Plea for further development of regional studies

On 11 and 12 March 2021, the German Association for Asian Studies (DGA) and the Alliance for Research on East Asia (AREA) organised an online conference on „Transnational Asian Studies – Multi-level Dynamics of Identity Formation.“ The director of the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) Prof. Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge attended the second day of the conference as a contributor to the panel entitled „Climate Change, Pandemic, Authoritarianism, De-Globalization and Response Options for Regional Studies“, which was conceptualised by Markus Taube (AREA).

The panel discussed the current international challenges and what influence they have on the tasks and implementation opportunities of regional studies. In addition to the other panelists, Prof. Dr. Christoph Antweiler (University of Bonn), Prof. Dr. Carmen Meinert (University of Bochum/ AREA) and Prof. Dr. Karen Shire (University of Duisburg Essen / AREA), the Director of DIE also gave an impulse lecture. Based on her work in the context of the BMBF joint project “Crossroads Asia and Marine Social and Cultural Studies”, Anna-Katharina Hornidge advocated for a further development of regional studies with regard to the following three elements. (A) Emancipative regional studies that center the empirically-based development of “medium-range concepts” (after Merton and Houben), explicitly focus on partnership approaches, and thus contribute methodologically and conceptually to a decolonisation of regional studies. (B) A rethinking of the “areas” to which regional studies refer. Here, she argued for understanding the sea and the social-cultural, economic, and political practices that socially constitute it as a research object and “area”. However, Hornidge argued, the same is true for virtual worlds, which could benefit from regional studies analyses characterised by cultural studies depth expertise and local language expertise. (c) Regional studies in inter- and transdisciplinary research contexts at the intersection of social, cultural and natural sciences. To the greatest extent possible, global challenges can only be addressed by combining these scientific disciplines. The Director of DIE sees a special role for regional studies in their treatment. Without the corresponding mutual historical, contemporary social, and cultural expertise as well as language competence, it is extremely limited to what extent the large inter- and transdisciplinary projects can be completed in ways that ensure a local fit of the produced knowledge, innovations, etc.

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