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Political Geography

 
Research in Political Geography is concerned with the relationship between power and space. From the perspective of poststructuralist approaches, power is conceptualized as an effect of social relations and discourses. Such a perspective can be applied to various empirical and theoretical questions.
 
With its interest in social power relations, conflicts, political contestation and negotiation processes are central themes in the work of Political geography. As such, Political geography defines itself primarily as an analytical perspective and less as a clearly delimited empirical topic. Research topics currently being pursued at the University of Freiburg are at the intersection with other empirical fields such as migration research, urban studies, socio-environmental research and research on the (German) military. In addition, research is actively engaged in the development of conceptual approaches, such as assemblage theories, discourse theories and governmentality, as well as innovative methodologies.
 

Research Interests related to Political Geography


  • Digital Geopolitics: Geopolitical imaginations of the „New Right“ in digital media (DFG 2021–2024)
    Project Manager
    Wiertz T, Schopper T (Team)
    Start/End of Project
    01.03.2021 until 28.02.2024
    Description
    Extrem rechte Weltbilder haben in den vergangenen Jahren maßgeblichen Einfluss auf den gesellschaftlichen Diskurs in Deutschland genommen, und die Verstärkungsmechanismen digitaler und sozialer Medien erweitern das potenziell erreichbare Publikum für entsprechende Weltbilder enorm. Die „Neue Rechte“ hat sich zum Ziel gesetzt, dieses Potenzial für sich zu nutzen, um (alte) nationalistische, menschenfeindliche und autoritäre Denkmuster in Gesellschaft und Politik wieder salonfähig zu machen. Doch wie genau funktioniert diese Diskursproduktion? Welche Themen greift die „Neue Rechte“ auf und wie bezieht sie sich auf aktuelle Themen wie Migration, Grenzen, Gesundheit oder Naturschutz? Welche Rolle kommt digitalen Medien und ihrer Tendenz zu multimodalen und affektbetonten Äußerungen zu? Diesen Fragen wird das Forschungsprojekt über drei Jahre lang nachgehen und dazu systematisch Äußerungen auf Blogs, Twitter, Telegram und Youtube auswerten. Ziel ist es, geopolitische Motive und die mit ihnen verknüpften Affekte zu identifizieren und deren Resonanz und Verbreitung im Raum digitaler Medien zu analysieren. Thematisch leistet das Projekt damit einen Beitrag zur aufkommenden Auseinandersetzung mit „Neuen Rechten“ Bewegungen in der Politischen Geographie sowie zu aktueller Forschung über die mediale Vermittlung geopolitischer Leitbilder im Sinne der Popular Geopolitics. Theoretisch knüpft das Projekt an diskursanalytische Arbeiten in der Politischen Geographie an, entwirft jedoch ein assemblagetheoretisches Diskurskonzept, dass neben inhaltliche Regelhaftigkeiten die Affektpotenziale von Äußerungen sowie ihre mediale Resonanz und Zirkulation in die Analyse einbezieht. Um ein solches Konzept methodisch umzusetzen und den Besonderheiten digitaler Medien Rechnung zu tragen, kombiniert das Projekt quantitative und qualitative Methoden aus Diskurs-, Affekt- und Medienforschung. Mithilfe digitaler Verfahren wird so eine Forschungsdatenbank im Umfang von ca. 30 Mio. Tweets, 10.000 Blogbeiträgen und 1.500 Youtube-Videos erstellt. Im ersten, quantitativen Analyseschritt werden politische Themen und Ereignisse identifiziert, auf die sich Beiträge der „Neuen Rechten“ im Untersuchungszeitraum beziehen. Es folgt eine qualitativen Detailanalyse für drei ausgewählte Themen, um geopolitische Motive und die mit ihnen verknüpften Affekte zu identifizieren. Diese werden in einem dritten Schritt auf ihre Resonanz und Zirkulation in den analysierten Medien untersucht. Über den Verlauf, die Methodik und die Ergebnisse des Forschungsprojekts berichten wir regelmäßig auf dem Projektblog. [https://human.geographie.uni-freiburg.de/blog/]
    Contact Person
    Wiertz T
    Email: digital.geopolitics@geographie.uni-freiburg.de
    Financing
    DFG
  • Marketization of sand in Cambodia: global networks, conflicts and materialities
    Project Manager
    Mattissek A, John R (Team)
    Start/End of Project
    01.11.2018 until 31.10.2021
    Description
    Sand is not a resource that many people associate with conflicts. Accordingly, the increasing exploitation of sand due to processes of globalization is rarely the object of scientific and public debates. But despite the common perception that sand is neither rare nor precious, it has evolved into the most important building material and a scarce resource in many regions of the world, especially those characterized by rapid population increase and urbanization. In South-east Asia, a region marked by an intensive boom in the building sector, vast quantities of sand and gravel are used in the construction of buildings, infrastructure and land reclamations. Thereby, sand has developed into an increasingly valuable economic resource that is extracted extensively and traded over long distances. However, the expanding sand extraction remains not without consequences, but leads to massive ecological damages and conflicts with the affected sections of the population. The commodification of sand can be interpreted as part of larger processes of the marketization of natural resources which in human geography is discussed as “neoliberalization of nature” (Bakker 2010). Respective studies demonstrate that capitalist logics of resource exploitation often have negative social and ecological effects. At the same time, they argue that processes and mechanisms of neoliberalization or marketization play out differently in different contexts and produce heterogeneous and ambivalent effects. This project analyzes conflicts over the marketization of sand in Cambodia as a manifestation of capitalist market processes and their interactions with the materialities involved. Drawing on the Global Ethnography approach by Michael Burawoy (2000) and Anna Tsing (2005) and on ideas developed within the debate on New Materialism (Bakker 2010; Mattissek und Wiertz 2014), the project applies a set of qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze three main research questions: (1) Which global and regional factors influence the constitution and transformation of the Southeast Asian sand market, its respective structural conditions, trading routes and relations? (2) What role do actors play that are involved in the establishment of sand markets or protest and mobilize against the extraction and trade of sand? How are their respective strategies and practices affected by multi-scale influences and networks? (3) How do geological, biophysical (non-human) and social processes and entities of the sand-market interact and how do they shape the marketization of sand?
    Contact Person
    Prof. Dr. Annika Mattissek; Robert John
    Email: annika.mattissek@geographie.uni-freiburg.de; robert.john@geographie.uni-freiburg.de
    Financing
    Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
  • Biopolitics of migration and borders: an assemblage approach
    Project Manager
    Wiertz T
    Start/End of Project
    since 01.01.2017 (unlimited)
    Description
    Critical research on migration, borders and camps has used the notion of biopolitics to interrogate how sovereign power or the state differentiate and govern the life of mobile populations. Yet despite its popularity, biopolitical theory is not without limitations, particularly when used as an analytic lens for empirical research. In addition to a lack of clarity about the precise meaning of biopolitics, many theorists are concerned with grand historical shifts and diagnoses and binary oppositions between life and death, inclusion and exclusion, bare life and political rights. Such oppositions have been challenged by recent research on migration, borders and camps that points to complex and nuanced differentiations of belonging and citizenship, the ambiguity of power relations, and prioritizes the agency and experience of individuals over structuralist conceptions of oppression. Against this background, the project explores how the works of Deleuze and Guattari offer terms and concepts that can be made useful to reconsider biopolitics as an analytic approach for empirical research. Assemblage thinking challenges traditional oppositions between the individual and the collective, structure and agency, oppression and resistance and may thus be more sensitive to the complexity of power relations that integrate the life of migrants.
    Contact Person
    Wiertz T
    Email: thilo.wiertz@geographie.uni-freiburg.de
    Financing
    Eigenmittel