Research Programme

The SFB 1199 examines how processes of spatialization change under the global condition and how new spatial formats are produced by actors within the global condition while existing spatial formats are modified as well as merged into new spatial orders.

To describe and explain these transformations, we have developed a terminology to distinguish between
(1) the multilayered spatializations resulting from social interactions;
(2) spatial formats, which are characterized by (at least medium-term) establishment, institutionalization, (routine) performance, and intersubjective reflection; and
(3) spatial orders, which are the outcome of negotiation processes involving different spatial formats.

Spatial formats are established through a practice that involves imaginations, including descriptions and visualizations. We examine these spatial formats regardless if they are realized or not, either determining future spatializations or remaining unfulfilled drafts of alternative spatial orders. Spatial semantics have an important modular function in the construction of such imaginations. These semantics initiate, direct, and channel collective perceptions of spatialization, thus making them (intersubjectively) negotiable while offering the highest possible degree of empirical accessibility. Along with the cooperation of researchers from different disciplines from the social sciences and humanities (anthropology, cultural studies, history, literature, political science, sociology, and geography) with various regional foci (Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America), this conceptual framework allows us to reintegrate geographical and historical perspectives in interpretations of the world – the latter body of knowledge has been, to a great extent, decoupled from the former since the 19th century up until today. As a result of this decoupling, globalization processes have often been inadequately understood and explained. These categories – spatial formats and spatial orders provide us with a heuristic and a descriptive terminology with which processes of spatialization can be coherently described and interpreted despite being distant in regard to time and space as well as concerning different social domains, such as politics, administration, religion, health, literature, science, resources, migration, crime, the economy, and the culture industry.

Aims and Intermediary Results
The SFB combines an empirically oriented, inductive method with a conceptual and systematic orientation. Within the different SFB projects, we investigate a large number of spatial formats in multiple world-regional contexts and the transformation of spatial orders over a long period of time, beginning in the late 18th century. This combined approach and investigation acts as the precondition for achieving the two main goals of the SFB: a systematic description of spatial formats and the development of a historical narrative explaining how spatial orders change in times of global respatialization. We neither assume that processes of globalization are new phenomena that emerged after the end of the Cold War, nor believe that these processes lead to a disintegration of spaces. Globalization processes are the result of various actions performed by actors in different contexts and with varying resources at their disposal. The aim of these actions is to control the flows and linkages of people, goods, or ideas, which have increased considerably in speed, frequency, and quantity since the middle of the 19th century. Globalization processes are thus understood as a dialectic of de- and reterritorializing dynamics.
In this understanding, the different scopes of global, transregional, and transnational flows must be distinguished from the other as each of them challenge to varying extents the existing spatial orders. Actors react to such challenges either by developing new spatial formats or by modifying the existing spatial formats, which in turn result in the emergence of new spatial orders. So far, two main observations have become apparent from our research: First, spatial orders existed largely detached from one another into the 18th century and only started to interact with increasing intensity in the 19th century. As a result, some actors have come into conflict with other actors concerning the validity of the spatial orders put forward, while others have striven for complementarity between spatial orders. Second, not a single spatial order but a multitude of spatial orders have come into existence since the 19th century. These spatial orders are increasingly interwoven, permeating and influencing each other more intensely under the emerging global condition.

Structure of the SFB 1199 and Research Areas
The multiple projects within the Research Areas address the SFB’s two main empirical goals. In the joint conceptual work undertaken at the SFB, this primarily inductive method is complemented by an approach that prepares a classification of spatial formats, which will be combined to create an encyclopaedia, and helps to construct a historical narrative of processes of respatialization from the point of view of the actors participating in globalization projects, which takes shape in the form of a handbook series. Instead of perceiving globalization as an inevitable and objectively existing process, we understand globalization as a pluralistic, even contradictory, effort of various actors to globalize relevant parts of the world. These globalization projects carry spatial dimensions – expansion, linkage, and the exercising of power by controlling space – and contribute, both with and without intention, to the respatialization of the world.

Research Area A concentrates on elaborating the analytical category of the spatial entrepreneur. We understand spatial entrepreneurs as actors that intervene, prominently and explicitly, in the respatialization of their societies or of a transregional constellation. These actors possess specific resources and show a high degree of spatial literacy.

Research Area B examines spatial orders regarding their development, differentiation, and decline. In doing so, this Research Area aims at integrating the findings of all the SFB’s Research Areas into a historical narrative of the conflictual respatialization of the world since entering the global condition.

Research Area C analyses imaginations of spatialization, taking a world-regional comparative perspective and making use of transregional linkage analysis according to two hypotheses. The first is that imaginations of alternative spatial orders are answers to existing or evolving (desired or undesired) global linkages and flows while also undermining the legitimacy of existing spatial orders. The second is that those imaginations most prevalent in a society not only map the existing spatial formats but also propose descriptions and visualizations, which then become negotiable between multiple groups of actors.

With the aid of techniques and tools within digital humanities, the SFB uses the extensive material collected by its Research Areas to examine the spatial semantics that are applied in explaining and visualizing processes of spatialization. Examining these spatial semantics allows us to make hypotheses about the changes that concepts of spatial formats and spatial orders undergo while unpacking them by comparing them in a transregional perspective.