Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies

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Transatlantic Entanglements and Comparisons

This study group starts from the idea that the Atlantic world, from the colonial into the contemporary era, has played a significant role in creating, shaping and structuring Western modernity and postmodernity. A kind of global ‘fabric’ has been woven, through ever more intricate mechanisms and patterns, creating ‘transatlantic’ connections and entanglements. The study group’s members will explore these links as an important aspect of their research, either by making comparisons, or by tracing entanglements in terms of the various personal and institutional, political, economic, cultural, technological and infrastructural connections that exist and continue to develop between both sides of the Atlantic. Apart from exploring these in their paradoxical complexity, we will assess the usefulness and the epistemological value of such a ‘transatlantic’ perspective for the study of European and American societies.

Under the auspices of the Cold War, European-American relations were framed as ‘Trans-Atlantic Relations’. The term essentially referred to the political relationship between the United States and Western Europe (with Canada playing some subordinate role), and it was a history of states and statesmen, of alliance systems and power relationships, of crises and confrontations in the context of the Cold War.
Since this era came to an end, ‘European-American Relations’ has replaced the concept of ‘Trans-Atlantic Relations’, transforming the field resulting in a number of new approaches. New International History, for example, has worked to overcome the focus on states and statesmen, widening the perspective to include non-state actors as carriers and shapers of European-American relations, such as businessmen and migrants, traveler and tourists, ‘transporting’ a multitude of goods, values, concepts and ideas across the ocean. Second, ‘translocal’ and ‘transnational’ approaches have shifted attention to various links, networks and entanglements below and beyond the scale of the nation-state.
Migration scholars have developed concepts such as ‘transmigration’ and ‘transnational social spaces’ to come to grips with the complex relationships between host, destination and transit countries which migrants create in the process of their displacement. Atlantic History, yet another paradigm, looks at how Western Europe, Western Africa, South- and North America have been implicated in multi-directional interactions from the period of European expansion onwards. Finally, the older debate on the ‘Americanization’ of Europe has now morphed into a discussion about the ‘Westernization’ of both the United States and Western Europe in multi-directional and -dimensional processes of exchange and transfer.
With a few exceptions, the way in which Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Latin America positioned themselves in relation to these Atlantic relations has remained under-researched. This will be one of the study group’s objectives: to explore how these regions were implicated in, and reacted to these processes, either through ‘postcolonial’ or ‘post-imperial’ responses. The insights gained from taking this kind of angle may modify the various conceptual and theoretical offerings currently circulating. We will reflect on whether ‘comparison’ – between what is understood as discrete entities – continues to be a viable research strategy in a world that is interconnected, or whether we better shift the focus to ‘entanglements’. One of the aims of the study group will be to empirically flesh out and conceptually define these ‘entanglements’, in terms of spatial connections, economic exchange, telecommunication, media, knowledge production and transfer, shared practices, institutions, technologies and infrastructures.

Group Leaders:

Members and Projects:

  • Cornelius Merz, M.A.
    Exploring identity and belonging through spatial relations - a comparative study of Cleveland and Leipzig, 1890-1930
  • Daniela Weinbach, M.A.
    Transnationale Film-Remakes: Zwischen Interkulturalität und universeller Verständlichkeit
  • Efthalia Prokopiou, M.A.
    Notions of Home in the Far Right “White Genocide” Narrative. A Multinational and Multilingual Approach to Contemporary Far Right Self-Representations in Europe and the Americas
  • Igor Stipić, M.A.
    Who speaks the nation-state?: Hegemonic structures, subaltern pedagogies, and fractured community in Bosnia and Chile
  • Jon Matlack, M.A.
    Maneuvering towards ‘The West’: U.S. Army-Bundeswehr joint War Games as Conduit for Western Identity Formation
  • Nargiza Kilichova, M.A.
    International democracy and rule of law promotion in Central Asia and South Caucasus – Places and Spaces of Struggle
  • Vita Zelenska, M.A.
    What does it mean to be a refugee? Sites of knowledge production and their asymmetrical entanglements