of the ‘financial’, advancing a theorisation of ‘ordinary’ urban climate finance: the heterogeneous financial practices and articulations that are coming to characterise climate finance (Robin and Castán Broto, 2021) in ordinary cities (Robinson 2006). Bringing debates on urban climate finance and more expansive lenses into urban financing and provisioning together will allow us to read the impacts of climate finance on cities more relationally and engage in comparative theory-building across varying geographical foci. This collective discussion will push beyond ‘smart’ techno-capitalist and financialised urban fantasies to develop a more nuanced understanding of climate-adapted urban futures.


MSc Topics