TU Berlin

Center for Metropolitan StudiesHaid, Christian

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Christian Haid


Research Assistant, The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig


CITY LIFE IN LIMBO - (In)Stabilities and Conflicts in Informal Urban Practices

In times of growing inequality and neoliberalization, urban informality is expanding globally. Until recently, informality has been associated mainly with cities located in the so-called Global South. Nevertheless, informalization in urban areas is also proliferating in the Global North. So far, urban informality research has focused mainly on non-Western contexts. With my dissertation, I seek to contribute to a growing body of literature that is engaged with this topic in regard to metropolises of the North-West.

The city of Berlin presents itself as a fertile starting point for undertaking such a study. Historically and until today, the reputation of the city has been very much associated with an “anything goes” attitude. The availability of space and the fragmented urban landscape has left many places unregulated. These grey zones or loopholes have very much contributed to the production of a thriving culture of informal activities, not only on economic, but also on political, spatial, governmental, aesthetic and ethno-cultural levels.

Nevertheless, conflicts over informal activities, especially in public spaces of the city, have augmented recently. Therefore, my research is concerned with the analysis of how modes of informality and informal practices are being negotiated. The focus on conflicts, contests and friction within informal practices addresses the critical points central to the constantly changing dynamics of the informal landscape, the involved instabilities and the incessant remaking of the city through these transient practices. Informality therein is understood as the ever-shifting interrelation of what is appropriate and what is inappropriate, licit and illicit, legal and illegal, authorized and unauthorized, accepted and unaccepted, of what is legitimate and what is illegitimate (cf. Roy 2009: 80).

Characteristically, informal activities, such as food hawking, the unauthorized erection of built structures, mobile housing in the parking bay, bottle collecting, garbage recycling, barbecuing, electronic waste picking, cigarette vending, etc., are fluid, temporal, at times unconscious, reflexive, concealed, ordinary and everyday. Therefore, this research studies the stabilities and instabilities of informal social and socio-material formations that come into being in metropolitan public space.

Although the research concentrates on the specific context of Berlin, a comparative perspective will help to gain a broader, more general understanding of urban informality. Therefore, on the one hand, empirical research of informal activities in various other cities will be undertaken. On the other hand, conceptual knowledge emanating mainly from Global South contexts will inform the research in Berlin through a “thinking cities through elsewhere” approach.



05/2012 - 05/2015
DFG Fellow at the International Graduate Research Program Berlin - New York - Toronto, Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technical University of Berlin

MSc with distinction in Urban Studies, University College London (UCL), Department for Geography.
Supervisor: Professor Matthew Gandy

Magister architecturae (Mag. arch.) with distinction in Architecture,
Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna.
Supervisor: Professor Nasrine Seraji

École Spéciale d'Architecture, Paris. 

Exchange year at master class Wolf D. Prix. University of Applied Arts, Vienna


Since 05/2015
Researcher in the FP7 EU-Project “DIVERCITIES – Governing Urban Diversity” at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig

Seminar Lecture “Informality and Urban Development in Berlin -  Everyday Life, State, Representation”, Urban Management Program, Technical University Berlin.

Seminar Lecture “Thaipark Berlin”. Gesellschaftliche Grundlagen des Urban Design. Institut für Soziologie, Planung-und Architektursoziologie, Technical University Berlin.

“Inequalities and Segregation in Urban Settings: A Comparative Perspective NY-Berlin”, CUNY/Humboldt DAAD: Urban Studies Summerschool, Humboldt University Berlin, Tutoring.

Workshop organization "Ethnographic Methods and Writing" with Prof. Suzanne Hall (LSE), Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technical University Berlin.

Lecturer Master Seminar “D.I.Y. – Wir machen uns unsere Stadt selbst!”. Leibniz University Hannover.

Lecturer and organizer of “Interferenz – Strategies of the temporal” Urban Design Project. Leibniz University Hannover.

Seminar Lecture “Sichtweisen des Informalen”. Die Global Vernetzte Stadt: Theorien. Center for Metropolitan Studies. Technical University Berlin.

Lecturer and organizer of “FatC – Food and the City” Urban Design Project. Leibniz University Hannover.

Lecturer for “Alpen Nord” Urban Design Project. Leibniz University Hannover.

Invited design critic at various schools of architecture such as BTU Cottbus, Department of Architecture, Germany and School for Architecture and Construction at University of Greenwich London, UK.

Design for Social Sustainability – Workshop. University of the Arts, UDK Berlin - Design Research Lab: Neighbourhoodlabs. Invited participant.

Architect and urban planner at 3:0 Landschaftsarchitektur, Vienna

since 2009
Co-Director of FABRIC – Atelier for Architecture Urbanism Research. 

Student assistant at University of Fine Arts Vienna, Institute for Art and Architecture

Various internships and work experience in offices for architecture and urbanism in Austria, Germany and France


Haid, C., forthcoming (2016). “The Janus Face of Urban Governance: State, Informality and Ambiguity in Berlin” in: Davis, D. & Boudreau, J. (eds.)“Beyond Dichotomization: Informality and the Challenges of Governance in Cities of the Global North and South”, Current Sociology.

Haid, C., 2015. “Die Informelle Ökonomie des Pfandsammelns-Rezension zu Sebastian J. Moser Pfandsammler. Erkundungen einer urbanen Sozialfigur” in: sub\ urban. zeitschrift für kritische stadtforschung (3.2)

Kullmann K., Budnik M., Grossmann K., Haase A., Haid C., Hedke C., 2015. Fieldwork inhabitants, Leipzig (Germany)-Report DIVERCITIES – Governing Urban Diversity. UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research

Haid, C., Schröder, J., (eds.),  2015. “D.I.Y. - Wir machen uns unsere Stadt selbst”, München: Landraum.

Haid, C., 2015. “Pioneer Urbanism and the Ambiguity of GoverningTemporary Uses in Berlin”, Ecowebtown (no.10-11), http://ecowebtown.eu

Haid, C., 2013. “Contentious Informalities - The Narratives of Picnicking at Berlin’sThai Park”. dérive - Zeitschrift für Stadtforschung, (51), pp. 43–48.

Haid, C., Staudinger, L., 2012 “CO-OP – A strategy for the redevelopment of Tabakfabrik Linz” in: L. Streeruwitz & B. Vlay, eds. Europan 11 - Results from Austria, Hungary and Kosovo: eUropean Urbanity - Identity, Uses, Connectivity. Graz: Kada/Vlay.

Haid, C., Staudinger, L., 2010 “To be continued… Reaktivierung der Schleppbahn in Graz” in: D. Rebois, ed. Europan 10: Inventing Urbanity – Regeneration, Revitalisation, Colonisation. Paris: Europan Europe.


Public Spcae in the Ideal City: Ambiguous Imaginaries. RC21 Conference, Urbino, Italy.
Session organizer together with Annika Levels, Anna Steigemann.

Urban Diversity on the Neighbourhood Scale. Workshop “The Infrastructures of Diversity: Materiality and Culture in Urban Space”. Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany.

Ruling By Exception - Uneven Geographies Of Law, Order And Policing In Berlin. AAG Annual Meeting, Chicago, USA.

Planning the Unplanned - Pioneer Urbanism and the Ambiguity of Governing Temporary Uses in Berlin
XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology “Facing and Unequal World: Challenges for Global Sociology”, Yokohama, Japan.

Ambiguous Spaces: Moving beyond Dichotomies of Public Space
XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology “Facing and Unequal World: Challenges for Global Sociology”, Yokohama, Japan. Session organizer together with Annika Levels, Anna Steigemann.

Informality, Ethnicity and Placemaking - The case of Thai Market at Preußenpark
Lecture and field trip, CUNY/Humboldt DAAD Urban Studies Summerschool, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany.

City Life in Limbo – (In)Stabilites and Conflict in Informal Practices
"Ethnographic Methods and Writing" Workshop with Prof. Suzanne Hall (LSE). Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technical University Berlin, Germany.

Legitimate or not  - Tracing Informal Spatial Practices in Berlin
IGK Annual Conference Toronto “Empire, City, Nature”. York University, University of Toronto, Canada.

Rethinking Hannover’s Food System – The Potential of a Regional Foodshed
XVI National Conference of SIU, 
The Italian Society of Urban Planners.
”Urbanism for a different kind of growth”. Naples, Italy. Paper presentation together with Emanuele Sommariva.

Anything goes? – Informality and Conflict in Diasporic Practices in Berlin
AAG Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, USA.

Landscapes of Wilderness - Heterotopias of the Post-Industrial City
CRESC annual conference: Framing the City. University of Manchester. UK.

To be continued…Process Oriented and Adaptive Planning Strategies
EUROPAN 10 Congress: European Urbanity- Regeneration, Revitalisation, Colonisation. Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Project presentation with Lukas Staudinger.


RC21 Sociology of Urban and Regional Development, International Sociological Association. 


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