Martin Müller

Martin Müller
Résidents Labex RFIEA+
pas Eurias

dates de séjour

11/09/2017 - 13/07/2018



Fonction d’origine


Institution d’origine

Department of Geography and Sustainability, University of Lausanne (Suisse)

pays d'origine


projet de recherche

Hazardous planning: improvising urban mega-projects in London, Sochi, Rio and Marseille

This project is about how cities plan the unplannable: mega-projects that stretch over several years, sometimes decades, and run to several billions of euros. Among those, it focuses on the largest events in the world – the Olympic Games, the Football World Cup and the European Capitals of Culture. The project is situated between the disciplines of geography, sociology, anthropology and sports and leisure studies, drawing on each to better understand how organisers try to rise to the challenge of preparing for mega-events with scrupulous advance planning. But the more people plan, the more effectively chance strikes: that is what I call the planning paradox. Staging a mega-event is thus much like what Alain Badiou, philosophically, describes as an event: ‘the hazardous passage from one state of affairs to another’ (Badiou 2009, 384). It is these hazardous passages, and the states of affairs they engender, that the book project traces – through interviews and documents – in the planning of the Olympic Games, the Football World Cup and the European Capital of Culture in the cities of London (UK), Sochi (Russia), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Marseille (France). Each hazardous passage means passing through murky waters and dealing with unforeseen challenges. These challenges require a departure from plans and bring forth improvisation. The project develops this notion of improvisation and argues that it is crucial to staging mega-events under even the most adverse circumstances.


Martin Müller is Swiss National Science Foundation Professor at Universität Zürich (Switzerland) and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham (UK). He studied Geography and Development Studies at the Universities of München and Cambridge and graduated with a PhD from Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main. He has held fellowships at the Universities of British Columbia in Vancouver, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Oxford and at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He was awarded the Prix Latsis Universitaire and the Frithjof-Voss-Preis, each for outstanding research achievements. He is an expert in mega-event planning, where he coined the notion of ‘mega-event syndrome’. He is a regular contributor to conceptual debates concerning actor-network theory (ANT) and assemblage thinking as pioneered by Deleuze and Guattari. A specialist of Russia, he speaks Russian fluently and has visited the country more than 20 times. Martin Müller is a regular contributor to public debate. His research has been covered in the New York Times, Financial Times, Newsweek, International Business Times, ABC, Inside Climate News, Toronto Star, Svenska Dagbladet, TV Rain (Russia), El Mercurio (Chile), Der Spiegel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Swiss Radio and Television (SRF), NZZ, Tribune de Genève and other outlets. He has contributed commentaries to major German-language newspapers Die Zeit, Süddeutsche Zeitung, NZZ and Tages-Anzeiger.