04/09/2012 - Reflexive Area Studies Workshop

Date/Time: Tuesday, 9am - 6pm, 4/09/2012
Location: Centre for Area Studies | Thomaskirchhof 20 | 04109 Leipzig
Organisation: Centre for Area Studies

Downloadable information
Programme (PDF)

Area Studies appear to be going through a process of transformation, or rupturing, with regard to their societal and political positionality, methods and objects of research, ability to answer the questions of “the global age”, as well as their institutionalized existence. What does it mean to do Area Studies in the 21st century? What qualities or challenges do Area Studies have in common, and does this distinguish Area Studies from other social sciences or humanities? What are the implications of an Area Studies approach in a world of increasing interconnectedness and persistent inequality, as well as in a research environment where interdisciplinarity is promoted although disciplines continue to be institutionalized and reproduced?

Preliminary programme

9.00 Registration

9.15 Welcome and General Introduction (by Matthias Middell)

9.30 - 11.00 Panel 1: Atlantic Studies

Chair: Steffi Marung (Leipzig)

Atlantic Studies could be considered an already established “Area Studies”-domain, dealing with a spatially contiguous area, albeit with a maritime instead of a territorial definition. To conceive of this space as a unit of analysis has a deep history, building on colonial, commercial and Cold War connections, as well as on cultural continuities between Africa and America or America and Europe, and on a (waning?) tradition of constituting the hegemonic centre of world politics and economy – although Atlantic Studies (could) just as much comprise(s) the world’s periphery. Because of this long and contentious legacy, Atlantic Studies both thwarts and (re)affirms some of the “old” premises of Area Studies. It can be seen both as the product of power balances and as the producer of imbalances. By juxtaposing the North Atlantic and the Black Atlantic side of the story, including possible imbalances inside North or Black Atlantic, the four workshop questions mentioned above can be highlighted.

Presentation 1: Susanne Lachenicht (Bayreuth)
Presentation 2: James Sidaway (Singapore)
Comment: Matthias Middell (Leipzig)

11.00 - 11.30 Coffee Break

11.30 - 13.00 Panel 2: Material and Human Flows

Chair: Sarah Ruth Sippel (Leipzig)

The mobility of people, goods, capital and ideas provides another way to make sense of spatial interconnectedness. Research on flows invites for a relational conception of space and therefore also allows a focus on hierarchical relations and inequalities between spaces. In many disciplines, attention has already been paid to flows, be it in the form of commodity chains, travelling concepts, diasporas, migration, etc. In how far do these approaches replace essentialized spatial containers and in how far do they base themselves – hence reproduce – such boxes? How do scholars in different disciplines and in different Area Studies define or employ spatial categories in research on flows? Is there a relevant difference in this regard between scholars studying flows of goods or flows of people? We will address these questions from the angle of material flows (commodity chains) and of human flows (diaspora or migration studies).

Presentation 1: Michael Esch (Berlin/Leipzig)
Presentation 2: Patrick Neveling (Bern)
Comment: Katja Naumann (Leipzig)

13.00 - 14.00 Lunch Break

14.00 - 15.30 Panel 3: Urbanity, Connectedness and Separation

Chair: Geert Castryck (Leipzig)

A third way of spatializing research can be addressed through urbanity. Urban space can be defined both through its local separation or distinction, and through its border-crossing or networked connectedness. This urban connectedness overcomes territorial conceptions of space by ostensibly leaving vast spaces uncovered and by transgressing or transcending territorial demarcations. In so doing, urbanity posits the unequal or world-hopping character of globalization as well as the local exclusion and expansion towards the non-urban. It thus allows the bridging of the (false?) local-global dichotomy, but also reaffirms inequalities on local and global scales. In this workshop, we will highlight “global cities” and “border towns” as two examples of both connecting and separating urbanities. Not only the urban spatialization between local and global, but also the methodological differences and the respective positionality (of the towns/cities and their research) vis-à-vis state power and world hegemony will be discussed.

Presentation 1: Paul Nugent (Edinburgh)
Presentation 2: David Bassens (Ghent)
Comment: Christof Parnreiter (Hamburg)

15.30 - 16.00 Coffee Break

16.00 - 17.00 Final Discussion