Laurin Baumgardt

I am a fourth-year PhD student in Sociocultural Anthropology and am currently doing my field research in Cape Town. My research centers on the multiple and constantly changing meanings and practices of home-making, housing, and urban belonging in post-apartheid South Africa. It examines the ways people cope with, and react to, the rise of housing demands and new infrastructural requirements in an era of intersecting crises, scarce urban land, and continuous ecological challenges. As started during preliminary research stays, I primarily work with architects, design and planning professionals, community leaders, activists, and non-governmental agencies. More specifically, I am interested in the economic, social, and affective attachments and investments of both residents and professionals. My project aims to surface core values associated with new urban housing solutions and incremental infrastructure initiatives.

Before joining Rice, I pursued graduate studies in Anthropology at the University of Florida and earned an M.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Leipzig University. I came to anthropology through my undergraduate training in Philosophy and African Studies at Humboldt University in Berlin. I grew up and lived for most of my life in Berlin.

In 2016, I was living in South Africa for a year to pursue additional graduate studies at Stellenbosch University, for which I was awarded funding by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). During that time, I spent several months doing fieldwork with mostly black English and isiXhosa speaking residents who live in a cordoned-off settlement close to the Stellenbosch campus. My master’s thesis research investigated their future projections and aspirations in light of particular urban infrastructures. I focused on a nongovernmental project which delivers and installs solar-electricity to individual households.


Baumgardt, Laurin (Feb 2021). Urban Acupuncture Design Theory: Researching New Development Practices in South Africa. Platypus: The CASTAC Blog Online.

Baumgardt, Laurin (2019). Broken Promises: Examining Berlin’s Material Histories in an Age of Rubbling. Berlin Journal of Critical Theory, 3(3): 89-115.

Baumgardt, Laurin (2018). In/visible Infrastructure: Thinking (along) with Martin Heidegger about Infrastructural Breakdowns in South Africa. Middle East – Topics & Arguments (META online journal), 10: 43-51.

Baumgardt, Laurin (2017). Unfinished Futures: Ethnographic Reflections on Infrastructure and Aspirations in an Informal Settlement in South Africa. Moment Journal, Journal of Cultural Studies, 4(1): 73-91.


National Science Foundation, Cultural Anthropology Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (NSF-CA-DDRIG), 2021-2022

Wenner-Gren Foundation, Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, 2021

James T. Wagoner ’29 Foreign Study Scholarship for preliminary summer research and language training in Cape Town, South Africa, 2020 - 2022

Humanities Research Center’s Spatial Humanities Initiative at Rice University for Fieldwork in Cape Town, South Africa, funded through Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 2019

Leipzig University PROMOS-scholarship (DAAD) at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, 2015 - 2016

Humboldt University PROMOS-scholarship (DAAD) for a Swahili advanced two-months language course at the State University of Zanzibar, 2011

Research Areas

urban anthropology; design and architecture; critical infrastructure and development studies; home and housing; future and crisis; South Africa


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