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Marlène de Saussure

Lupe [1]

Center for Metropolitan Studies
TU Berlin
Hardenbergstraße 16-18
10623 Berlin

  • Dissertation
  • CV


Claiming Marseille Métropole.
A Diachronic Study of Urban Representation during the 1906 Colonial Exposition and the European Capital of Culture “Marseille-Provence 2013”

In my dissertation project, I am conducting a diachronic comparative study of the concept the ‘metropolis’ in Marseille. For this purpose, I examine two temporal stages: firstly, at the turn of the 20th century, when Marseille was portrayed as the “colonial metropole” of the French Empire during the era of European Colonialism. Secondly, the contemporary city image of ‘Métropole Aix-Marseille-Provence’ as a regional urban entity in an era of globalization. For this purpose, I investigate two crucial cultural events which, I argue, extensively contribute to carrying and producing the “métropole”: the first French Colonial Exhibition in Marseille in 1906 and the festival as the European Capital of Culture, “Marseille-Provence 2013”.

Here, I do not regard the metropolis primarily as a localized and fixed spatial entity. Rather, I propose a conceptual approach to metropolitanism as a discursive formation. For my analysis, I conduct in-depth interpretation of historical sources, official documents and expert interviews, drawing from discourse analytical methods and critical urban studies.

My project addresses the following research questions: Why is metropolitanism constitutive of urban discourses on Marseille throughout history despite deep definitional and functional shifts of that very concept? How do major cultural events, more than a century apart, disseminate and shape the “métropole”? What and who produces these discourses and (how) are they contested?
I propose that both during the age of colonialism and in the context of contemporary neo-liberalism, the concept of the metropolis in Marseille represents an ideological definition, and a relational instrument of urban labelling and marketing. Metropolitanism is a crucial factor of urban historicity, which (re)produces and is produced through discursive representational practices according to specific power structures.

The aim of the overall project is to contribute to discussing the theoretical definitional problem of urban typologization and metropolitanism, as well as addressing the lack of diachronic critical research on the history of Marseille’s metropolitan representation and heritage.


Professional/Research Experience

Since 01/2018

Research Assistant

German Historical Institute Paris

Department for Modern History


Since 10/2017

Associate Doctoral Fellow

Centre Marc Bloch Berlin

Franco-German Research Center for the Social Sciences



Guest Doctoral Researcher

University Aix-Marseille

Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme, Laboratoire TELEMME



Guest Doctoral Researcher

University Aix-Marseille

Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme, Laboratoire LAMES


05/2015 – 12/2017

Full PhD Scholarship Holder

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)


Since 05/2015

Doctoral Researcher in History

International Graduate Research Program “The World in the City” Berlin - New York – Toronto

Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technical University of Berlin

Dissertation title: “Claiming Marseille Métropole. A Diachronic Study of Urban Representation during the 1906 Colonial Exposition and the European Capital of Culture ‘Marseille-Provence 2013’”


12/2012 – 04/2015

Student Researcher

Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technical University of Berlin


08/2014 – 01/2015

Student Researcher

Leibniz Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning, Erkner (Berlin), Department for Historical Research


05/2014 – 07/2014

Student Researcher

University of Applied Sciences Erfurt, Department for Architecture and Urban Planning


01/2011 – 01/2012

Independent Research Assistant,

Dr. Pamela Kort, Guest Professor at Humboldt University Berlin



10/2012 – 05/2015

Master of Arts in Historical Urban Studies

Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technical University of Berlin

Master Thesis: “Hip-Hop und Stadt. Urbane Kultur in Marseille, 1984¬ – 2014”


10/2008 – 04/2012

Bachelor of Arts in History / Art and Visual Studies

Humboldt University Berlin


Publications (selection)

De Saussure, Marlène/ Grésillon, Boris, Multi-Scaled Metropolisation. Challenges and Opportunities of Plural Urban Reconversion Processes in the “Métropole Aix-Marseille-Provence”, in: Urban Geography, Special Issue “The Process of Metropolisation“. (forthcoming, under review)


De Saussure, Marlène, Negotiating Capitality in the Second City. Urban Representations of Colonial Marseille in the Late French Empire, in: Shelekpayev, Nari and Economides, Aliki, Exploring Capital Cities in Imperial and Post-Imperial Contexts, 1880-1980, University of Pittsburgh Press. (forthcoming, under review)


De Saussure, Marlène, Marsatac au parc Chanot: le hip-hop sur les traces de la première exposition coloniale, in : Marsactu, Marseille, 23.06.2017


De Saussure, Marlène/Fuhg, Felix, Tagungsbericht: Imperial Port Cities in the Age of Steam. Towards a Comparative History of Entanglements, 14.07.2016 – 17.07.2016 Berlin, in: Connections. A Journal for Historians and Area Specialists, 2016.


Conference Contributions/Talks


Guest Lecture: “Claiming Marseille Métropole.

A diachronic discussion on urban (self-)representation, 1906 and 2013”,

History of the Mediterranean Institute, Ruhr University Bochum



Paper: “La société métropolitaine à Marseille, ou la conceptualisation contingente du rapport à l’’Autre’ ? Regards croisés en 1906 et 2016”,

Annual Graduate Conference 2017, Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Hommes, University Aix-Marseille



Paper: “Integrated Metropolisation. Challenges and Opportunities of Multi-Scaled Urban Reconversion Processes for the ‘Métropole Aix-Marseille-Provence’”, Co-author Prof. Boris Grésillon,

American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting 2017, Boston MA



Paper: "Producing the ‘Colonial Metropole’ in Marseille through Materialized Processes of Racialization",

Conference “UrbanTOPIAS. Discussing the Challenges of Changing Cities”, Center for Metropolitan Studies, Berlin


Conference Co-Organization “UrbanTOPIAS. Discussing the Challenges of Changing Cities”, Center for Metropolitan Studies



Round Table Speaker: “Berlin – Paris – Marseille. Quel avenir pour nos métropoles?”,

with Prof. Boris Grésillon and Finn Geipel, Centre Marc Bloch Berlin



Paper: “Eine Zukunft namens Metropole. Von kolonialer zu globaler Metropolitanität in Marseille, 1906 und 2013“,

Science Slam, Institut Français in Berlin (cooperation with the French Embassy in Berlin, the DAAD and Marc Bloch Center Berlin).



Paper: “The Urban Accelerated. From Colonial to Global Metropolitanism in Marseille”,

Urban History Group Conference 2016, University of Cambridge.


Teaching Experience


Guest Lecture: “Marseille und die Kolonialausstellung 1906. Produktion von urbanen Repräsentationen im imperialen Kontext”, M.A. Course (Dr. Noa Ha), Technical University Berlin



Guest Lecture: “Negotiating Metropolitanism III”, M.A. Course (Prof. Dorothee Brantz), Technical University Berlin



Guest Lecture: “Marseille, the Colonial Exposition, and the Concept of the ‚Metropolis’“, Undergraduate Course (Prof. Rosemary Wakeman), Fordham University, New York City



Guest Lecture: “Negotiating Metropolitanism II”, M.A. Course (Prof. Dorothee Brantz), Technical University Berlin



Guest Lecture: “Urban Form – Urban Brand. A Theoretical and Empirical Discussion on the Metropolis”, M.A. Course (Dr. Stefanie Rinke), Humboldt University Berlin



Guest Lecture: “Negotiating Metropolitanism I”, M.A. Course (Prof. Dorothee Brantz), Technical University Berlin



Guest Lecture: “Introduction in Historical Urban Studies”,  B.A. Course, Technical University of Berlin


Research Trips

05 – 06/2017






02 – 03/2016




New York City



Since 12/2016

Interdisciplinary Academic Working Group “Création Réseaux Territoires / Kreation Netzwerke Raum” (bilingual French/German), Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin


2015 – 2016

NYLON International Research Network (New York University – London School of Economics – Humboldt University Berlin)


Language Skills

French: Native

German: Native

English: Fluent

Italian: Basic

Latin: Basic

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