Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 1199: “Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition”

Type Collaborative Research Centre
Director(s) /
Matthias Middell
(Global and European Studies Institute, U Leipzig, Germany)
Principal Investigators Philip Clart (U Leipzig, Germany)
Ulf Engel (U Leipzig, Germany)
Jörg Gertel (U Leipzig, Germany)
Frank Hadler (GWZO at U Leipzig, Germany)
Adam Jones (U Leipzig, Germany)
Thilo Lang (Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde Leipzig, Germany)
Sebastian Lentz (Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde Leipzig, Germany)
Matthias Middell (U Leipzig, Germany)
Judith Miggelbrink (Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde Leipzig, Germany)
Maren Möhring (U Leipzig, Germany)
Jana Moser (Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde Leipzig, Germany)
Uwe Müller (GWZO at U Leipzig, Germany)
Gabriele Pisarz-Ramirez (U Leipzig, Germany)
Ursula Rao (U Leipzig, Germany)
Sarah Ruth Sippel (U Leipzig, Germany)
Stefan Troebst (GWZO at U Leipzig, Germany)
Ute Wardenga (U Leipzig, Germany)
Katja Werthmann (U Leipzig, Germany)
Heidrun Zinecker (U Leipzig, Germany)
Funding German Research Foundation (DFG)
Funding Term 2016–2020
Website Link

SFB Research Programme
Spatilization is a central dimension of social actions. Spaces are being made by people. The Collaborative Research Centre addresses what characterizes these spaces, how they relate to one another, and whether resulting spatial orders are becoming increasingly complex within the context of globalization processes.

We consider globalization not as a unilateral and natural process without alternatives that originates from the Global North and, from there, spreads to the rest of the world. Rather, we consider globally influential spatialization processes to be stemming from different world regions. In addition to the acceleration and compression of the dissolution of boundaries and entanglements, we are interested in the creation of orders through new spatializations as well as the actors advancing them.

The proposed concept of spatial formats (Raumformate) focuses on the result of spatial actions of different groups of actors, such as different scales of territories, networks, chains, enclaves, corridors, (special) zones, or the various indications of “virtual” and “transnational” spaces. Spatial orders (Raumordnungen) in turn are understood as being the result of multiple processes of spatialization of different groups of actors, which as a consequence lead to a distinct constellation of spatial formats.

Given the proliferation of the terminology for spatial formats, being seen as new or adapting to new conditions, the SFB develops a typology of those spatial formats that have emerged under the modern global condition. This typology will be used to create an empirically grounded narrative of the historical change of spatial orders since the 18th century. It is our goal to, firstly, examine the development of spatial formats together with related intentions, practices, and imaginations of different groups of actors (Section A projects). Secondly, we aim at understanding how these spatial formats are combined to form complex spatial orders and how this has changed historically (Section B projects). Thirdly, we investigate the visualization and imagination of already established as well as of alternative spatial formats and orders (Section C projects).

In this undertaking, the SFB relies on the knowledge of the particularly broad range of area studies at the University of Leipzig. These will be linked with the expertise of the fields of history and human geography as well as the systematic approach of the social and cultural sciences to create an interdisciplinary research context.

A01 – Maren Möhring – Cultural Entrepreneurs: Between Urban Mass Culture and Transnational Entanglements, 1800–1930

This project analyses cultural entrepreneurs as actors of entanglements within the context of globalization in the cultural industries of selected “second tier” places (Leipzig and Montreal) at the turn of the twentieth century. Within the project, cultural entrepreneurs – acting within dynamic and conflicting priorities of different spatial orders (urban settings, nations, culturally and economically defined greater regions, and transnational entanglements/networks) – are examined in their roles as important pioneers of modern mass culture, as economic actors, and as producers of culture. Through their business strategies and entertainment forms, they influence debates over and conflicts about different forms of socio-spatial identifications. By studying cultural entrepreneurs, we are able to empirically and conceptually capture the experimental implementation of spatial formats of social interactions under conditions of globalization.

A02 – Thilo Lang – Peripherally Global: World Market Leaders in Rural Areas


In debates on knowledge-based regional development, spatial proximity to innovative cooperation partners is considered to be a key competitive advantage for companies. Accordingly, regional policies and economic development in much of the world tend to support centralization. However, in Germany there are numerous companies that are world leaders in terms of technology or in a specific product segment, which have established themselves in peripheral areas. This project examines the global networks of these companies and the ways in which they produce transnational spaces. We concentrate on innovative processes that seem to be only partly territorially organized and, moreover, involve various ways of overcoming distances and producing linkages between places.

A03 – Philip Clart – Taiwanese Religious Communities and their Internationalization Strategies (guojihua) since the 1980s

This project examines Taiwanese communities that are creating new spatial formats through their missionary work. The headquarters of the religious organizations in Taiwan are producing transnational spaces through interactions with local actors across the world, which is revealed by the internationalization strategies in South Africa of Buddhist organizations as well as of the new religious movement Yiguandao. In analysing two case examples, the project explores the transnational organizational structures, the translation of doctrines and practices for other socio-cultural contexts, and the dynamics of central control and decentralization.

A04 – Heidrun Zinecker – Maras as Producers of Translocal Spaces of Violence in the Americas and Europe

The project examines the production of space by brutally violent youth gangs, known as maras, that are found in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and the US and are recently spreading throughout the Americas and Europe. Although they create transnational spaces through their migration between different locations, as a group of actors they are not primarily interested in spatial orders (unlike some guerillas). Rather, the spatial orders resulting from their activities are a by-product of their pursuit of other interests. Operating in an “external” space that is translocal, the “internal” space of maras is produced within the diasporic community, promising them protection as well as a sense of home and belonging.

A05 – Ursula Rao – The Spatial Impact of Microfinance Practices in India

This anthropological project examines the space-making effect of recent microfinance initiatives in India. Microfinance brings together – in assemblages – global development agents, networks of banks and transnational technology developers, the Indian nation state, and people in local networks of the informal economy. We will investigate social practices of space making in three arenas: the practices of microsaving in Indian slums; select business correspondents and NGOs that act as intermediaries between banks and customers; and banks, microlenders, and politicians that regulate microfinance, operationalize practices, and formulate concrete offers.

B01 – Matthias Middell – Between Reforming the Empire and Nation State Territorialization: the Transatlantic Cycle of Revolution 1770–1830

This project examines the reorganization of space during the French Revolution. Firstly, we ask what knowledge the revolutionary actors referred to regarding the fundamental transformation of social relations and the reorganization of spatial formats, including the transformation of the entire spatial order of the French Empire. Secondly, we ask how this particular repertoire was taken up in further revolutions on both sides of the Atlantic until the 1820s. This is connected to the question concerning the role global interdependencies played in the realignment of spatialization processes at the turn of the nineteenth century.

B02 – Adam Jones – “Berliner Africa” as a Framework for Afro-European Entangled Histories and Spatial Orders

The agreements decided at the Berlin Conference of 1884/85 stipulated the construction of a free trade area, which is used here as a starting point for the analysis of an Afro-European entangled history. The project will analyse the development of a specific confrontational spatial order during the age of high imperialism and modern colonialism that followed the Berlin Conference. We therefore focus on political spaces and territorializations, religious networks and spheres of influence, trade networks and transport connections, as well as a shared history of violence in “Berliner Africa”.

B03 – Frank Hadler, Uwe Müller, Stefan Troebst - East-South Relations during the Global Cold War: Economic Activities and Area Studies Interests of East Central European CMEA Countries in Africa

This project analyses the economic policy of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) towards North Africa, agricultural cooperation between Bulgaria and sub-Saharan Africa, and African studies research in East Central Europe. Through this lens, we ask which spatial formats were relevant to bloc formation during the Cold War, how this affected the relations between state socialist countries and the so-called Third World, and how the Third World was affected by and influenced this process. This allows us (1) to analyse the centralizing and centrifugal tendencies in the eastern bloc, in particular with regard to the East Central European states; (2) to search for new global interdependencies as a result of both bloc formation and decolonization; and (3) to follow the debates regarding different development paths and related spatial orders under new conditions of globalization.

B04 – Heidrun Zinecker – Remittances and a Transnational Moral Economy: El Salvador, Togo and the Philippines in a Comparative Perspective

This project examines through three case studies the origin and character of economic areas significantly affected by remittances: El Salvador and the US; Togo and France; and the Philippines and the US. Our starting point is a dilemma not yet recognized as a spatial phenomenon: In order to ensure regular capital flows between migrants and their families still in the home country, they transnationalize what were formally nationally organized economic territories in the Global South. However, in order to guarantee the regular flow of money, migrants are compelled to continuously send money. The response to this dilemma is the establishment of moral economies – understood as arenas in which transnational economic areas are negotiated – that link migrants to their families and home countries through interconnected spaces of local, translocal, and transnational actions.

B05 – Judith Miggelbrink – Border Transcending Assemblages of Medical Practices

This project investigates cross-border medical practices as an effect of Europeanization. It is planned to carry out two case studies dedicated to the provision and usage of cross-border medical care as well as to the conflictive regulations and demands for organ and tissue transplants. The main objective is to enquire into the role of strategic and tactical spatializations by the means of transnational assemblages of medical practices by different (groups of) actors. The supply and the usage of cross-border therapeutic services transcend the bio-political order established by national regulations in European welfare states and provoke dialectic processes of de- and reterritorialization. These de- and reterritorializations imply the (re)production of place, scale, networks, and territories while emerging – that is our hypothesis – through multiple individual medical care practices and demands. Therefore, their reconstruction will be the main target of our research.

B06 – Katja Werthmann – Gold Mining and New Regulations of (Sub)National Spaces in Africa

The growing demand for gold, resulting from the recent global financial crisis, has led various stakeholders to engage with new spatial formats and to transform the spatial orders in gold-producing countries as they adjust to new market conditions. Extractive enclaves compete with other spatial formats such as chiefdoms, municipalities, nation states, and transnational organizations. We hypothesize that the agency of Africans to shape this process and regulate the globally organized capital has increased. They act in varied ways, for example, by mobilizing globally circulating ideas concerning development, resource management, and rights; strategically networking with transnational or non-governmental organizations; or resorting to violence on the ground. This anthropological project compares these processes in Burkina Faso and Mali.

B07 – Ulf Engel – “New regionalisms” and Violent Conflicts in Africa: The Politics of the AU and ECOWAS in Mali and Guinea-Bissau

This project aims at reconstructing how the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) attempt to regain sovereignty that their own member states’ lost during processes of violent deterritorialization in the recent political crises in Mali and Guinea-Bissau. The so-called new regionalisms are regarded as promising projects designed by collective security actors that can supplement, if not replace, the increasingly undermined sovereignty of individual state actors. Regionalism develops not only in cooperation but also partly in conflictive confrontation with non-African actors, mainly France, the United States, and the United Nations. At the same time, we ask how these sovereignty strategies relate to current processes of globalization in the trans-Saharan space, such as militant Jihadism; transnational drug economies; the trafficking of people and the smuggling of cars, weapons, and drugs between West African and Europe; and the global “war on terror”.

B08 – Jörg Gertel – Spatial Orders of Hunger: Food Insecurity in North Africa

Ever since the combination of the global food price crises (2007/08; 2010/11) with the international financial crisis, the power to prevent urban food insecurity, especially in North Africa, has no longer been in the hands of national governments alone. Globalization processes in the world food system (corporate control, financialization, land grabbing, etc.) directly influence household income, thereby affecting spatial reordering – that is to say, local spaces of hunger as well as spaces for the production of, protest against, and involvement with hunger – which often bypass the state. These new social landscapes emerge from territories as well as through networks and discourses. This project investigates the transformation of spaces of hunger in North Africa since the Arab Spring.

C01 – Ute Wardenga – “Our Field is the World”: An International Comparison of Geographical Societies 1821–1914

During the “long” nineteenth century, geographical societies contributed significantly to spatialization processes by reacting in varied ways to conditions of globalization. They advanced geographical research (by way of expeditions, documentation, and visualization) and, through their imagination, conveyed and linked new geospatial knowledge. This project studies the history of science while developing a global typology of geographical societies active from 1821 to 1914. We examine the effectiveness of these societies in generating and exchanging spatial knowledge, as well as their power to validate, legitimize, and disseminate certain spatial formats and spatial orders.

C02 – Gabriele Pisarz-Ramirez – Spatial Fictions: (Re)Imaginations of Nationality in the Southern and Western Peripheries of the 19th-century United States

This project examines the discursive (re)imaginations of relevant space in nineteenth-century American culture and literature. Canonized patterns of spatialization in American national history are linked to central spatial concepts such as the frontier and the “errand into the wilderness” (i.e., the settlement and civilization of the “wilderness” on an East-West geographical axis). These concepts were linked to the concept of “manifest destiny” as a rhetorical marker considered emblematic of nineteenth-century dominant ideology. We depart from this view and start from the hypothesis that the transition from the colonial situation to national independence as well as the consolidation and expansion of the nation during the nineteenth century is accompanied by different and conflicting imaginations of spatial formats. Particularly in the yet unstable and mobile southern and western peripheries of the nation, the concept of manifest destiny collided with the topographical, social, economic, and cultural realities of the border regions.

C04 – Sarah Ruth Sippel – Land Imaginations: The Repositioning of Farming, Productivity, and Sovereignty in Australia

The project investigates imaginations of the use of land as a resource as expressed by different actors while analysing the spatial orders resulting from practices based upon these imaginations. Land is multidimensional. It symbolizes community, memory, heritage, and identity as well as conquest, dispossession, and expulsion. Land is productive and is thus directly linked to our survival. The way in which land is imagined has direct consequences for social cooperation and cohesion. Land has increasingly been a focal point of recent discussions on climate change, the growing world population, and the multiple food crises. Land is thereby considered as the last frontier in the rush for vanishing, finite resources and, as a consequence, is also a lucrative financial asset. Through the lens of Australia’s increasing agricultural ties to the Gulf States and China, this project examines the diverse and sometimes conflicting notions of land and agriculture in a global context.

C05 – Jana Moser, Sebastian Lentz – Maps of Globalization: The Production and the Visualization of Spatial Knowledge

Maps are used all over the world as a means of not only communicating information and knowledge but also imagination. As such, they also convey perceptions of “globalization”. Yet, very few maps or other graphical representations of “globalization” are distributed worldwide. This project examines the production and reproduction of perceptions and knowledge about “globalization” through different visualizations. For this purpose, we analyse (carto)graphical visualizations from the 1860s until today. The authors or users of these visualizations themselves claim to depict concepts, states, or processes initially of globality and later of globalization. Therefore, our project analyses the languages and visualisation techniques used in creating maps together with the expressed as well as the absent spatial formats and/or spatial orders.

International Research Training Group: IGK – Ulf Engel, Heidrun Zinecker

We will set up an integrated research training group (IGK) in order to train young researchers in the SFB, which will be seamlessly connected to the already existing doctoral training programme in the Research Academy of the University of Leipzig. The IGK will bring together the independent research activities of the doctoral candidates with the training modules of the SFB and the Leipzig Graduate School Global and Area Studies. Together with the Graduate School, the IGK will organize research seminars, summer and winter schools, as well as thorough method training and progress reviews.

The training supports the working programme of the SFB by combining an international outlook with an interdisciplinary approach to the study of globalization. The IGK thereby addresses specific challenges and contradictions young researchers face in their studies and projects. On the one hand, they need to anchor themselves in an academic career within a certain discipline, and, on the other hand, study problems that require a transdisciplinary or postdisciplinary approach. In independently organized workshops, the young researchers will establish their own networks and research environments.

Z-Project – Matthias Middell

The Z-Project, first and foremost, brings together all administrative activities carried out by the subprojects through, among others, a weekly colloquium, thematic research groups each connected to a series of workshops, the SFB annual conferences, the guest researcher programme, and participation in conferences. Secondly, a postdoc project, “Spatial Formats and Spatial Orders: Typology and Historical Narrative”, is embedded within the Z-Project. This postdoc project deals with the historiographical background and theoretical foundations of the SFB project as a whole while allowing for the discussion of theoretical reflections between the subprojects. The goals are to establish the concept of spatial formats in general, extending beyond numerous disciplinary and theoretical debates; to historically reconstruct past observations of new formats of spatialization and their depiction as relevant spatial formats; to study endeavours that illustrate spatial formats concisely through maps and other forms of visualization; and to analyse contemporary geopolitical discussions regarding the possible solidification of a (new) long-term and stable spatial order.