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It is a sad occasion which currently reminds us of questions about large-distance solidarity, transnational communities and commitment – topics which the workshop Mobility and Civil Society: How Social Commitment Takes Place addresses at the University Freiburg, Germany, in December.
During the last weeks, the second largest industrial tragedy in history has raised public awareness and debate about global inequality of international labor protection once again. The Rana Plaza complex close to Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed on April 24. As the rescue work around the former Tung Hai garment factory is still not completed, the reported death toll moves up to around a thousand people. Yesterday, eight people died in another fire in a garment factory in Dhaka.
This post is provided by guest blogger André Förster who studies the Masters program “Sociology and empirical social Research” at the University of Cologne. Alongside his studies, he works as a student assistant at gesis – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Cologne.
Mark R. Beissinger, 2002: Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
In this important book Mark R. Beissinger, director of the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) and former professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison sets out to explain how the collapse of the Soviet State became viewed from the impossible to the inevitable within only a few years. While many studies refer to the inherent logic of the communist system as the main reason for its disintegration, Beissinger highlights the importance of nationalist events that took place during the years 1987 to 1991. Based on rich quantitative and qualitative data, the author argues that the tidal impact of these demonstration and protest events and their cross-country influence shaped a phase of history, in which institutions were changed not as the result of an inherent logic, but rather through the whole process itself.
Beissinger’s book offers a very productive combination of transnational and comparative sociological analysis. In the following review, I will focus on the second and fifth chapter of the book, in which Beissinger explains how the transnational glasnost tide of nationalism evolved and why some movements of nationalism succeded while others failed. On the basis of Beissinger’s analysis I will show that the development and the success of nationalist movements can be explained from a transnational perspective, whereas the failure of movements can rather be explained from a comparative view. Read the rest of this entry »
Last semester I taught a class on “Comparative and transnational analysis of contemporary societies” for master’s and doctoral students at the University of Cologne. The aim of the course was to familiarize students with key approaches in comparative-historical social and political analysis, major critiques, and alternative approaches of world society and transnational analysis. We started with the now well-known critique that comparative-historical analysis often falls victim to “methodological nationalism” because it all too frequently assumes society to be bounded by the nation-state. In consequence, comparative-historical analysis often ignores cross-border social relations and horizons of actions, emerging from increasing cross-border flows of people, goods and cultures, transnational and global organizations, networks and communities, as well as transnational institution building.
We started with the sociological classics of whom many considered the comparative method as a key heuristic of social and political analysis. From that we moved on to post-World War II sociological analysis, world systems theory and the world society approach. Empirical illustrations covered issues such as state building, social classes and inequality, migration and diaspora communities, transnational movements, cross-border policy networks and the Europeanisation of welfare institutions.
Interestingly enough, we discovered that even within transnational analysis focusing on networks, diffusion or multi-level interactions, the comparative method does still have an important role to play. Going back to the classics, we found intriguing combinations of comparison and diffusion analysis in Tocqueville’s and Weber’s work. More contemporary critical approaches, such as world systems theory and world society theory, continue to use country comparison as a reference point. This led us to the conclusion that the comparative method is still very valuable but needs to be adapted and combined with other methodological approaches such as network analysis, process tracing or sequence analysis to encompass the transnational and global realities of contemporary societies. Read the rest of this entry »
Research on racism has mostly focused on territorial states and its politics, claims a recent call for papers just published by Gerhard Wolf in the forum of H-Soz-Kult. However, the phenomenon itself is clearly not bound to territorial borders.
A two day workshop at the University of Sussex titled “Everyday Racism in Transnational Perspective” attempts to widen the scientific angle of vision on the radical construction of race. Suggested topics of workshop contributions include, inter alia, racism and the marketplace, pop culture, religion, family or education.
The workshop takes place from October 31 to November 1, 2013. Deadline for applications is April 30.
Scholars engaged in this topic may also be interested in an older post about the Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies’ call for papers on fascism as a transnational concern – although the two phenomena are distinct.
The pope is a transnational actor ex officio. He fills the highest position in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church which makes him: head of a state, head of an NGO-like organization, head of a huge religious organization, and spiritual leader of a transnational community.
However, the current discourses on the election of a new pope reveal that the affair has more layers than the universal doctrine of the church suggests. Discussions on ‘papapile’ cardinals included strong national allocations. Furthermore, focusing on internal challenges of the organization belittled the external relevance of the decision and the pope’s role as an advocate. With this blog, I want to shed light on those different dimensions of papacy and the Roman Catholic Church against the backdrop of the recent election of Franciscus I.
What the pope is and what he is not
Of course, the pope is the absolute head of a state. Since the Lateran Treaty in 1929, the Vatican is a sovereign state accepted in the international community. The pope is part of political struggles. However, he is no usual head of state. As a non-member permanent observer state since 1964, the Vatican representative has no right to vote at the United Nations (although all other rights of full membership were granted in 2004).
Analytically, the Roman Catholic Church is maybe best described as a unique hybrid on the world stage with state and non-governmental characteristics.
The Church today regards Vatican City as part of the infrastructure for carrying out its true mission. In the language of international relations, the Church understands itself as an NGO, and it additionally employs the benefits of sovereign status in the service of its advocacy interest. (Ferrari 2006: 40)
Two summer schools will address problems of transnational research with a long term perspective:
The CENDARI Summer School “Historical Sources & Transnational Approaches to European History”, 22 -26 July 2013, in Florence, Italy, and the 3rd Doctoral Summer School “Between International, Transnational and Global History: Information Technologies at Borders, 19th-21st C.”, 23-25 September 2013, in Pleumeur-Bodou, France.
Sessions will apply the concept of ‘transnational moments’ to examine ways in which historical research is complicated by the nature of material records of the past. The Summer School will provide a context for the various collections-level challenges to transnational history, such as how to identify sources that have become ‘hidden’ or lost through accidents of history. (source)
Participants will have the chance to learn about the project CENDARI (Collaborative European Digital Archive Infrastructure) which is a collaboration of computer experts and historians integrating digital archives to facilitate science.
The summer school in Pleumeur-Bodou, on the other hand, attempts to overcome methodological nationalism in the study of the globalization of communications. Both summer schools offer opportunities to present one’s own research.
Deadlines for applications:
CENDARI Summer School, Florence: April 15, 2013
Doctoral Summer School, Pleumeur-Bodou: April 26, 2013
I have always found it difficult to understand how nationalists can identify with each other across borders. But of course the oxymoron of “transnational fascism” is not just empty rhetoric, but real. Just recently, for example, German media reported on the Greek party Chrysi Avgi’s contact with German right-wing groups like the National Democratic Party (NPD) of Germany – for articles in German click here or here.
The open access Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies has issued a call for papers on fascism as a transnational phenomenon. Both theoretical and empirical contributions are welcomed. The editor-in-chief Madelon de Keizer is a historian, but the call explicitly invites social and political scientists to contribute to the volume to be published in October. The deadline is June 1, 2013.
The holiday season seems a good moment to explore the contradictory nature of Christmas as a holiday that has become nearly globally observed while at the same time still being considered deeply nationally entrenched in many countries. Take Germany, for example: Considered as the homeland of Weihnachtsstimmung (Christmas mood), Christmas trees and Christmas markets, few would doubt that there is something a like a really true deutsche Weihnacht. Across the Atlantic, Americans equally claim to have their American Christmas, which, by the way, is the only federal holiday in the United States with a religious connection. Yet, celebrating Christmas has also an inherent transcendental dimension that goes beyond national borders – no matter whether people observe it as a religious or secular holiday.
To better understand the contradictory global and national character of Christmas, it is useful to go back to the long 19th century in which the modern Christmas was re-invented in a series of developments. During this period, Christmas celebrations became increasingly linked to national sentiments but they were also shaped by a multitude of imagined cultural encounters and transfers between countries. Building on the abundant scholarly literature on the history of Christmas, this blog post aims to sketch some developments which had a lasting impact on modern Christmas as it is familiar to us today. In particular, it draws on the wonderfully detailed books of Joe Perry and Stephen Nissenbaum, as well as an article by Neil Amstrong (references see below).
CRESC, the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change, is a well-known institution for many working on finance in sociology and political science, as well as researchers in cultural and media politics. By uniquely bringing together researchers from these fields, its annual conference in Manchester is an inspirational forum for unorthodox interdisciplinary exchange, without the numbing genericity of academic mega-conferences.
The theme chosen for this year’s conference (5-7 September) proved an excellent basis for taking stock of economies and societies in crisis: “Promises“. One striking feature of this conference was the presence of journalists, NGO representatives, and professionals like asset managers (as spectators and presenters) alongside academics, which added diverse perspectives and precluded overly technical/theoretical debates. (Other conferences may follow this good example.) Being spoiled for choice among the many panels, I mostly attended the ones on finance, missing the more culture-heavy sessions. Therefore, the three observations which impressed themselves upon me relate to the more political-economic questions in coming to grips with the present state of capitalism. Three insights from Manchester:
1. Financialisation is so pervasive and wide, many facets are only now being explored. Read the rest of this entry »