Areas and Disciplines: Lessons from Internationalization Initiatives in the Humanities and Social Sciences in Germany

Areas and Disciplines: Lessons from Internationalization Initiatives in the Humanities and Social Sciences in Germany

Forum Transregionale Studien e.V.; Max Weber Stiftung - Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland
Vom - Bis
17.10.2013 - 19.10.2013
J. Meurer

In recent years the question of how to relate disciplinary and area-based knowledge in mutually beneficial ways has preoccupied scholars as well as academic administrators in many countries. Area specialists have contested the universalist assumptions prevalent in the social sciences; at the same time, globalization has challenged scholarly approaches practiced in area studies. In Germany, academia has also undergone substantial processes of reform and internationalization which have affected the humanities, social sciences and area studies in particular ways. As a result of those processes, concepts such as transregional studies, comparative area studies, global studies and postcolonial perspectives have become more prominent in the humanities and social sciences. Although some of these notions are often used interchangeably, the terminological plurality indicates divergent views of how to conceptualize research and teaching perspectives beyond static national or cultural frames. It is by convening this conference that the Max Weber Stiftung - Deutsche Geistes-wissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland and the FORUM TRANSREGIONALE STUDIEN seek to readdress the status of the humanities and social sciences in an increasingly globalized academic landscape.

Abetting these transformations in Germany are incentives such as the Exzellenzinitiative (Excellence Initiative, since 2005) or the special funding opportunities for area studies announced by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (German Ministry of Education and Research) in 2008 and 2011, along with funds for international cooperation available at the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) or other important entities in the field such as the VolkswagenStiftung or the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung. The Wissenschaftsrat (Council of Sciences and Humanities) has guided the process with extensive reports, such as its recommendations for the humanities and for area studies (both 2006). These documents, nonetheless, clearly indicate that inter-nationalization is not meant to level out methodological or linguistic diversity or specificity; nor are the humanities and social sciences to be understood as generators of “ready to use” and applied knowledge about remote areas of the world; rather, globalizing the humanities and social sciences should result in a sustainable pluralization of epistemic cultures and communities across and within disciplinary and political-territorial boundaries.

In 2009, the FORUM TRANSREGIONALE STUDIEN was founded as a platform to accompany the process of disciplinary globalization and to mediate progress in the debate. Prior to its foundation, a preceding project (Forschungsverbund Wege des Wissens: Transregionale Studien) had already hosted two conferences on the future of area studies in Germany (2005 and 2009). With this year’s conference the conveners hope to revitalize the debate that has become even more relevant in light of accelerating global mobility. The meeting will critically appraise the aforementioned changes in the humanities and social sciences as well as in area-studies departments. It aims at making an interim assessment of inter-nationalization efforts in universities and research institutes, and at examining the lessons which can be learned from past and ongoing experiences. It will also be the starting point for an annual conference series by the FORUM and the Max Weber Stiftung - Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland which shall establish a forum for experts from Germany and other countries to enter into regular dialogue on internationalization strategies in research and teaching. This year a special emphasis will be placed on debating the sustainability of previous and present efforts – for example by scrutinizing their impact on institutional politics and on university curricula in particular.

The conference is funded by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung and the Senatsverwaltung für Wirtschaft, Technologie und Forschung of the Land of Berlin. It is arranged in cooperation with the Musikinstrumenten-Museum Berlin and the Humboldt-Universität Berlin.



17 October 2013

Venue: Senatssaal, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

19:00 Welcoming Address
Jan-Hendrik Olbertz, President, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

19:30 Introduction
Andreas Eckert, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin / Forum Transregionale Studien
Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit, Friedrich Schlegel Graduiertenschule für literaturwissenschaftliche Studien, Freie Universität Berlin

Keynote Address
Sheldon Pollock, Columbia University, New York
“Philology and Freedom”



18 October 2013

Venue: Curt-Sachs-Saal, Musikinstrumenten-Museum Berlin

10:00 Welcoming Addresses

Heinz Duchhardt , Max Weber Stiftung - Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland
Andreas Eckert, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin/Forum Transregionale Studien

10:30 Panel 1: Thinking Transregional Studies
Chair: Sebastian Conrad, Freie Universität Berlin / Forum Transregionale Studien

This panel stresses the need for reconfigurations in the systematic disciplines with a view to contemporary knowledge production. It problematizes the relationship between systematic disciplines and area studies. It furthermore suggests that we reconsider different conceptualizations of transregional or global studies by asking such questions as: How can the intellectual potential of global comparison and area-based knowledge be fruitfully integrated into disciplinary frameworks? Has the incorporation of such perspectives into humanities and social-science departments been sustainable? Which research topics and formats have proven particularly suited for international collaboration? It is in this way that we will also try to trace how different conceptions of transregional or global studies have been institutionalized in the form of, for example, professorships, degree programs and research funding.

Engseng Ho, Duke University, Durham
Dhruv Raina, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Dominic Sachsenmaier, Jacobs University Bremen
Birgit Schäbler, Universität Erfurt

Lunch Break

13:45 Panel 2: Law as an Area and a Discipline
Chair: Alexandra Kemmerer, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin / RECHTSKULTUREN

Processes of internationalization in the practice of law have prompted demands for corresponding developments in the academic field. Due to the nature of the discipline’s history and purpose, law departments are often attached to national perspectives in studying and teaching their subject. This panel aims to address strategies for internationalizing the discipline at the level of research(ers) and teaching. It asks how legal scholars can participate in debates beyond national borders in a more visible manner. Furthermore, we would like to discuss in which way and to which extent an opening of the discipline to insights from neighboring fields such as history, anthropology, sociology, and area studies could beneficially contextualize disciplinary notions of law.

Thomas Duve, Max Planck Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte, Frankfurt a.M.
Morag Goodwin, Tilburg University
Christoph Möllers, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin/ RECHTSKULTUREN
Sundhya Pahuja, University of Melbourne

Coffee Break

16:00 Panel 3: Philology and Textual Practices
Chair: Friederike Pannewick, Philipps-Universität Marburg /
Forum Transregionale Studien (EUME)

This panel addresses the challenges for and the potential of philological traditions in the 21st century: How can we redefine the role of philology and other text-centered forms of scholarship whilst maintaining their specific character and long accumulated knowledge? How do potential rearrangements relate to the framework in which texts are studied, understood and taught? This panel reflects on whether and how concepts such as “comparative literature,” “world” or “global philology” can mediate between established academic traditions and present-day exigencies of knowledge production. Moreover, we would like to discuss how to reconcile the necessity of in-depth foreign-language training with the acquisition of comparative methodological skills.

Shamil Jeppie, University of Cape Town
Stefan Leder, Orient-Institut Beirut
Lydia Liu, Columbia University, New York
Sheldon Pollock, Columbia University, New York

17:45 Preliminary Conclusions
Birgit Meyer, Universiteit Utrecht / Forum Transregionale Studien

19 October 2013

Venue: Curt-Sachs-Saal, Musikinstrumenten-Museum Berlin

10:00 Panel 4: Art between History and Practice
Chair: Andreas Beyer, Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte Paris

Art history as a discipline has developed within a particular European context, yet with a claim for universality. This panel will be treating the conceptual and methodological re-framings that art history must undertake so as to free itself from the confines of traditional perspectives. It asks how art practices and concepts of the aesthetic from different areas of the world are interrelated; and, how such a pluralized vision of art history can be re-connected to the university and the museum.

Hannah Baader, Kunsthistorisches Institut Florenz / ART HISTORIES AND AESTHETIC PRACTICES
Mohamed Kamal Elshahed, New York University / EUME Fellow 2013/14
Monica Juneja, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Viola König, Ethnologisches Museum Berlin

Coffee Break

12:00 Panel 5: Doing Transregional Studies
Chair: Andreas Eckert, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin /
Forum Transregionale Studien

In this panel we would like to approach the lessons learned with a view to inter-nationalizing curricula and faculties. It asks to which extent we have been successful in intertwining area studies and disciplines. This question also applies to the composition of research projects. Which future avenues for cross-border research and academic exchange appear promising? What lessons can be learned from incentives such as the Exzellenz Initiative or the area-study funding in Germany and other countries?

Ulrike Freitag, Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin
Andreas Gestrich, Deutsches Historisches Institut London
Bert Hoffmann, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg
Matthias Midell, Universität Leipzig

Conference Venues:

17 October 2013
Keynote Lecture by Sheldon Pollock
Senatssaal, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Unter den Linden 6, 10117 Berlin (close to S/U Friedrichstraße)

18 – 19 October 2013
Conference “Areas and Disciplines”
Curt-Sachs-Saal, Musikinstrumenten-Museum Berlin
SIMPK, Tiergartenstr. 1, 10785 Berlin
Entrance: Ben-Gurion-Straße (close to S/U Potsdamer Platz)

Forum Transregionale Studien
Wallotstr. 14
14193 Berlin
Tel.: +49 (0)30-89 001 430

Max Weber Stiftung -
Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland
Rheinallee 6
53173 Bonn
Tel.: +49 (0)228-37 786 25


Georges Khalil

Wallotstraße 14, 14193 Berlin