Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

De:link // Re:link


dlinkDe:link // Re:link - Local perspectives on transregional (dis-)entanglements

Research Consortium 2021 - 2024

The network project De:link//Re:link investigates new spatial configurations and local perspectives on transregional infrastructure projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative initiated by China in 2013. link indicates the network's focus on local insights and new knowledges. In this context, the consortium examines the dynamics of entanglements and disentanglements as well as processes of social / political / cultural / economic / lingual de- and re-concentration in Asia, Africa and Europe. These dynamics are studied in greater depth from different disciplinary perspectives that rest on multi-scalar and multi-sited fieldwork. Analytical and conceptual approaches of New Area Studies and Southern Theory form the connecting theoretical and methodological framework. The overarching goal of cooperation among the four partners in the consortium is to strengthen a pluri-directional exchange of knowledge and shared knowledge production between and of scholars and other academic actors in Germany and the core regions of research (Africa, Asia, Europe, Eurasia, Afrasia).





Project Funding:

The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF). Speakers are Claudia Derichs (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Institute of Asian and African Studies; speaker) and Andreas Eckert (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Institute of Asian and African Studies; co-speaker).

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Individual Projects

Language and identity: reactions of local languages and their speakers to changes in their physical and emotional living environment (Dr. Linda Ammann (Gerlach)) 

This postdoctoral project investigates whether changes caused by small- and large-scale infrastructure projects of the BRI have an impact on people's linguistic behaviour and/or their interaction with their living environment. There are many studies dealing with the correlation of globalization (i.e. influences from media/internet, multilingual urban trade centres, influences from colonial languages etc.) and language change and language vitality (see e.g. Vigouroux & Mufwene 2008) and some studies on the language planning policies and its influence on languages along the BRI (see e.g. Gao 2020). In this project I aim at “zooming in” from the global perspective to specific local scenarios and look at the effects of global projects such as the BRI on selected local communities and their languages. Central research questions are whether there is a correlation between new/better infrastructure and linguistic change (i.e. language use, L2 acquisition, etc.) in rural locations and if and how infrastructural and linguistic changes influence people's identities.

In order to investigate these research questions, the project is planning to conduct case studies in Botswana and Tanzania. The studies have two research foci: linguistic documentation and a (community based) self-reflection of people exposed to changes caused by the BRI.

For the language documentation the 'Khoisan' language ǂ'Amkoe (Kx’a, Botswana) will be central as it is a severely endangered language under heavy language contact influence. The ǂ'Amkoe speakers as well as some of their neighbouring 'Khoisan' and Bantu speaking groups could also be involved in the second part of the project. Many groups in the area have experienced several drastic changes in their living environment in the past. It is thus revealing to hear and see these people's perspectives on the impact of the BRI. The case study in Tanzania involves people who have migrated from rural areas to Dar-es-salaam in order to work in BRI projects. Here the question of how the personal experience with the BRI projects and the Chinese language and culture effects people’s identities is central. Methodologically, questionnaires / interviews (classical method of sociology) and a specific type of video recording will be employed. The video recording is a method from visual anthropology, whereby cameras are handed out to members of a community who volunteer to participate (e.g. Turner 1992, Bunce & Revilla Minaya p.c.).



Gao, Yang. 2020. How the Belt and Road Initiative Informs Language Planning Policies in China and among the Countries along the Road. Sustainability 12, 5506.

Vigouroux, Celine B. & Salikoko S. Mufwene (eds.) 2008. Globalization and Language Vitality – Perspectives from Africa. London/New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Turner, Terence. 1992. The Kayapo Appropriation of Video. Anthropology Today, Vol. 8 No. 6, pp. 6-16.



Artistic de/constructions of cultural heritage in the context of Old and New Silk Roads (Dr. Jamila Adeli)

My current research is part of the BMBF funded research consortium De:Link // Re:Link. Local perspectives on transregional processes of (dis)entanglements. The project tackles local, transregional and transcultural perspectives and re/actions on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Foregrounding dis/connectivities, the overall research perspective emphasizes local insights and new knowledges. Initiated in 2013 under president Xi Jinping, the BRI is commonly perceived to create and shape a new economic, geopolitical and geocultural region and space through the means of networking infrastructures, joint economic developments and social connections.

            One of the main research agendas of De:link// Re:link is to focus on cultural heritage to understand the various configurations of cultural politics of infrastructures that emerge along the BRI. In my postdoc project titled “Artistic de/constructions of cultural heritage in the context of Old and New Silk Roads,“I focus on analyzing the de/construction narratives that re/activate the spirits of the „old and new silk roads“ as a common ground for historic and future connectivities. As defined by Reeves (2004) and Jorgensen & Phillips (2002), narratives like the „old silk roads“ or the „Chinese Dream“ provide legitimate contexts and conditions for both new practices and the contestation of existing ones (Loh 2021).

            I use the lens of art and artistic practices assuming that the processes and results of art production are means of trans/local and trans/regional knowledge production. Especially contemporary art and artistic practice like the curating of exhibitions need to be incorporated when investigating local re/actions to large scale infrastructures that are shaping pasts, realities and futures at various scales.

As artists and other cultural actors increasingly contribute to the de/construction of local and trans/regional narratives, experiences and imaginations, my main research questions are as follows: Which narratives concerning cultural politics and heritage both emerge and dissolve alongside the construction of the BRI? How do contemporary artists and curators reflect, react to and interact with the BRI, its cultural politics and both shared and common cultural heritage? What related knowledge is produced by artworks and exhibitions? And what is the function of art and artistic practices in constructing and deconstructing a new trans/regional order?




Research Consortium


Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient
‘New Area Studies’
‘Transregional East Africa’
Prof. Claudia Derichs
Prof. Ulrike Freitag
Prof. Sarah Eaton
Prof. Kai Kresse
Prof. Andreas Eckert
Dr. Katrin Bromber
Prof. Eva Ehninger
Doctoral student: Kadara Swaleh
Prof. Susanne Gehrmann
Prof. Tom Güldemann
Prof. Henning Klöter
Prof. Boike Rehbein
Prof. Nadja-Christina Schneider
Prof. Manja Stephan-Emmrich
Dr. Jamila Adeli
Dr. Linda Ammann (Gerlach)
Dr. John Njenga Karugia
Doctoral students:
Fiona Smith
Daniel Koßmann
Tanya Talwar


Zentrum für Osteuropa und internationale Studien
Bonn International Center for Conflict Studies
‘China, the EU and economic development in East Europe and Eurasia’
‘Chinas BRI in North Rhine-Westphalia and Pakistan’
Prof. Gwendolyn Sasse
Prof. Conrad Schetter
Dr. Julia Langbein
Dr. Katja Mielke
Doctoral student: Valentin Krüsemann
Doctoral student: Nadia Ali



PIs from partner universities:

Prof. Aldin Mutembei - University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Dr. Jeanine Dagyeli - Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan

Dr. Andrey Filchenko - Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan


Project coordinator:

Lina Knorr (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)


Associated fellows:

Dr. Diego Trindade d'Ávila Magalhães


International Advisory Board:

Prof. Dr. Hasan Karrar (LUMS)

Prof. Jamie Monson, PhD (Michigan State University)

Professor Oussouby Sacko (President of Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto, Japan)
Dr. Facil Tesfaye (University of Hong Kong)