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Current Projects

Dynamics in Inner World, External Context and Roles in Organizing World Politics

Funded by: Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) in Cooperation
Project leaders: Martin Koch (Bielefeld University) and Alexander Kuteynikov (St. Petersburg State University)

Project participants: Mathias Albert (Bielefeld University, Germany), Ekaterina Bliznetskaya (MGIMO University, Russia), Alexandra Kaasch (Bielefeld University, Germany), Innokentyi Karandashov (St Petersburg University, Russia), Ekaterina Kovtun (St Petersburg University, Russia), Maria Lagutina (St Petersburg University, Russia), Mariia Pishchikova (St Petersburg University, Russia), Detlef Sack (Bielefeld University, Germany), Alexander Sergunin (St Petersburg University, Russia) and Andreas Vasilache (Bielefeld University, Germany)


Project Duration: 07/2021-06/2024


Project Description:

Institutionalized intergovernmental cooperation - conceptualized here as world entities (WEs) - comes in various forms: it can be a formal cooperation established by an international agreement such in the case of an international governmental organization like the International Labour Organization (ILO); it can be an intergovernmental forum with a permanent secretariat such as the Arctic Council (AC); or it can be an informal cooperation where state representatives meet on a regular basis without a permanent secretariat such in the case of an interstate group like the G20. These examples are representing only three different forms from the large group of WEs. This project aims at developing a theory of WEs by analyzing three core dimensions: (i) the inner world comprises all operations and processes that take place in WEs; (ii) the external relations describe how WEs are embedded in their environment; and (iii) the contributions to organize world politics refer to those elements of WEs that establish a reference frame for other actors.

Analyzing these three dimensions, the project aims to measure and systemize the variety of WEs. We will scrutinize these dimensions in three different but interrelated research tasks. First, we measure the entire population of about 5,000 WEs and their various forms in order to generate a taxonomy of this class of organizational units. Second, we identify a sample of WEs and identify their generic and specific features due to create an empirically sound basis for the development of the theory of WEs. Third, the three WEs (ILO, AC and G20) will be studied in more depth focusing on their inner world, their relations with their external environment and their contributions to organize world politics.

As a result, we plan to get an explanatory model that will take into account all the main types of WEs and provide an understanding not only of their statics, but also of the dynamics and sociological aspects of their life, and their organizing role in the world political system.

To do so, we combine an open system approach on world organizations (Koch 2015) with the theoretical concepts of the dual nature of multilateral structures which are interpreted as organizational forms having two sides, unions of states and complexes of social groups (Kuteynikov 2012). Methodologically, we are creating a set of quantitative and qualitative methods tailored for a thorough analysis of intertwining WEs. Herewith, we aim to scrutinize the dynamics of the inner world, the relations with the external context and the roles WEs are playing in organizing world politics.

Koch, Martin (2015). World Organizations - (Re-)Conceptualizing International Organizations. World Political Science 11(1): 97-131.

Kuteynikov, Alexander (2012). International Intergovernmental Organisations: a Theoretical and Sociological Analyses. Saint Petersburg: St Petersburg State University.

“Backwardness” and “Indigenous Peoples”

Project E03 of the Collaborative Research Center 1288 Practices of Comparing. Ordering and changing the world

Funded by: German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG))

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Ulrike Davy

Doctoral Researcher: Julia Burova

Project Duration: 2021–2024


Project Description:

Human rights law promises equality before the law and equal protection by the law. When combating the idea of racial hierarchies, human rights law explicitly prohibits different treatment based on “race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin”, in particular, where different treatment impairs the enjoyment of rights on an equal footing with others. However, the emphasis on equal rights notwithstanding, human rights law also allows for “special measures” aimed at the “adequate advancement” of certain racial or ethnic groups, who are deemed ‘backward’ compared to the so-called advanced human races, for instance, the native population of non-European territories in contrast to the ‘civilized’ Europeans. And more recently, human rights law envisions rights tailored to respect and to promote the identity and the lifestyles of people deemed “indigenous”.

The project explores these varying concepts of equality and of racial discrimination. These concepts obviously draw on varying practices of comparing: What were the tertia that made lawmakers (firmly) believe that some people were ‘backward’ and in need of ‘advancement’, and what did ‘advancement’ entail? What kind of comparisons made lawmakers later replace the political goal of “advancement” by the political goal of “diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures”? How can we reconcile the idea of having special rights (with a view to advancement or with a view to securing diversity) with the general idea of equality before the law, which is often understood to mean having the same rights?

Roberto Nobili as Missionary Translator between Cultures, Religions and Institutions

Project in the SPP 2130 “Early Modern Translation Cultures (1450-1800)”

Funded by: German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG))

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Antje Flüchter

Doctoral Researcher: Guilia Nardini

Project Duration: 2018–2021, prolonged 2021-2024


Project Description:

During the first phase of our project, we developed a tool kit for cultural translation that operationalized the approaches acquired in translation studies in the study of cultural encounters and interactions. Giulia Nardini applied this concept to study two works by the Jesuit missionary Roberto Nobili (1577-1656): the Ñana Upadesam, a theological-catechetical text written in Tamil, not translated and hardly analysed so far and Informatio, a Latin treatise addressed to a European clerical audience. Antje Flüchter contextualized Nobili’s endeavour with Jesuit texts sent from other parts of the world and published for a European audience. On the basis of the results obtained during the first phase of the project, we want to expand our research parameters in two important ways in the second phase. First, on a methodological level, we want to integrate elements of practice theory into our analytical tool kit which will enable us to focus more on practices that constitute social structures and hierarchies. Second, we want to test our tool kit on additional texts. Nardini will focus on Tamil texts written by Henrique Henriques (1520-1600) for a South Indian audience and Portuguese texts written by Gonçalo Fernandes (1541-1619) for a European audience. In parallel, Flüchter will contextualise the Jesuits’ Indian experience by examining their published texts from Ethiopia and Northern America.

Research on the Political System, the Economy and Society in Central Asia and the Caucasus (Postdoctoral Fellowship Program)

Funded by: Volkswagen Foundation
Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Andreas Vasilache

Project Partner: TU Dortmund
Postdoctoral Researcher: Dr. Aziz Elmuradov
Research Assistant: Marie-Sophie Borchelt Camêlo, M.A.
Project Duration: 2019-2023

Project Description:

The Postdoctoral Fellowship Program “Institutional Change and Social Practice. Research on the Political System, the Economy and Society in Central Asia and the Caucasus” is implemented jointly by Bielefeld University and TU Dortmund University and funded by Volkswagen Foundation. In addition to supporting a total of eleven fellows and their research projects in Central Asia and the Caucasus, the project includes an academic and professionalization program to accompany the individual projects. Furthermore to its research orientation, the project aims to connect the diverse topics and approaches both between the fellows and with their German postdoc-tandem-partners. The project includes the organization of three international conferences that will be organized by the project partners in cooperation with the postdoctoral fellows.

Read more here.

Tabular comparison of performances between 1850 and 1980

Funded by: German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG))

Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Tobias Werron and Dr. Leopold Ringel

Post-Doctoral Researcher: Dr. Clelia Minnetian

Doctoral Researcher: Stefan Wilbers

Project Duration: 2019–2022


Project Description:

Companies, artists, sports clubs, hospitals, hotels, universities or countries: Today, all kinds of entities are being “ranked“ on a regular basis. Most of the literature focuses on rankings that emerged and proliferated since the 1990s. This neglects, however, that rankings have a long history that we need to understand in order to explain their rise in the last few decades. Our project therefore looks at the history of rankings in two fields – competitive sports and science/universities – between the mid-nineteenth century and around 1980. We conceptualize rankings as a modern practice of comparison that combines comparison of performances, quantification, visualization and publication. With this understanding in mind, we are particularly interested in three research questions: (1) Which rankings were produced and published during this period? (2) How were they discursively received and interpreted? (3) And how where they related to discourses on performance, competition, and transparency / publicity?

Practices of comparing in cross-cultural jurisprudence (17th–19th centuries)

Project B01 of the Collaborative Research Center 1288 Practices of Comparing. Ordering and changing the world

Funded by: German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG))

Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Antje Flüchter and Dr. Christina Brauner

Doctoral Researchers: Andreas Becker and Anna Dönecke

Project Duration: 2017–2020, prolonged 2021-2024


Project Description:

This first funding period project, headed by Antje Flüchter and Christina Brauner, is part of Bielefeld University’s Collaborative Research Centre on Practices of Comparison (SFB 1288 “Praktiken des Vergleichens”). It takes up two case studies pursued by two PhD candidates, Anna Dönecke and Andreas Becker. Focusing on jurisprudence in early modern contact zones, we explore the role practices of comparing played in cultural encounters, how such practices were transformed, and how they were appropriated by different actors. When temporary cultural encounters evolve into more permanent contact zones, rules must be established to handle conflicts and enable a working social order of everyday life. In such contexts, the act of comparing plays a central role – to make the unfamiliar familiar, to create categories in diversity, to draw boundaries but also to question these boundaries and earlier established perceptions. The field of jurisprudence provides illuminating insights into the complex interdependencies between practices of comparing and social dynamics: For instance, it allows to probe into the formation of new groups as they are typical of early modern contact zones, such as religious conversion and mixed marriages. Two PhD-candidates pursue this general set of questions in two in-depth case studies which focus on two different contact zones: Anna Dönecke explores institutions and practices of jurisprudence evolving in the French settlement of Pondichéry in India. Andreas Becker studies the role of jurisprudence and processes of group formation in the Swedish expansion to Lapland and in the Atlantic World.

The project sets out to tackle the following questions: How did different actors establish a basic comparability of differing norms, institutions and conceptions of justice? Which laws applied to new groups like convertes and descendants of mixed marriages? Did the simultaneous existence of multiple systems of law provide leeway for strategic action such as “forum shopping”? Practices of comparison in these contexts contribute to stabilize an existing order of things but also can help to question established boundaries and foster change.

The project pursues a long-term perspective and also bridges the traditional caesura between the early modern and modern period. This allows us, or so we hope, to reconstruct practices of comparing and notions of (in)comparability and the transformations they underwent in a long-term perspective. Not least, we set out to critically discuss if there is such a thing as a ‘modern’ mode of comparing.



  1. Recht, Ordnung, Diversität, 28.09.2017 – 30.09.2017 Bielefeld, in: H-Soz-Kult, 14.02.2018.
  2. Contact – Conquest – Colonization: Practices of Comparing between Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, from Antiquity to the Present. In: H-Soz-Kult, 04.09.2018,
  3. Concepts of Equality and their Limits – Critical Junctures in History and Law. In: H-Soz-Kult, 08.10.2019.
  4. Entrechtete Körper: Vergleichen – Urteilen – Normieren – Leben, 15.06.2020 – 16.06.2020 Online, in: H-Soz-Kult, 28.08.2020.


Project F05 of the Collaborative Research Center 1288 Practices of Comparing. Ordering and changing the world

Funded by: German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG))

Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Mathias Albert and Dr. Thomas Müller

Doctoral Researchers: Dorothée Grünholz and Nike Retzmann

Project Duration: 2021–2024


Project Description:

The sub-project deals with the competition between, and the combination of, various forms of power comparisons since the 1970s. Using the example of the transatlantic community of states, it traces how the development of comparative practices is shaped by trans- and international communities of practice. Two longitudinal studies reconstruct the development of discourses on international power changes and distributions in two North American (USA and Canada) and two Western European (Germany and Great Britain) states between 1970 and 2020. Two case studies demonstrate how shared practices of power comparison emerge within the framework of international institutions. The aim is to arrive at the first comprehensive reconstruction of how shared practices of power comparison emerge, change and develop policy-shaping effects through communities of practice.

Knowledge Production and Circulation

Funded by:

German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG))

Project Coordinator:

Prof. Dr. Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka, Bielefeld University

Post-Doctoral Researcher:

Dr. Eva Rozália Hölzle, Bielefeld University

Doctoral Researcher:

Anass Khayati, Bielefeld University

Project Partners: Dr. Noorman Abdullah, National University of Singapore, Prof. Dr. Claudia Derichs, HU Berlin, Prof. Dr. Riho Isaka, University of Tokyo, Prof. Dr. Joachim Kurtz, University Heidleberg, Prof. Dr. Kelvin Low, National University of Singapore, Prof. Dr. Dhruv Raina, Jawarhalal Nehru University, Prof. Dr. Brigitt Röttger-Rössler, FU Berlin, Irina Savu-Cristea, Doctoral Researcher, FU Berlin, Prof. Dr. Thomas Stodulka, FU Berlin, Dr. Ferdiansyah Thajib, KUNCI Study Forum and Collective

Project Description:

The network of scholars involved in the project “Shaping Asia: Knowledge Production and Circulation” understands Asia to be a region in which (post)colonial domination and the manifold ways in which it has been questioned and scrutinised are linked to the very nature of knowledge production and circulation – as it seeks, at the same time, to grasp how Asia is shaped in this process. In this Networking Initiative, we understand “Shaping Asia” as conscious efforts of different actors in Asia to reflect on “how bodies of knowledge are produced in persons and populations in the context of the social relations” (Barth 2002: 1). Furthermore, we aim to trace their attempts to uncover, support, and develop forms of knowledge considered to be relevant for being Asian. This project will not ignore the tacit ways of knowing and knowledge transmission that are carried out in everyday human actions. We give primacy, however, to conscious, reflexive dealings with knowledge in our quest to uncover how Asian actors seek to actively influence their sociality and culture.

Our reflection on knowledge production, circulation, and distribution across Asia and within and between epistemic communities is informed by the project’s quest to grasp and to do justice to the magnitude of knowledge production (while concentrating on specific topics), the synergies and clashes between communities of knowledge as well as the im/possibilities of translation between different realms of knowledge. This reflection is driven by the recognition of the importance that actors themselves attribute to knowledge production and dissemination as well as to the use of knowledge for different reasons and purposes. At the same time, it is propelled by the imperative to understand the reflexivity of actors in Asia as they consciously shape their worlds. But it should also bring about and stimulate academic (self-) reflexivity in the expansion of knowledge about societies and cultures in Asia. Of course, the limits of such endeavours are also very important. Given the magnitude and diversity of epistemic cultures, careful observations – requiring ethnographic skill and proficiency of language – will be needed to grasp forms of exchange and challenges to participative generation of knowledge and dialogue. Among the ‘burning issues’ to be explored are the relations between knowing and ignorance (see Kirsch and Dilley 2015: 6 on the general crisis of confidence in contemporary societies about what knowledge is), local knowledge and learning as well as the dynamics in knowledge hierarchies.

The project “Shaping Asia: Knowledge Production and Circulation” draws from three large areas of research while proposing novel avenues based on their strengths and addressing their shortcomings: (1) the postcolonial critique on the modalities of knowledge production in and about Asia; (2) the spread of ‘world culture’ leading to homogenisation (Krücken 2005), influenced by neoliberal forces and (3) the engagement with ‘indigenous’ or ‘local’ knowledge.

Read more here.

Moral Struggles and Politics of Care under Market Socialism

Funded by: The European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon research and innovation program (grant agreement No 803614)

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Minh T. N. Nguyen

Ethics Advisor: Prof. Hy Van Luong (University of Toronto)

Advisory Board:

  • Prof.Hy Van Luong (University of Toronto)
  • Prof. Tuan Anh Nguyen (Hanoi National University)
  • Prof. Shih-Jiun Shih (National Taiwan University)
  • Prof. Li Zhang (University of California, Davis)
  • Prof. Peiqin Zhou (University of Nanjing)
  • Prof. Yulin Zhang (University of Nanjing)

Project Team:

  • Prof. Dr. Minh Nguyen
  • Dr. Jingyu Mao
  • Dr. Jake Lin (associated project member)
  • Ngoc Luong
  • Lily Tian

Project Duration: 2019–2024


Project Description:

Emerging from several decades of socialist central planning, China and Vietnam have come to be known as the factories of the world. Lesser known is the fact that the millions of people staffing these factories are largely rural migrants, and even lesser known is that the welfare systems of these countries are unravelling like never before. Despite deepening privatization, public welfare programs have been expanding alongside diverse forms of non-state provisions. This research project comparatively examines the moral politics underlining the ways in which the migrant labour force is being cared for in the two countries by focusing on the welfare of the migrant factory workers and their families.

The emergence of political arenas and modes of observation in world society

Funded by: German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG))

Funding period:

1st funding period: 01 October 2017–31 March 2022

2nd funding period: 01 April 2022-30 September 2026

Principal investigators (as of 01 December 2021):

  • Prof. Dr. Mathias Albert (Speaker)
  • Prof. Dr. Ulrike Davy
  • Prof. Dr. Angelika Epple
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Faist
  • Prof. Dr. Alexandra Kaasch
  • PD Dr. Martin Koch
  • Prof. Dr. Franz Mayer
  • Prof. Dr. Christina Morina
  • Prof. Dr. Martin Petzke
  • Prof. Dr. Willibald Steinmetz
  • Prof. Dr. Holger Straßheim
  • Prof. Dr. Andreas Vasilache
  • Prof. Dr. Tobias Werron


Project Description:

The Research Training Group focuses on the emergence of world politics as a distinct field of the political embedded in a world society environment. Rather than reducing world politics and its history to a range of dominant organisational forms, such as nation-states or empires, and the relations between them, the group adopts a comprehensive perspective covering the processes and practices that underpin the emergence of world politics as a highly complex social realm. Accordingly, it builds on the expertise of different fields – International Relations, Sociology (world society theories), Global History, and International Law, in order to situate itself in, as well as contribute to, a fast-growing international research landscape of ‘global historical sociology’. Informed by a variety of disciplinary inputs, the group as a whole continues to apply what has proven to be a highly fruitful analytical heuristics, namely the distinction between modes of observation and modes of organisation as perspectives on linked but separate aspects of world political evolution. Reflecting the individual (post)doctoral research projects that the group has attracted during two out of a possible total of three application rounds, it has also specified two thematic fields within its research programme that will guide future collaborative efforts. These fields cover, firstly, world politics as a horizon of comparing that links geographically and socially distant structures and processes and, secondly, global models, ‘scripts’ and ‘blueprints’ of specific practices and actors in world politics.

With its research and qualification programme, the primary aim of the group remains to foster high-quality individual research outputs completed in a limited amount of time, to support junior researchers in the best ways possible in order to achieve this and to help them develop ‘research personalities’, as well as to produce collaborative output as a group. With a high degree of built-in internationality, the group seeks to increase its own international visibility as a group, and, more particularly, that of the individual (post)doctoral researchers who belong to it.


Read more here.

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