German Europe Fund

The first week of activities in Berlin, Germany, were dedicated to establishing an official link between the EL and GSZ, while engaging in preliminary exploratory research to gauge possible future sites for international research collaborations. The UofT students were introduced to a number of researchers from Humboldt University’s Department for Social and Cultural Geography. The purpose of this was to encourage dialogue about possible avenues for improving urban ethnographic research methods in both anthropology and geography. During the week the students engaged in two research field trips. The first was to Teufelsberg, a ruined Cold War spy station located in the margins of Berlin, which has since been occupied by artists seeking to reappropriate once restricted land. The location was useful for understanding the history of land ownership and transformation for resistance practices since WWII. The second trip was to the inner-city neighbourhood of Kreuzberg, a promising location for future comparisons with Toronto’s Kensington Market (KM), which is a key research site for researchers at the EL. These research excursions were followed by meetings and workshops with GSZ members and other potential collaborators, with whom we produced a proposal for the inception of our new lab. The week culminated in obtaining approval from Dr. Ilse Helbrecht, Director of GSZ to establish our new Urban Ethnography Lab under the umbrella of the GSZ.

During the second week in Toronto, the German students were welcomed to the Ethnography Lab, where they learned the greater context of the EL’s activities through a variety of urban research excursions, group meetings, and a brainstorming session through which they planned concrete steps for achieving their goals. On the first day, the EL hosted a walking tour and lecture through KM, which is the lab’s primary ethnographic research site. Further discussion about the possibilities for comparative research with Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighbourhood were explored, and a later tour through the hidden and unique pubs of KM were hosted by an EL student who had conducted research on the neighbourhood’s nightlife. The next day they were also taken to Yorkville, a neighbourhood of similar historical composition as KM, but which has since significantly gentrified, in order to spur discussion on socio-economic change in Toronto. This site was further compared to St. James Town, Canada’s most densely populated low-income neighbourhood, which they visited the same day. The final research trip took place in the Geary Avenue district, another site of burgeoning economic activity and socioeconomic transformation. The were invited to participate in a public ethnographic methods workshop hosted by the Ethnography Lab on October 27th, which fueled planning on how best to improve ethnographic methods among Geography researchers. Following a productive brainstorming session, the team plans to apply for funding and begin research activities by the new year.