My research interests stem from the fields of migration studies and urban geography. Two broad streams frame my research projects: (1) an interest in international migration and its impacts on socities and their socio-spatial dynamics; (2) the analysis of the spatial and interactional transformations accompanying great transformations such as climate change, political upheaval or the Covid-19 pandemic.

(1) International migration: Starting point of my research project is the observation that we do not only encounter a new quality of spatial mobility for a large number of people, but also by a new quality of cross-border networking and a simultaneity of transnational life and local embeddedness. Based on this, I am highly interested in the various forms that social inclusion takes on, both locally and transnationally. Based on my recent research project on repeatedly migrating highly qualified people (Müller 2020) and carrying it on, I research how transnationally embedded people are involved in discourses, policies, technologies, institutions and social relationships and keep up multiple ties to locations in different nation states. Additionally, migrants are part of territorially bound societies which significantly affect people’s place attachements and senses of belonging. These societies, in turn, are increasingly shaped by migration and (individual and collective) migration experiences. Key to my research is the question of how social participation and social consensus are negotiated in such heterogeneous societies.

(2) Transformations of spaces and interactions: Crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic or climate change fundamentally affect how we enact spaces and interact with each other in our environments. Not only is the nature-culture relation altered in the anthropocene, sensitizing us as geographers for the need to re-conceptualize how we move in space, understand our relationship to the built environment and interact with fellow humans as well as flora and fauna. But also as (invisible) viruses or micro-plastic, materially manifest battery-charging stations for electric cars and bikes or face masks are increasingly becoming part of our daily lives, we encounter that individual, collective and institutional interactions are significantly re-organized in the course of global crises and transformations. Here, my main interest is in the modes of adopting to such crises and the newly emerging spatial and interactional characteristics of societies.

Additional research circles around the interrelation of materiality and sociality in contemporary societies, that is on the mutual interdependencies of architecture and society. Here, I am very much influenced by contemporary sociology of space and science and technology studies (see here for one outcome of this interest). This focus is part of my general and long-lasting research interest in contemporary urban development that started with the research on my PhD thesis on Green Creative Cities.

Past research (Habilitationsprojekt): In my research project on Tourists and vagabonds in 21st century cities: On senses of socio-spatial belonging of international migrants I asked for the ways in which international migrants establish senses of belonging to urban places despite frequently changing locations. Especially in focus were high-skilled and low-skilled migrants, that is those who – presumably – migrate voluntarily and those who migrate for the sake of survival. Special attention was on the role of (material) objects for the creation of senses of belonging and attachment to places. For the analysis of my qualitative research data, I thus gained additional insights from the social studies of space, material culture studies and works on globalization (see here for a first glance at my research results).

Selection of Research Projects

ongoingSocial Cohesion in Heterogenous Societies. How do Societies negotiate Belonging?
HabilitationTourists and Vagabonds in 21st Century Cities. On Socio-spatial Belongings of International MigrantsSynopsis Research Project 
since 2013Constituting a New Sociology of Architecture with a Little Help from Science and Technology Studies (with PD Dr. Werner Reichmann, University of Konstanz/SPP Mediatized Worlds) 
since 2013On the Role of Urban Public Spaces in Social Transformation Processes 
PhD thesisGreen Creative Cities. Zur Gestaltung eines Stadttypus des 21. JahrhundertsSummary PhD thesis