Bettina Stoetzer | People

Bettina Stoetzer

Bettina Stoetzer

Class of 1948 Career Development Associate Professor of Anthropology





Bettina Stoetzer is a cultural anthropologist whose research focuses on the intersections of ecology, globalization, and urban social justice. Bettina received her M.A. in Sociology, Anthropology and Media Studies from the University of Goettingen and completed her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of California Santa Cruz in 2011. Before coming to MIT, she was a Harper Fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago. Bettina’s forthcoming book, Ruderal City: Ecologies of Migration and Urban Life in Berlin (under contract with Duke University Press), draws on fieldwork with immigrant and refugee communities, as well as ecologists, nature enthusiasts and other Berlin residents to illustrate how human-environment relations have become a key register through which urban citizenship is articulated in contemporary Europe. The ethnographic research and writing for this project has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the ACLS/Mellon Foundation, and a UC Chancellor’s fellowship. Bettina is also the author of a book on feminism and anti-racism, titled InDifferenzen: Feministische Theorie in der Antirassistischen Kritik (InDifferences: Feminist Theory in Antiracist Criticism, argument, 2004), and she co-edited Shock and Awe. War on Words together with Bregje van Eekelen, Jennifer Gonzalez, and Anna Tsing (New Pacific Press, 2004). Bettina is currently working on a new project on urban wildlife mobility, climate change, and nationalism in the US and Germany. At MIT, Bettina teaches classes on urban life and ethnography, race and migration, environmental justice, gender, science and technology, and the politics of nature in Germany.


Bettina’s research combines perspectives on ecology and environmental change with an analysis of migration, race and social justice. Her work is informed by epistemologies and methods of feminist anthropology and science studies, as well as her previous training in the history of social movements in Europe.

Bettina’s forthcoming book, Ruderal City: Ecologies of Migration and Urban Life (forthcoming with Duke University Press), draws on ethnographic fieldwork with immigrant and refugee communities, as well as ecologists and nature enthusiasts in Berlin to illustrate that human-environment relations have become a key register through which citizenship is articulated in contemporary Europe. More specifically, the book examines several sites that have figured prominently in German national imaginaries—urban wastelands, gardens, forests, and parks in the city and its fringes— and shows how ethnic and class inequalities are reconfigured in conflicts over the use, knowledge and management of “nature” and green spaces in Berlin. The book also develops the concept of the ruderal (from Latin rudus, rubble), a term originally coined by West Berlin botanists after WWII to refer to communities that inhabit “disturbed” and inhospitable environments in the city: the spaces alongside roads and train tracks, urban wastelands or rubble fields. The notion of the ruderal offers an analytic framework for rethinking the heterogeneity of urban life in the ruins of European nationalism and capitalism. Exploring Berlin as ruderal city, the book directs attention towards often unnoticed, cosmopolitan ways of remaking the urban fabric and thus to practices that disrupt a social order in which only specific kinds of human-environment relations are appealing. These range from botanical encounters in the city’s rubble after WWII, to contemporary German-Turkish urban gardening practices, to informal economies and “wild barbecuing” by Turkish and Southeast Asian migrants in urban parks, to East African refugees’ stories about living in uncanny forests in Berlin’s peripheries.

 Another, new book project, “Creating Refuge: Cities and More-than-Human Mobilities in an Era of Environmental Change,” examines practices of urban ecological care in the context of climate change, political conflict, and resurgence of nationalist movements in the US and Germany.  Drawing on historical research and ethnographic fieldwork with policy makers, wildlife ecologists, ornithologists, foresters, farmers, hunters, veterinarians, and environmental stewards in Berlin and Chicago, this project explores how ecological degradation, global migrations, and shifting political borders shape patterns of wildlife mobility in these two cities and their peripheries. Tracking practices of care and management of wildlife, the project first asks what the negotiation of human-wildlife relations might tell us about shifting global, national, regional and urban borders in North America and Europe.  Secondly, as these encounters become political, the book shows how these begin to transform scientific and public understandings of what it means to create refuge and build more livable urban environments for people, animals, and plants on an increasingly inhospitable planet.

Publications|Selected Publications

n.d. Ruderal City: Ecologies of Migration and Urban Life in Berlin, 330pp. (under contract with Duke University Press)
2020 “Urban Vulnerabilities,” Social Anthropology, July 2020
2020 Ailanthus Altissima, or the Botanical Afterlives of European Power” in Botanical City, edited by Matthew Gandy and Sandra Jasper, Berlin: JOVIS.
2020 “Viruses, Pigs and Humans Co-Evolve in a Deadly Dance,” in Feral Atlas, edited by Anna Tsing, et al., Stanford: Stanford University Press,
2019  “Wildes Brandenburg: Engaging Unruly Nature in Berlin’s Peripheries,” in Scott Moranda and Eli Rubin, eds., Ecologies of Socialisms: Germany, Nature, and the Left in History, Politics and Culture, edited by Scott Moranda and Eli Rubin, Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 295-315.
2019 “Europe’s Other Walls,” Anthropology News, November 2019,
2018 “Ruderal Ecologies: Rethinking Nature, Migration, and the Urban Landscape in Berlin,” Cultural Anthropology 33(2), pp. 295-323.
2016 “Infrastructure: Peripheral Visions and Bodies that Matter: A Commentary,” solicited essay in Engagement. A blog published by the Anthropology and Environment Society, a section of the American Anthropological Association, August 2016.
2014 “A Path Through the Woods: Remediating Affective Landscapes in Documentary Asylum Worlds.” In: Contemporary Remediations of Race and Ethnicity in German Visual Cultures, TRANSIT 9(2), Special Issue, Angelica Fenner and Uli Linke, Eds., pp. 1-23.
2014 “Wild Barbecuing: Urban Citizenship and the Politics of (Trans-)Nationality in Berlin’s Tiergarten,” in Jeffrey Diefendorf and Janet Ward, eds., Transnationalism and the German City, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 73-86.
2004 InDifferenzen. Feministische Theorie in der antirassistischen Kritik [InDifferences: Feminist Theory in Antiracist Criticism]. Hamburg: Argument-Verlag (200 pp.)
2004 Co-edited (with Jennifer Gonzalez, Anna Tsing, and Bregje van Eekelen), Shock and Awe: War on Words. Institute for Advanced Feminist Studies, University of California Santa Cruz: New Pacific Press (187 pp.). Authored “Wired,” pp. 173-174; and “Anti-Terror Legislation,” pp. 14-16.


21A.132J / 21G.058J
Race and Migration in Europe

Addresses the shifting politics of nation, ethnicity, and race in the context of migration and globalization in Europe. Provides students with analytical tools to approach global concerns and consider Europe from cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspectives. Familiarizes students with the ways in which histories of migration, travel, and colonial encounters shape contemporary Europe. Introduces the concepts of transnationalism, diasporic cultures, racism, ethnicity, asylum, and mobility via case studies and materials, including film, ethnography, fiction, and autobiography.

City Living: Ethnographies of Urban Worlds

Introduces the ways in which anthropologists have studied cities. Addressing the question of what constitutes the boundaries of life in the city, students familiarize themselves with key themes - such as the relation between city and countryside; space and place; urban economies; science; globalization; migration; nature/culture; kinship, race, gender, class, and memory - that have guided anthropological analyses of cities across the world. Via engagement with case studies and their own small fieldwork projects, students gain experience with different ethnographic strategies for documenting urban life. Taught in English.

21A.407J / 21G.057J / WGS.275J / STS.022J
Gender, Race and Environmental Justice

Provides an introduction to the analysis of gender in science, technology, and environmental politics from a global perspective. Familiarizes students with central objects, questions, and methods in the field. Examines existent critiques of the racial, sexual and environmental politics at stake in techno-scientific cultures. Draws on material from popular culture, media, fiction, film, and ethnography. Addressing specific examples from across the globe, students also explore different approaches to build more livable environments that promote social justice.

Cultural Geographies of Germany: Nature, Culture and Politics

Examines the relationship between nature, geography, and power in 20th- and 21st-century German culture. Familiarizes students with a series of themes in science, engineering, literature, urban planning and everyday life that have played a central role in German national imaginaries and concepts of citizenship. Engaging specific examples and historical, ethnographic, literary and visual material, students explore how human-environment relations have figured prominently in German national identity, its economic power, and global connections. 


2019/20 Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society Fellowship, Munich
2019 MIT Class of 1948 Career Development Professorship
2018 Junior Scholar Award, honorable mention, Anthropology and Environment Society (AES), American Anthropological Association (AAA)
2018 SHASS Research Fund, MIT
2018 MIT junior faculty nominee, Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program



2019                “Rethinking Urban Nature and Migration,” an interview with Bettina Stoetzer in Cultural Anthropology, December 2019,

“The Multispecies World of Technology,” an Interview with Elaine Gan and Bettina Stoetzer

“Feral Technologies: Making and Unmaking Multispecies Dumps,” an Interview with Bettina Stoetzer, Anna Tsing, and Elaine Gan