Southeast European Studies addresses key issues the EU is faced with, most importantly the fraught relations between the old and new member states, and the ‘peripheralization’ of large swaths of territory in the southeast of the continent. This development, whereby some ‘centres’ are complicit in producing forms of ‘backwardness’ elsewhere, is a key challenge of contemporary EU integration processes. Therefore, Southeastern Europe should be in the centre of attention when analysing ‘Europe’, the region being a laboratory of EU integration.

Peripheralization has led to geopolitical reorientations towards other centres of power, such as Russia, Turkey, and China. Seen from the European centre, Southeastern Europe may indeed be the periphery, but from an ‘off-centred’ perspective it is possible for actors in the region to identify alternative centres outside the EU which one can realign with. Located at the intersection of competing spheres of influence, the region has multiple ‘exits’ or ‘inroads’ into alternative spaces of identification and allegiance, which may compete with (or threaten) the European project. 

An ‘area’ should not be understood as a geographical container, but as a nodal point of translocal and transregional connections: they can be traced from concrete sites to spaces ‘elsewhere’, through multiple patterns and scales of connectivity. As part of our multi-scalar approach, we use our multidisciplinary expertise to analyse synergies between the different ‘scales’, from the local to the national to the regional to the global. 

An understanding of a geographical ‘area’ can only emerge when different disciplines are combined. In Regensburg our strength is the humanities: history, social anthropology, and linguistics. We emphasise grounded empirical research into historical and everyday realities, and argue that it is indispensable to take ‘decentred’ perspectives from the region seriously. We are open to forms of ‘local knowledge’, doing research on the region with the region. For this, knowledge of local languages and the acquisition of linguistic skills is indispensable.

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. In doing so, we aim to contribute to the reconstitution of Southeast European Studies as a modern area studies field.

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