Current Research Projects Sustainable Development


EcoArtLab: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Climate Change

Investigators Yvonne Schmidt, Johanna Paschen, Riikka Tauriainen, Prof. Dr. Susan Thieme, Mirko Winkel


Collaborations between artists and researchers concerned with climate change are increasing. Which methodological approaches, institutional conditions and target groups do such transdisciplinary collaborations have? How can art-science experiments support a better understanding and further development of such collaborations? In a SNF funded collaboration between the EcoArtLab, the BHK, the mLAB and the research Unit Critical Sustainability Studies, we investigate methodological approaches emerging from transdisciplinary encounters and how the interplay between artistic research, geography and critical sustainability studies can best contribute to the climate change debate.

2022 -

Healthcare unbound: A transnational perspective on the future of the world of work in health care

Investigators Prof. Dr. Susan Thieme, Dr. Sarah HartmannLuca Tschiderer (Start February 2022, more information to come)


The health sector in Switzerland shows the global trend of economization, oriented towards market-driven modes of governance. Cost-effectiveness started to dominate other, rather public, and common good-related criteria. The recruitment of health workers (e.g. doctors, nurses, midwives, technical staff) from abroad allows for shifting costs of medical education and training and circulations of knowledge and technologies to budgets of other countries. The outcome of this overemphasis on economic indicators is part of a more general tendency of the commodification of work, health and care-related knowledge and technologies and raises questions about capacities and capabilities for social, economic, ecological innovation, emancipation, and justice in search for more sustainable ‘work’. The effects of the increasing commodification trends on the quality of work as perceived by the main target group of a health institution – the patients – is also widely unknown.

Therefore, this research project addresses processes, actors and institutions related to the com-modification of work, health and care-related knowledge (incl. professional education and training) and technologies from a multi-scalar and translocal perspective. We aim at co-creating knowledge and contributing to debates about the future of the world of work in health care, based on inter- and transdisciplinary social learning among key actors of the health care system and us as researchers integrating media, art and digital technologies jointly with the mLAB.

To empirically capture those questions the research should take Switzerland as an entry point and remain open to the translocal linkages the research will reveal.

Also look at our earlier research and publications:


Further, see the call for residency by the mLAB on UN/HEALTHY GROUNDS 


Also see this new publication by Susan Thieme, Marina Richter and Carole Ammann: Economic Rationalities and Notions of ‘Good Cure and Care’


Russia’s New Forests: Assembling and Governing a Resource Frontier

Investigators Alexander Vorbrugg


The project’s overall aim is to better understand how competing economic and environmental interests as well as new modes of governing shape the current making of “new forests” on abandoned agricultural land in Russia. Due to its massive scale and complex implications, a better understanding of this process is highly relevant for questions of planetary carbon sequestration, Russia’s resource strategies and their international implications, and rural livelihoods in Russia. For this purpose, the project combines approaches from political ecology, governmentality and science and technology studies. It draws on a range of research methods including ethnographic fieldwork, and interdisciplinary collaboration.


Deportation flight. Plane on the tarmac

Circulations of Deportation: the Control of Migration and Populations in Translocal Perspective.

Investigators Prof. Dr. Susan ThiemeProf. Dr. Sabine StrasserProf. Dr. Alberto Achermann, Dr. Paolo Gaibazzi  (all University of Bern) and PD. Dr. Stephan Scheuzger (Liechtenstein Institut & ETH Zurich); financed by IDGrant University of Bern


In times of highly politicized debates about increasing “irregular” migration, authorities are called upon to enforce sovereign powers of controlling human mobility. Deportation appears to be one self-evidently legitimate solution to deal with unauthorized mobile persons but is in practice a highly complex process of statecraft. As a group of researchers from law, history, social anthropology, and geography, we are working towards an interdisciplinary research proposal for a project which aims at opening new perspectives on the reconstruction and analysis of deportation regimes in their cross-border entanglements.


Art map

mLAB: Where science and digital media meet. Strategic funds Phil-Nat. Faculty Uni Bern (with Prof. Dr. Caroline Schurr and the whole mLAB Team, Bern)



The mLAB at the Institute of Geography is an experimental space that encourages researchers to develop new modes of collaborative and collective work and to critically use arts, media and digital research methods as an integral part of their work, promoting unorthodox coalitions of aesthetics and geography.

Besides making research results visible, the focus is also on sensorial routes of knowledge creation. Digital methods and artistic perspectives enable a different kind of research, they place the researchers and the researched personalities in a completely different way at the center and in relation to each other. They open up spaces for the invisible and the unspeakable and provoke new forms of approaching a theme.

The main questions are: How can we create points of access for outsiders to the terrain of our research? What role can contemporary digital media practice play in collecting, analyzing and communicating data? What does artistic research mean in different academic fields? How can different kinds of data material (quantitative, qualitative, visual, digital) be handled aesthetically? How can art help to generate another sense of meaning alongside mere logics of utilization?

The mLAB was created as a creative and inclusive laboratory by the units critical sustainability studies and social and cultural geography of the Institute of Geography at the University of Bern and is currently run by the artist Mirko Winkel. It comprises a large team of scholars whose interest is to discover new directions and imaginative formats within and beyond geography.

2018 - 2021

Employment and Social Differences in the Health Sector: An Institutional Perspective on a Swiss Hospital

Investigators: Susan Thieme (Institute of Geography), Marina Richter (HES-SO Valais-Wallis) and Carole Ammann (University of Amsterdam); financed by the Foundation Homo Liberalis.

The interdisciplinary project ‘Employment and Social Differences in the Swiss Health Sector’ aims to unveil social differences in the health care labour market by analyzing the institutional logics of personnel policy within hospitals in a situation of staff shortage and under the pressure of neoliberal restructuring. We conduct an institutional ethnography (Smith 2005) of a Swiss acute hospital to understand the institutional logic and ruling relations that shape personnel policies in this specific place. This perspective is combined with a multilevel intersectional lens (Winker & Degele 2009) to capture how personnel policies are structured by categories of social difference such as gender, age, education, position and origin.

Projekt_description.pdf (PDF, 87KB)


Also see the call for residency by the mLAB on UN/HEALTHY GROUNDS 

2018 - 2020


Wie is(s)t Bern?

Investigators: Stephan Rist, Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), Institute of Geography, University of Bern

Seit vier Jahren führt das CDE und GIUB ein grosses R4D-SNF Forschungsprojektes zum Thema «Ernährungsnachhaltigkeit- Food Sustainability» durch. Über den Kontakt mit der Stadt Bern (Amt für Umweltschutz) und mit der Plattform «Bärenhunger» ( wurden wir gebeten, eine transdisziplinäre und handlungsorientierte Nachhaltigkeitsanalyse der wichtigsten Ernährungssysteme der Stadt Bern zu erstellen. Die Untersuchung soll in enger Zusammenarbeit mit gesellschaftlichen Gruppen, eine Reihe von konkreten Politikmassnahmen zur Verbesserung der Ernährungsnachhaltigkeit in der Stadt Bern zu entwickeln. Diese werden dann in einer zweiten Phase über eine intensive Zusammenarbeit von Politik, Bevölkerung und Uni Bern umgesetzt.

Neueste Publikation: Wildisen, Niklas. 2019. “Ökologische Nachhaltigkeit Des Ernährungssystems Der Stadt Bern.” Universität Bern.

Wildisen, Niklas. 2019. “Ökologische Nachhaltigkeit Des Ernährungssystems Der Stadt Bern.” (PDF, 6.2 MB)