Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Institute of Asian and African Studies


BA Project Seminar 'Fieldwork under Fire' - volatility, hegemony, neo-colonialism and knowledge production in the global south in the context of gender, displacement and activisms


Modules of the project seminar

The first block of the seminar was dedicated to theoretical and methodological reflections on knowledge production in the nexus of gender, hegemony and neo-coloniality, i.e. above all to reading central theoretical and methodological texts on knowledge production and getting to know de-/post-colonial and feminist research approaches in the field of tension between neo-colonial and gender-specific hegemonies and volatilities (not only) in the Global South. In doing so, we oriented ourselves on the works of Boaventura Sousa Santos (Another Knowledge is Possible. Beyond Northern Epistemologies; Democratizing Democracy. Beyond the Liberal Democratic Canon), Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Decolonizing Research Methodologies), Bagele Chilisa (Indigenous Research Methodologies), A. Suresh Canagarajah (A Geopolitics of Academic Writing) as well as by Carolyn Nordstrom und Antonio Robben (Fieldwork under Fire).

In the second seminar block, transregional empirical case studies from Asia, Africa, and Latin America on gender, volatility, displacement, and activism were worked on. The focus was on activisms – be they micro-movements, civil society networks, social movements, NGO or grassroots organizations in cooperation with international organizations such as IDMC, IOM, UNOCHA or UNHabitat in the context of development cooperation. We looked at various forms and aspects of internal flight using current examples, as well as the activisms generated by or associated with them and their gender-specific constellations, dynamics and areas of tension. In principle, two approaches were possible for the project work: (1) thematic-empirical access to an empirical case study and (2) theoretical-methodological access to knowledge production by creating a research design including self-reflection.


Student project work

After two rounds of presentations on the students' project ideas, first results and open questions for further research in one of the block sessions, the lecture-free time was used to work out a variety of projects for the final module examination. The formats include:


a reportage on artistic activism in urban Kabul

Xin Lin, Luzie Mayer (Oct 2019) “There is so much more the world should know about Afghanistan”, says Omaid Sharifi, co-founder of ArtLords [PDF


a blog on South African poets in District Six
Sarah Dziedzic & Aline Tomety (Oct 2019): Stimmen der Vertreibung [Blog]


a photo essay on gentrification, displacement and activism in urban Luanda
Malin Hartig (Sept 2019) Aktivismen im Kontext von Zwangsumsiedlungen in post-Konflikt Luanda, Angola [PDF]


a decolonial-feminist research design proposal


an audiovisual collage on multicultural experiences and district initiatives in Berlin-Neukölln

Maayan Ashash (Oct 2019) Say it Forward, Then and Now.


In the summer of 2018, a group of young people from Neukölln carried out a project in which they themselves, as journalists, documented everyday life in their neighbourhood. During the project we tried to explore the experiences of the residents of the neighbourhood by discussing feelings: Whose feelings are legitimized and reinforced in public discourse? Where and when can or should we express them? What story do they tell about this place?
By drawing maps, conducting interviews, photographing and painting, they showed us their neighbourhood. [PDF]
This animation clip shows some selected moments from the interviews they conducted with strangers, family members, neighbours and other project participants.


a transregional study on indigenous displacements and protest movements through mega infrastructure projects in Colombia and Germany


a podcast on alternative epistemologies and methodologies

Nadine Heil, Natalie Kobsa-Mark & Pauline Klose (Sept 2019) Passing the Microphone - Critical Alternative Research Methods Executive Summary of the Podcast’s Content [PDF]


Podcast available at



Some of the results of the student projects can also be directly experienced and discussed during the orientation week during the student council exhibition on 16-17.10.2019.


Reflection on the seminar topic


According to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), 40 million of the 65 million people worldwide who are fleeing conflict, violence and natural disasters are internally displaced persons. In (inter-)national discourses, internal flight often receives less attention than cross-border flight and migration, and is often invisible in the context of urban poverty, hegemonic development and identity policies, conflict configurations or in the context of discourses on security. At the same time, internally displaced persons are 'candidates for becoming refugees or migrants, while many if not most refugees were internally displaced before crossing an international border. In parallel, returning refugees and migrants are at risk of becoming internally displaced in the absence of durable solutions' ( In 2017 alone, there were 30.6 million new conflict-induced internally displaced persons in more than 143 countries and territories and almost 19 million due to natural disasters in more than 135 countries and territories (IDMC Global Report 2018). The latter are to be placed in the context of climate change, whereby dichotomous categorizations such as conflict- or climate-change-induced internal flight are problematic, since the phenomenon of internal flight is of a complex, multi-causal nature and the categories can be interwoven. 'Population growth, underdevelopment, weak governance, armed conflict and violence, as well as poor urban planning in rapidly expanding cities, are important drivers of displacement as they further weaken resilience and increase vulnerability, and exacerbate the impacts of natural hazards and climate change.' ( Development and infrastructure projects such as dams, the expansion of transport routes, energy production parks, etc. are another cause of internal migration - in terms of numbers, they are the most significant cause. Studies also show that many of the people affected are not involved in decision-making processes, are adequately compensated and are protected from the negative consequences of (forced) resettlement ( There is also a nexus between internal migration and urban agglomerations. It is estimated that sixty to eighty percent of the people affected find refuge there, mostly in precarious informal settlements with poor or no access to basic services and infrastructure and to the labour market.