About

The project will strengthen Southeast European Studies in Regensburg, enhancing expertise at the University of Regensburg (UR) and the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (IOS), two institutions being at the forefront of Area Studies in Germany.

Even though being a minor or ‘rare’ subject, we argue that the region should be in the centre of attention when analysing ‘Europe’, being a laboratory of EU integration. Southeast European Studies addresses some of the key issues the EU is faced with, most importantly the fraught relations between centres and peripheries (the old and new member states), and the ‘peripheralization’ of large swaths of territory in the southeast of the EU. This has led to geopolitical reorientations towards other centres of power, like Russia, Turkey and China. Located at the intersection of competing spheres of influence, South-Eastern Europe has multiple ‘exits’ or ‘inroads’ into alternative spaces of identification and allegiance. Current research stresses these transnational entanglements: the region offers an excellent example of the various global and transregional connections that may compete with (or threaten) the European project. The history of the region has also been characterized by transregional interdependencies.

As with other ‘spatial’ objects of inquiry, in Area Studies, a better understanding of an ‘area’ can only emerge when different disciplines are combined. In Regensburg our strength is the humanities, that is, history, social anthropology, and linguistics. Besides emphasizing ‘grounded’ empirical research into historical and everyday realities, we argue that it is key to take ‘decentred’ critical perspectives from the region seriously, being open to forms of ‘local knowledge’. For this knowledge of languages of the region and acquisition of linguistic skills is indispensable.

Regensburg is one of the best locations to realize these ideas due to the amount of expertise and resources on site. Regensburg’s ambition is to become a centre for innovation in area studies, with a strong emphasis on empirical and ‘multi-scalar’ research, fitting the historical and new geopolitical developments engulfing the region. With the support of a coordinator position, the following measures are to be implemented:

  1. International and domestic cooperation: new partnerships with centres of expertise in other parts of the world (including Russia, Turkey and China). Establishing a biennial Forum, where researchers meet to debate current research trends.
  2. Mobilizing local knowledge: inviting academics from the region to teach, offering forms of support to young scholars, especially from the region.
  3. Enhancing teaching provisions: internationalising our teaching, using online platforms and adding language tuition in Albanian.
  4. Knowledge transfer: Engagement with broad academic and non-academic audiences, policy advice and collaborations with journalists, as well as a broad range of accessible publications (including ‘popular’ formats).

For the next seven years, the Volkswagen Foundation is going to support the Southeast European Studies at the UR and IOS as part of their programme “Weltwissen – Strukturelle Stärkung Kleiner Fächer” (transl.: “Global Knowledge – Structural Strengthening of Small Disciplines”) with up to 996.000 Euro.

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