Silke Oldenburg is a Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Basel, Switzerland. Silke’s ethnographic research focuses primarily on intersections of the urban and the political, and specifically on the spatialisation and materialisation of power, urban environment and sociality within cities.
Her current book project is entitled “Laughter in the City: On Urbanity, Practices of Humor and Infrastructures from a Comparative Perspective”. Based on longitudinal comparative fieldwork in DR Congo and Colombia, this study investigates the ways how urbanites deal with social, political and spatial change. Central questions are how social space, material infrastructure and urban sociality emerge, are negotiated and dealt with. This project is funded by the Swiss National Sciences Foundation where Silke is the coordinator of the interdisciplinary research project “Making the City” (2016-2020). She was a visiting researcher at the University of Colorado in Boulder, USA, the Universidad de Cartagena in Colombia, and recently was award a SNF grant for a visiting fellowship at the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University, New York (postponed to 2021 due to COVID).
Silke is also the Principal Investigator of an interdisciplinary research project named “Space, Agency, and Climate Change in a Contested Urban Landscape: Exploring Environmental Futures in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia” (funded by University of St. Gallen, The Leading House of the Latin American Region, 2021-2022) together with Professor Jaime Hernández of Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá.
Her PhD thesis (University of Bayreuth, 2013) was devoted to “Youth, War and Everyday Life in Goma, DR Congo”. Based on extensive ethnographic research, Silke’s doctoral project illustrates what it means to be young and become adult in uncertain times. Her thesis was published by the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (Lit Verlag 2016) and was funded by Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, BIGSAS and Büro der Frauenbeauftragten der Universität Bayreuth.
Silke’s MA-thesis (FU Berlin, 2006) researched perils and prospects of internally displaced youths in a paramilitarized barrio popular in Soacha, Colombia. Entitled “Lebensverhältnisse und Zukunftsperspektiven von jugendlichen Binnenvertriebenen in Altos de Cazucá», this book was published with terre des hommes. Silke’s research was funded by DAAD and presented the Christiane-von-Rajewski-Award in 2007.
Besides her academic output, Silke puts a strong emphasis on public outreach through her consultancies for UNICEF, terre des hommes and contributing to the Social Sciences in Humanitarian Action Platform. Divulgating her research insights, her recent research on humor has been featured on Deutschlandradio and on SRF2 Kultur. Her work on youth, war and everyday life in DR Congo can be listened to here (in German) and here.
Focus in Teaching
An Ethnography of the Great Lakes Region
An Anthropology of Youth in Africa
Congo's 'Wild West'? Conflict and Culture in the Kivus
‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’: Colombia between Guerilla and Green Revolution.
Introductory Course: Kinship and Political Anthropology
Exchange and Encounter: The Andes from Colonial Times till Today.
Focus in Research
political anthropology, urban anthropology, youth studies, media and journalism, uncertainty and crisis, infrastructures and environment
Great Lakes Region (DR Congo, Rwanda) and the Andes (Colombia and Venezuela)
Colombia 2004 (3 months), 2015 (3 months), 2016 (6 months), 2017 (2 months), 2020 (2 months)
DR Congo 2008 (11 months), 2009 (3 months), 2013 (4months), 2016 (2 months), 2017 (2 months), 2018 (2months)
Rwanda 2013 (4 months)