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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Institute of Asian and African Studies

Crossroads Asia

Project members:
PD Dr. Lutz Rzehak


The scholars collaborating in the competence network Crossroads Asia pursue a novel, "post-area studies" approach, making thematic figurations the basis of their scholarly research. The geographical area of study of the competence network extends from eastern Iran to western China and from the Aral Sea to northern India. We refer to this area of study as Crossroads Asia.

We do not want to construe yet another region at the interface of conventional South Asian, Central Asian and Iranian Studies. Instead, we set out from concrete thematic figurations (i.e., causal and functional constellations) basically located in Crossroads Asia but with possible geographical extensions far beyond the area thus delineated, or in other concrete cases, covering only a much more narrow geographical zone within the area. Space, according to our "post-area" perspective, is determined through the perceptions, actions and imaginations of the agents in thematically defined contexts (Lefèbvre 1991).

We take mobility as an overarching research perspective for the competence network since Crossroads Asia has always been a space of entangled interaction and communication, with human beings, ideas and commodities on the move across and beyond cultural, social and political borders. Mobility is at the bottom of all three main focal aspects of our research: conflict, migration, and development. The figurational concept implies that changes, minor or major, within one element of a constellation would always affect the constellation as a whole. When – building on the Crossroads metaphor – the lights change, the dynamics of mobility (and consequently, migration as well as conflicts and development) are prone to change as well, be it to the effect of acceleration ("green light"), stagnation ("amber"), or deadlock and blockage ("red").

The scholars involved in the competence network are set to produce individual as well as collaborative studies which will not only significantly deepen our thematical knowledge of figurational phenomena relevant to the area, but also test the validity of the Crossroads Studies approach. If the approach stood the test, a model for future "post-regional studies" competence networks would have emerged and the group effort to not only enhance empirical knowledge, but also make an impact on theory development, would have been successful.

Along with scholarly publications, the competence network will set up informational platforms and media to meet the high demand for para-academic information for the public about matters of conflict, migration and development in the region. Findings of the group project will feed back into academic teaching, research outside the limits of the competence network, and public relations efforts so as to ensure sustainability beyond the first funding phase of four years.

For further and more detailed information see this PDF, or visit the website of the project here.