Kick-off meeting of the Submodule 1b “Interaction and Knowledge in the Pacific Region: Entanglements and Disentanglements”

By Vadim Popov

A kick-off network meeting of the submodule 1b “Interaction and Knowledge in the Pacific Region: Entanglements and Disentanglements” took place at the GHI Moscow on June 21—22, 2019. Research group members and external experts discussed the challenges, chances, and opportunities of the ambitious international research initiative.

The large-scale international project “Knowledge Without Borders: Internationalisation, Networking, Innovation in and by the Max Weber Stiftung” seeks to respond and correspond to the modern-day challenges of soaring globalisation, increasing entanglements and permeability as well as their reactive and reactionary effects, such as social pessimism and fundamentalism. To do so, the project relies on the worldwide network of the Max Weber Stiftung’s (MWS) research institutes. The modules and submodules integrate institutes residing in different countries with a twofold aim: to trace changes, interactions, and flows of knowledge in past and present, and to investigate and to (re-)define a research infrastructure for the future.

Discussions during the kick-off meeting.

The MWS institutes in Moscow, Tokyo and Washington together with the MWS offices in Berkeley and Beijing and the MWS research group in Singapore represent a unique potential for studying the Pacific region together. The Pacific as an area and subject of study is a natural choice due to the rapid developments, transitions, and flows in the region and its socio-economic, political, and technological dynamics, which are fraught with both alluring possibilities and perilous tensions. Scholars from the abovementioned institutes set out to respond to the possibilities and to the logics of researching key aspects of the Pacific area together within the submodule 1b “Interaction and Knowledge in the Pacific Region: Entanglements and Disentanglements”.

The submodule 1b embraces overall ten researchers subdivided into two research units with five scholars each with the respective topical foci on “Mobilities in the Pacific Region” and “Environment, Climate, Energy in the Pacific Region”. Both research units involve cross-border phenomena, making the transnationally oriented research group especially suited for analysing these aspects. Moreover, the ongoing rise of the Pacific Rim has entailed a by now already well-established field of Pacific studies, which the researchers both contribute to und benefit from. External expertise is crucial on all stages of the (sub)project for unbiased progress and results evaluation, and for providing a common ground for long-lasting connections and cooperation beyond the Max Weber Institutes as well. Understandably, it is also especially crucial during the launching phase of the project, when approaches and organisational setup are still flexible and external input may be easily implemented. Therefore, engaging renowned experts (in this case Sergey Glebov, Victor Larin, Artyom Lukin and Andreas Renner) for primary assessment and advice was crucial for dealing with initial challenges imminent to a joint-project of such scale and scope. Suitably for this first meeting in Moscow, these invited experts put an emphasis in their work on Russian participations in and perspectives on the Pacific world.

Indeed, the four external experts initiated the meeting by presenting their own current research projects as well as their institutions and by outlining possibilities for cooperation. The papers presented in the second and main part of the meeting by the participants of submodule 1b and discussed at length by all participants of the meeting varied from transfer of capitalism in and to the Pacific (Yufei Zhou, Felix Mallin), global Anti-Asian sentiments (Sören Urbansky), recent historic and contemporary climate and energy policies in Russia and China in Asia-Pacific (Benjamin Beuerle, Shaun Lin Ziqiang) to ethnographic exploration of Laotian perception of Chinese influence (Simon Rowedder). This short outline reflects very well the wide topical range and multi-perspectivity of the submodule and reveals both its potential and the challenge of connecting the intrinsically diverse research projects to each other. The research projects on U.S.-Chinese cooperation on clean energy and climate change (Sarah Beringer), Japanese fisheries in the context of major global transformations (Sonja Ganseforth), and the transnational and translocal interactions of Asian migrant communities in the Americas (Albert Manke) enhanced this effect but also offered considerable possibilities for connectivity with the aforementioned projects.

The question of topical coherence of the research group has proven to be the most discussed and vibrant one at this early stage of the project. And while the wide span of the involved research questions and approaches pose clear challenges to cross-fertilisation within the submodule, its benefits are set to outweigh the possible shortcomings by far. As stressed by the external experts and considering the excellence of the presented projects, these research projects’ versatileness will permit them to interact and cooperate with other submodules within the “Knowledge Without Borders”-project and diverse institutions dealing with different aspects of the Pacific studies and thus contribute to the steady improvement of the MWS research infrastructure. Meanwhile both the external experts and the directors of the GHI Moscow (Sandra Dahlke), DJI Tokyo (Franz Waldenberger), and GHI Washington (Simone Lässig) as well as the deputy director of the GHI Moscow (Andres Hilger) highlighted the pivotal role of material and ideal flows and transborder transfers in the Pacific region as a core research question of the submodule. Other proposed connections include the tensions and problems arising in human interactions, as well as the questions of instrumentalised and contested knowledge.

These issues as well as, most crucially, the topics at the centre of the abovementioned two thematic groups within the submodule, will be discussed further in the future events, such as the conference “Mobilities, Exclusion, and Migrants’ Agency in the Pacific Realm in a Transregional and Diachronic Perspective” in Berkeley in early June 2020 and the next network meeting which will to take place in Honolulu in October 2020.


Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, focused on the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Our research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with different and independent fields of focus. Through our globally operating institutes, we are able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and our host countries or regions. By promoting academic dialogue and merging academic and non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the internationalization of research.

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