At the heart of globalization

3 May 2021

A new, federally funded, international research center at LMU will study the complexities of worldwide networks of mutual dependency.

Loss of connectivity: The cargo ship Ever Given ran aground and blocked the Suez Canal, March 2021 | © Suez Canal Authority via Xinhua/Imago Images

On the surface, globalization promises more of everything – more speed, more efficiency, more internationalism – an inexorably increasing degree of networking and concentration. “But this is an overly simplistic view,” says Roland Wenzlhuemer, Professor of Modern and Contemporary history at LMU. “Globalization also encompasses opposing forces and restraining factors, diversions, discontinuities, and loss or lack of connectivity.” Moreover, any serious attempt to understand the complexity of globalization must take the dynamics of interconnection and its erosion into account, he adds. – And if proof of this thesis were needed, the current coronavirus crisis provides it. The rapid diffusion of the pandemic has been made possible by the worldwide networks of exchange and interdependence, and it can only be effectively countered by breaking off as many of these links as possible.

To refer to this characteristic feature of globalization processes, Wenzlhuemer and his LMU colleagues Burcu Dogramaci (Professor of Art History), and Christopher Balme (Professor of Theater Studies) have coined the term ‘dis:connectivity’, which also describes the central theme of the new Käte Hamburger International Research Center at LMU. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research has agreed to fund the project for 4 years in the first instance at a cost of 7.9 million euros. According to the Federal Government, the Käte Hamburger Program is intended to “contribute to the further development of networks and research structures in the Humanities, with a view to enhancing the international profiles of scholars working in these fields in Germany.

Wenzlhuemer regards the concept of ‘dis:connectivity’ as “an entirely new approach to the study of globalization as a phenomenon”. Processes that are based on interconnections inevitably entail the loss of existing links and/or a lack of necessary connecting elements. “When people migrate, they soon come up against borders, encounter obstacles and are exposed to discrimination,” Wenzlhuemer points out, “or to take another example, while markets for particular goods and services are readily integrated with one another, others remain regional or are protected by tariff barriers." Over the next few years, the new Research Center hopes to establish and explore a more complex and practice-based understanding of globalization.

A ‘Transfer Lab’ will stimulate dialog with the public

The researchers who work in the new Käte Hamburger Center hope to develop “an innovative model that combines scholarly approaches with aesthetic points of view to capture the phenomenon of globalization in all its complexity and fluidity”. This explains why historians of the arts will form a central element in the Center’s research concept, and Wenzlhuemer (a historian), Dogramaci (an art historian) and Balme (a theater historian) will serve as its Directors.

Research at the Center will be structured around its Fellowship Program, which will enable approximately 10 researchers and artists to work in Munich each year. The Center will also maintain close contacts with other cultural institutions, such as theaters and museums in the city, and plans to set up a ‘Transfer Lab’, which will also stimulate dialog with the public.

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