Hamburger Schule: The Postgraduate Programmes

Assemblies and Participation (2012-2014) and Performing Citizenship (2015-2017) were two PhD programmes hosted and led by a cooperation between an academic and two research-oriented cultural institutions: the department Metropolitan Culture (Kultur der Metropole) of HafenCity University Hamburg, K3 – Zentrum für Choreographie |Tanzplan Hamburg and FUNDUS THEATER/Theatre of Research in Hamburg.1

Both programmes focused on performative and participatory art practices as tools to investigate and foster social and cultural change. They aimed to investigate problems and questions arising from different disciplines such as urban studies, choreography and cultural education as well as the potential of various performance practices as research methods. Within their research projects, these programmes brought together artists, scholars, researchers as well as citizens and non-citizens to explore modes of and questions associated with assembling as a political and artistic practice (Assemblies and Participation) and to explore how citizenship is performed today and how this performance could be transformed in the future (Performing Citizenship). Based on the conviction that it is not possible to study society by keeping our distance from it (Latour 1998) and that the arts, especially the performing arts, provide tools and expertise for organising participatory, transdisciplinary processes, the programmes set out to find new formats of participatory art-based research and knowledge production.

At the end of the three-year programmes, doctoral candidates were awarded PhDs on the basis of their academic and artistic research. Each programme included a colloquium, workshops, public events, practical experiments, and interventions in public space to investigate Assemblies and Participation and Performing Citizenship, respectively, from a multi- and transdisciplinary perspective blending urban studies, cultural education, choreography, philosophy, urban design and cultural studies. Within the frame of the PhD programmes each postgraduate had to conceive and produce a participatory art-based research project that consisted of two parts, a theoretical thesis and publish academic articles to be awarded a PhD. Academic research and practical experimentation were considered and marked equally. This innovative way of qualifying for a PhD is unique within the German academic landscape.

The members of the first postgraduate programme Assemblies and Participation: Urban Publics and Performance  investigated forms and formats of participation in political contexts as well as in the (performing) arts and explored assembling as a social, political and artistic practice (Burri et al. 2014). The programme asked what role performance and media-based arts can play in the context of new urban movements of democratisation. The members of the second postgraduate programme Performing Citizenship explored how citizenship is performed and thereby changed. Thus, they set up different art-based experiments that focused on prominent as well as hidden aspects of citizenship and urgent questions of inclusion and exclusion that arise with this concept  in a globalised world. In experimental settings, they explored the performance of citizenship practices and their transformations (Hildebrandt et al. 2019).

In this framework, fifty art-based research projects took place between 2012 and 2017. These projects and as many theoretical publications form the corpus for the analysis and description of new formats of Participatory Art Based Research presented in this online resource.

Maike Gunsilius, Sibylle Peters



Burri, Regula V./Evert, Kerstin/Peters, Sibylle/Pilkington, Esther/Ziemer, Gesa (eds) (2015): Versammlung und Teilhabe: Urbane Öffentlichkeiten und performative Künste. Bielefeld: transcript.

Hildebrandt, Paula M./Evert, Kerstin/Peters, Sibylle/Schaub, Mirjam/Wildner, Kathrin/Ziemer, Gesa (eds) (2019): Performing Citizenship. Bodies, Agencies, Limitations. Basingstoke/Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Latour, Bruno (1998): „From the World of Science to the World of Research?“, in: Science 10/4 1998: Vol. 280, Issue 5361, pp. 208–209.


1 The University of Applied Sciences Hamburg (HAW) joined for the second postgraduate programme Performing Citizenship.