Research Projects

Prof. Dr. Sven Reichardt

Global Fascist Networks (1920s - 1950s)

This project takes the three empires of the Axis – Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan, and the German Third Reich – in order to examine their interconnections from a global perspective, both from centre to centre and through their imperial peripheries. By focussing on networks of what we call ‘fascist brokers’, we explore the specificity – and originality – of the multipolar connectivity between the centres and peripheries of these imperial structures as they came to challenge a global order dominated by the western imperial powers.

This relational perspective towards fascism will lead to a new conceptual framework, decentring the core countries of fascism and the concepts of ‘Europeanness’ that dominate conventional comparative approaches. The global networks associated with the imperial expansion of fascism include the institutions and micro powers involved in circulation, condensation and implementation that constitute the asymmetrical power relations among the actors. Rather than assuming that the borderland exchanges in the Near and Middle East, eastern Europe or Asian and Pacific regions were imposed from the fascist centres, GloFaNet will focus on borderlands as laboratories for indigenous innovations, creative adaptations and multidirectional flows between periphery and centre. We will analyse the imperial interconnectivity, the fluidity of the processes by which fascist imperial regimes connected with one another and engaged their regional peripheries from the end of World War I to 1945.

For the first time, we are taking the borderlands as meaningful units for geopolitical connectivity with the fascist core empires. This innovative project is dedicated to studying the heretofore scarcely researched patterns of influence and resistence, pressures, challenges and rivalries, competition, selective borrowings, misreadings and wishful thinking in a multipolar web of interactions and socio-political brokerage between fascist centres and peripheries.

Knowledge Practices of Social Movements

Social movements identify and discover new forms of knowledge, they produce knowledge and generate alternative epistemologies. Social movements popularize knowledge and challenge hegemonic structures through subversive “counter-knowledge”. They use and criticize scientific expertise and generate new scientific trends – in short: knowledge is of central importance for the constitution, self-understanding, political agitation and the effects of social movements.

A group of scientists from history, sociology, ethnology, law, media studies and political science at the University of Konstanz deal with questions about forms of knowledge in social movements. Following a successful interdisciplinary workshop in October 2019 we plan to institutionalize a third-party funded research group.

The aim is to understand the creation and formation of movement knowledge, the circulation, communication and dissemination, as well as the effects and reception of mobilized “counter-knowledge”. The understanding of social movements as cultures of knowledge is based on the existence of various cognitive technologies that construct knowledge in multiple ways, produce cultures as forms of knowledge with symbolic-expressive components and challenge dominant knowledge regimes.

Further Information

Political Ecology

The concept of “Political Ecology” focuses on power relations that intersect and affect the access to natural resources to reveal disparities and injustices in the distribution of costs and benefits. “[A]ny tug on the strands of the global web of human-environment linkages reverberates throughout the system as a whole” (Paul Robbins), affecting the political, social, and economic spheres. This inevitably produces winners and losers and shapes power relations within human societies.

Taking this understanding of ecology as a starting point, this interdisciplinary project aims to explore the mutual relationships among political, economic and social action; discourses and imaginaries of the natural environment; and environmental transformations in the 19th and 20th century. By addressing diverse relations that shaped the biophysical environment and ecosystems on a global scale, we intend to connect research projects that address environmental knowledge as a politically contested field in global, imperial and (post)colonial studies.

The mid-term aim of the project is to bring together a diverse group of scholars interested in questions about environment and society to build a sustainable network as a base for future collaboration, particularly within the region of southern Germany and Switzerland.

Dr. Daniel Rothenburg

Geschichte der Genossenschaftsbewegung, England – Deutschland – Palästina (1830⎼1930)

In meinem Habilitationsprojekt untersuche ich die Genossenschaftsbewegung im 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhundert in verflechtungsgeschichtlicher und transnationaler Perspektive. Genossenschaften  als demokratisch organisierte Wirtschaftsbetriebe, die dem Wohl ihrer Mitglieder dienen sollten, statt  Profit  zu  erwirtschaften,  wurden  (und  werden)  als  liberales  Korrektiv  in  einer Marktwirtschaft, als Basis für utopische Lebensgemeinschaften, als Mittel zur Kolonisation oder gar als Weg in eine Gemeinwirtschaft verstanden, um den Kapitalismus zu überwinden.
Die Genossenschaftsidee wird als eine dynamische konzeptualisiert, die in verschiedensten Kontexten adaptiert werden konnte, um als ähnlich erkannte Probleme zu lösen. Durch den mikrohistorischen Blick auf die Akteure der transnationalen Verflechtung einerseits und der lokalen Anwendung andererseits wird das Projekt zuletzt zu einer Gesellschaftsgeschichte handlungsleitender Ideen, indem es die soziale Zusammensetzung der untersuchten Genossenschaften und deren Ziele wie auch die materiellen Voraussetzungen des Austauschs mit Gleichgesinnten untersucht.
Es  umfasst  drei  Fallstudien,  die  zugleich  unterschiedliche  Situationen und Protagonist:innen repräsentieren. Die erste widmet sich der Rochdale-Bewegung in Manchester seit den 1830er Jahren, die zweite den Schulze-Delitzschen und Raiffeisen-Kreditgenossenschaften sowie den Sozialdemokrat:innen und  ihren Produktions- und  Konsumgenossenschaften seit den 1860ern, sowie drittens den Genossenschaftsgründungen der deutschen Zionist:innen in Palästina im frühen 20. Jahrhundert unter den Bedingungen geschlossener, utopischer Lebensgemeinschaften.

Dr. Nikolai Wehrs

Bureaucratic Elites in the Age of Mass Democracy - The Civil Service and his Role in the British Political Culture during the Twentieth Century

The project examines the role of the United Kingdom´s Home Civil Service within the British political culture in the 20th Century. On the basis of this it aims to analyse the continuity and change in the influence of professional bureaucratic elites on plitical decision-making processes and the forming of the political will, given the rise of political equality and mass participation in western liberal democratics since the World War One. The focus is on the civil service´s administrative grades, i.e. the higher civil servants on the top of the British government´s departments ("Whitehall").

As a permanent government service the civil service and its unelected officials are officially obliged to keep themselves above party lines and to give the government of the day strictly non-commmitted matter-of-fact advice only. But nonetheless the civil service is rumoured to hold an actually strong influence on the political decision-making of the government. After all, his senior officials inevitably posses almost always much more government experience than their frequently rotated ministers. The project examines the degree and the effects of the political influence of the civil service. Furthermore, it investigates the political role of the higher ministerial bureaucracy in connection with the civil service´s esprit de corps. Until the late 20th century the civil service featured a very specific class consciousness, that originated from its recruitment from a highly literate elite as well as from a special proximity to the British monarchy. But the elitist composition and the political role of the civil service has also been time and again a topic of fervid public debates in the United Kingdom. Demands for civil service reform kept prime ministers occupied from the days of Churchill to those of Blair, just as novelists like C.P. Snow and TV satirists ("Yes Minister"). By analysing these public debates the project finally aims to tackle processes of change in the public understanding of state and government in the age of mass democracy.