Nicolas Hafner

Spoken languages
German, English, French, Farsi, Spanish
Areas of expertise
  • Decolonisation
  • History of development
  • History of science
  • Oral History
Geographical Region of Expertise
  • Europe

phd thesis


Title: ‘Le Savoir et le Faire’: Decolonisation and Geneva as a Third World Development Studies Hub, c. 1961-1981 (working title)

PhD Supervisor: Cyrus Schayegh & Nicole Bourbonnais

PhD CO Supervisor: Adom Getachew (University of Chicago)

Expected completion date: 2026

In 1961, the Centre genevois pour la formation de cadres africains (IUED) opened its doors. The responsible actors described this as an act of solidarity by a non-colonial and neutral Switzerland with recently independent nations needing development assistance to assert their freedom. In the following decades, IUED became a place known for robust debate, bringing together a vibrant and multi-disciplinary communité de pensée of Third World anticolonial and anti-authoritarian activists, state functionaries and like-minded intellectuals—united in their commitment to the transformation of postcolonial societies, and divided in their approaches. My dissertation studies the people that populated IUED, their ideas and trajectories, and the socio-political context in which they worked. I explore what these histories can tell us about the larger meaning of decolonisation and development in this period. By examining an extensive and rich body of archival resources, including the oral history testimonies of former professors, staff, and students, my research weaves together social, intellectual and institutional histories. Recounting how people at IUED devised and debated Third World approaches to development, my dissertation contributes towards a better understanding of development in the wake of decolonisation by mapping the worlds of people from and concerned with the Third World, who formulated new development strategies beyond economic growth to overcome socio-economic and political injustices. 




  • History of science
  • History of ideas
  • History of social movements
  • History of the "Third World"
  • Memory and historical consciousness
  • Critical theory
  • Knowledge & practice




  • 2022-2023: interim Executive Secretary, Swiss Malaria Group
  • 2018-2020: PR Executive, Farner Consultung
  • 2017: Mandatory Swiss civil service at Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme




  • 2023: Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), Doc.CH grant recipient (2023-2026)
  • 2022: Geneva Graduate Institute (IHEID), recipient of the funding package for the Ph.D. 
  • 2022: recipient of the Prix Arditi en relations internationals (best master’s dissertation in international studies or international affairs)




Gender Centre