Florence Graezer Bideau
Fields of expertise
Popular culture and cultural policy
Resistance and Innovation in urban space
Critical heritage studies
UNESCO heritage processes in China, Malaysia and Singapore
Intangible Cultural Heritage in Switzerland
Chinese New Towns
Visiting Professor at the Department of Architecture and Design, Politecnico di Torino
PhD in History and Civilization (EHESS, Paris)
Director of the Minor in Area and Cultural Studies (MACS) between 2012 and 2016
Associated researcher at the China Room Research Group and South China-Torino Collaboration Lab, Politecnico di Torino
Associate member of the Laboratoire d’anthropologie culturelle et sociale (LACS), UNIL
Member of the EDAR committee (Doctoral Program Architecture and Sciences of the City) at the School of Architecture, Civil and Environment Engineering in EPFL
Florence Graezer Bideau trained as an anthropologist and a sinologist, and received her PhD in History and Civilization in 2005. Before joining the Centre for Area and Cultural Studies (CACS) at EPFL in 2010, she was a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Lausanne, where she taught courses in cultural theory and fieldwork methodology. She is Senior Lecturer and Senior Scientist at the College of Humanities where she teaches area studies, anthropology of China, critical heritage studies and urban studies. She has been acting as Director of the Minor in Area and Cultural Studies between 2012 and 2016 and she is currently a member of the EDAR committee (Doctoral Program Architecture and Sciences of the City) at the School of Architecture, Civil and Environment Engineering in EPFL. Since 2015, Florence has also been Visiting Professor at the Department of Architecture and Design, Politecnico di Torino, Italy. Her fields of expertise include anthropology of China, urban sociology, modes of sociability and governmentality.
Florence’s research is on the relation between culture and power (making of cultural policy in China; emergence of maker movement (makerspaces) and politics of innovation in China), heritage issues (process of heritagization and multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore; implementation of the UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in Switzerland; historic urban landscape in heritage policy of Beijing, Rome and Mexico City), and the making of the city (informal resistances toward the violence of urbanism in Caracas, Chennai and Guangzhou; uses of public spaces in Chinese new towns).
culture and power
- Makerspaces: politics and communities of innovation in contemporary China (2016-2019)
Funded by the SNSF, this project is lead by Dr. Florence Graezer Bideau in collaboration with Dr. Marc Laperrouza, Monique Bolli and Clément Renaud (Iags, EPFL). It investigates the social, technical and commercial attributes of key Chinese makerspaces and their communities in three Chinese cities (Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen). While limited in size and scope, makerspaces and the maker movement in general offer a very rich environment to study much broader social, political and economic transformations taking place in contemporary China. It aims to shed light on how a bottom-up and autonomous movement responds to the co-opting of the State and to discuss the Chinese government’s plasticity and capacity to engage with emerging classes.
- Cultural policy in China in the 20th century (1995-2005)
Funded by several institutions (Mobility Grant between the University of Lausanne and Peking, Cantonal Grant of the Swiss Universities Central Office, and SNSF), this doctoral project was developed in China (Institute of Sociology and Anthropology, Peking University, Institute of Sociology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Beijing), Australia (Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, ANU, Canberra) and France (China Centre (CECMC), EHESS, Paris). The construction of cultural policy made up the core of my Ph.D. research in Beijing and Shaanxi Province between 1995 and 2000. I explored it through the detailed study of the practice of yangge, a traditional folk dance ritual banned during the Cultural Revolution but is now practiced once again under China's reform policy. The practice of yangge allowed me to reflect on issues of popular culture in 20th-century China and analyze the processes of selection and categorization of cultural elements essential to cultural policy at the national level. Central to my training as an anthropologist and a sinologist, this research on the development of cultural policy and the use of popular culture provided the starting point for my current work on intangible cultural heritage and heritagization at different national and international levels.
Funded by the Compagnia San Paolo and Politecnico di Torino, this project is lead by Pr.Filippo De Pieri and Dr. Florence Graezer Bideau in collaboration with Prof. Alessandro Armando and Dr. Davide Vero (DAD at PoliTo) and Dr. Yves Pedrazzini, Prof. Nicola Braghieri, Dr. Lesslie Herrera and Lucia Bordone (Lasur, Lapis and Iags at EPFL). The research aims to assess and experiment research tools for the study of the relationship between collective memory, urban space, and design in contemporary cities. It stems from previous empirical and collaborative experiences between PoliTo and EPFL in the study of urban collective memories. By scrutinizing the two cities of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle jointly inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2009, the project aims to respond to the widely felt need to elaborate innovative research paths concerning the methodology and the goals of research on urban memory. Memory studies have gained an increasing presence in the research and teaching activities of European technical schools, in parallel with the growing role played by tangible and intangible heritage in processes of urban/architectural transformation. The project explores the ways in which memory studies can represent a challenge and opportunity for ‘Polytechnic’ research and education, forging links between different fields of knowledge such as architectural design, urban history, sociology and anthropology, visual studies, mapping.
- Mapping controversial memories in the historic urban landscape : a multidisciplinary study of Beijing, Mexico City and Rome (2015-2017)
Funded by the SNIS, this project is lead by Dr. Florence Graezer Bideau in collaboration with Dr. Yves Pedrazzini, Lesslie Herrera, Lucia Bordone (EPFL) and scholars in HES-Sierre, Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage à Beijing, Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana –Iztapalapa à Mexico City, Politecnico Torino, Tsinghua University, Roma 2 and Roma 3. The research aims to produce a comparative, multidisciplinary study on the impact of UNESCO’s Recommendation on the historic urban landscape, (RHUL 2011), which seeks to integrate conservation and development in urban policy. The project addresses three questions in Beijing, Mexico City and Rome.
1) Which memorial references are mobilized by local actors in their historical urban landscape?
2) To what extent does the perception of collective-memory overlap with the existing local implementation of heritage conservation policies?
3) Which potential approach for the recognition of plural memories within the RHUL best underpins attachment to urban territories?
Combining methods from urban sociology, cultural anthropology and visual modeling, this project strives to contribute a better understanding of so-called collective memory dynamics and controversies that are emerging in these historic cities. The research encompasses popular understanding of uses of heritage, official norms and regulations as well as controversies produced by the mismatch of practice and discourse at the different levels of analysis: local; national; and international.
- Implementation of the UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in Switzerland: an ethnography of cultural bureaucracy in the federalist context (2009-2012, 2012-2014)
Financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Sinergia Projects "Intangible Cultural Heritage: the Midas Touch?"and "Intangible Cultural Heritage: Whispered Words", directed by Prof. Ellen Hertz, University of Neuchâtel), this project followed the implementation of the UNESCO Convention, ratified by the Swiss Confederation in 2008. Using ethnographic methodology, complemented by a thorough mastery of the relevant documents and policy decision, this project explored how this new international cultural policy was applied in Switzerland and what effects it produced on Swiss conceptions of, and mobilization around, local, regional and national cultural forms. By surveying the process of cataloging intangible cultural heritage at various levels (local, cantonal, federal and international) - with a special focus on moments of definition and selection, (selection criteria, user guides, the use of outside expertise, the reference to "civil society") - this project shed new light on the nature of the relationship between state and society in the field of culture, the commodification or reification of cultural expressions and traditions, and the emergence of new forms of nationalism linked with folklorization. Adopting a broadly based comparative approach, this project not only explored Swiss cultural policy from a new angle - "intangible cultural heritage" - but also considered more comprehensively the effects of the UNESCO Convention on cultural policies worldwide.
- Multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism and making heritage in Malaysia: overview from the Straits of Malacca (2006-2011)
Begun in the context of the French-speaking Swiss Graduate Programme in Socio-Cultural Anthropology (CUSO) and funded by the University of Lausanne (Research Grant of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences’ Dean office), this project was carried out in collaboration with Prof. Mondher Kilani (Laboratoire d’anthropologie culturelle et sociale, University of Lausanne) between 2006 and 2011. It was a reflection on multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism in Malaysia and revolved around the perceptions and representations of tangible and intangible cultural heritage within the three main communities of the Federation (Malay, Chinese and Indian) using a series of case studies in George Town (Penang), Melaka, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The comparative analysis of these distinct processes of heritagization highlighted political, economical, social, religious and cultural issues linked to the Malaysian "rainbow nation", while also drawing attention to some of the problems inherent in the apparently universal UNESCO framework (contradictions between tangible and intangible heritage, commodification of living culture, consequences of gentrification, etc.).
making of the city
- Hybrid cities: Informal Resistances to the Violence of Urbanization in China, India and Venezuela (2016-2019)
Funded by the SNSF, the project is lead by Dr. Yves Pedrazzini (LAsur, EPFL) in collaboration with Dr. Florence Graezer Bideau, Salomé Houllier, Caroline Iorio (EPFL) and scholars in Politecnico di Torino, Anna University in Chennai, Instituto de Estudios Avanzados and Fundación Caracas and South China University of Technology in Guangzhou. As both a science and an ideology, contemporary urbanism induces a violence of urbanization. This is usually done in the name of formal planning of territory at the expense of informal settlements. The latter resist this formalization and their scheduled deletion, sometimes resorting to violence. In some cases this confrontation overcomes the duality between formal and informal. The confrontation of two icons of the modern city, the informal slum and the formal skyscraper, produces hybrid structures, objects, and details that move towards a new urbanism; our current cities are built by architectural, urban, territorial and social hybridization. This process creates an innovative and critical approach to the modern models of formal urbanization that seems to persecute the inhabitants of informal settlements, giving rise to resistance movements. These modalities vary widely across differing geopolitical contexts, which is why we work in three large urban areas simultaneously – Chennai in India, Guangzhou in China and Caracas in Venezuela. These we consider as separate expressions of a process that is global and complex; a process within which social struggles and urban problems bind closely through the development of new contradictions, all of which takes place at the heart of the city.
– Chinese New Towns: negotiating citizenship and physical form (2015-2017)
Funded by the Politecnico di Torino, the CeNTO project lead by Prof. Michele Bonino (Department of Architecture and Design) looks at the construction of the “third-generation” of Chinese New Towns that will host another 300 million rural Chinese migrating to urban areas over the next 20 years. Conditioned by certain new key-words promoted by the Chinese government - such as “innovation”, “sustainability”, “inclusive growth” - this research investigates how, through the lens of architecture and urban design, physical form, can reveal experimental processes of the negotiation of both citizenship and social identity. It also explores how Chinese New Towns have appropriated urban models from different contexts.
Teaching & PhD
Humanities and Social Sciences Program