Emerging Topics – Insights from "Behind the Scenes"
Interview with Dr. Steffi Marung (SFB 1199, U Leipzig, Germany)
Which topics are currently debated in the academic and scientific community, which ideas are contemplated, tried out, and discussed? Which questions does transregional studies tackle at the moment, which fields are expanded and which aspects will be central in emerging research?
Our new series Emerging Topics – Insights from “Behind the Scenes” puts the spotlight on current issues within transregional research. By highlighting selected recent and upcoming workshops and other academic events, we are putting into focus what is being debated within the field of transregional studies at the moment.
This blog post was first published on the TRAFO Blog, Link.
- Being the second annual conference of the Collaborative Research Centre 1199 “Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition”, this year’s conference “Practises and Processes of Space-making under the Global Condition” focuses on spatializations, namely the very practices through which actors create and maintain spatial arrangements. Why did you choose this focus?
We do not only want to focus on practices of space-making but in particular on actors making space. That space is socially produced has been a key insight in the social sciences and humanities for many years now and at the core of the “spatial turn”. However, what this exactly means, how this exactly works, remains still to be clarified and systematized. There are different actors with different resources, different positions in their societies and in changing world orders and they probably do different things when to space-making is concerned. This is in particular pertinent, when looked at from a global and transregional perspective. The question is, do different kinds of actors also produce different kinds of spaces and are they affected by these in different ways? So we would like to pave the way for a more systematic take on actors and agency, power relations, inequalities, creativity and subversion, but also restrictions in processes of spatialization under the global condition.
- Do you also include transregional practices and if so, could you give an example of important spatializations resulting from transregional practices?
The transregional perspective is important for us in at least three ways. Firstly, we look at transregional practices as those crossing boundaries between regions, which includes actors in commodity chains and in processes of financialization or transregional activities of missionaries. Secondly, we are interested in transregional practices as those shaping regions themselves. Here we have projects investigating e.g. new regionalisms in Africa or the “Eastern bloc” of the Cold War as a spatial format. Thirdly, we want to understand transregional practices as those transcending regions and region-centeredness (the most obvious being Euro- or Atlanto-centrism). By comparing world regions in reciprocal comparisons, we do not take one region as the model to which others are compared but look for “deviations” and particular trajectories in different regions. But also by looking at those practices working on different scales we seek to demonstrate that world regions are only one spatial framework of action, that there are others “below” or “above” as well as criss-crossing these. The question is how they relate to each other.
- The spatial turn has influenced research in the social sciences since some years now. What is the special take on spatial research of the conference? And what could be possible insights for transregional studies?
This connect to the first question: our focus is not only on “making space” but on who is doing this from which position with which resources. There is rich empirical research going on for many years now in many disciplines, but we need to systematically come to terms with it. The particular challenge we need to deal with is that concepts of actors and agency vary across and between different disciplines. There are not necessarily insurmountable cleavages to be crossed but bridges over rivers to be built. We need to understand the histories of concepts in different disciplines in order to make translations possible. If “actors” are conceptualized in different disciplines differently, then also “making space” will mean something different in different disciplines and approaches. We need to make these variations and nuances transparent and begin an interdisciplinary conversation in order to be able to develop a systematic understanding of making space. Here – not only, but in particular – anthropologists, geographers, historians and political scientists can mutually enrich their research and conceptualizations.
Image source: SFB 1199 (9 March 2017)