The Global Turn: key concepts and approaches in Global Studies

The Global Studies Research Seminar provides doctoral students (and advanced Master students as well as postdoctoral researchers) whose research is situated in, or related to, the field of Global Studies in‐depth and advanced training in contemporary critical Global Studies, and theory and methodology in related fields, such as Postcolonial and Subaltern Studies, International Studies, EU Studies, Area Studies, Conflict Studies, etc., next to general scholarly skills such as reading, writing, discussing and presenting.

This year’s edition of the Global Studies Research Seminar, will zoom in on globalisation as a multiscalar process, that takes place on a global-local continuum, involving global, regional, national and local actors and settings. Unlike top-down approaches and contrary to popular belief, in Global Studies the global is not considered to be separate from the local – like an abstract force from above to which the local can only passively subject. The global is always also locally situated and produced. We “see the global through the local and vice-versa” (McCarthy, 2014) and put local agency at the centre of our analysis.  Starting from this global-local continuum, we will subsequently introduce and discuss three key interdisciplinary conceptual frameworks and corresponding methodologies in Global Studies, that provide entry points or lenses to analyse these global-local processes: 1) assemblage; 2) frontier; 3) rule and resistance. (See program in annex 1 for further elaboration of the 3 conceptual frameworks offered in this course.)

Global Studies – defined as the study of contemporary globalisation and historical global processes – is a vibrant academic field that is inherently interdisciplinary. The interrelated, multi-level, global-scale challenges it addresses (economic and social development, urbanisation, resource depletion, etc.) are not confined to the realms of singular scientific disciplines. Although STEMM sciences are not necessarily excluded, in the academic landscape Global Studies is firmly rooted in the Social Sciences (especially political science, anthropology, economics and sociology)and Humanities (especially history and international law). It builds on critical, postcolonial and reflexive research traditions that question Eurocentric academic disciplinary boundaries and theories (Darian-Smith and McCarty, 2017). The inter- and transdisciplinary perspectives offered by Global Studies research provide new analytical tools to study the complex and interrelated problems that confront our globalizing world, thus enabling innovative research that is able to address these global challenges.

The learning targets of this course are:
1) practice of interdisciplinary in Social Sciences and Humanities, focused on the study of globalisation;
2) in-depth knowledge of analytical concepts and advanced methods in Global Studies;
3) ability to apply these concepts and methods to in one’s own research project.

Schedule and program

6 seminars of 3hrs each – in the spring semester of 2019 – Thursdays, from 1 to 4 pm.

February 14 – General introduction

  • Introduction of the Global Turn: defining the global / local continuum
  • Discussion of participants’ research topics: what makes your project a global studies research?

Lecturers: Julie Carlier, Christopher Parker and Eric Vanhaute

Required reading:  Eve Darian-Smith and Philip McCarthy (2017), The Global Turn. Theories, Research Designs and Methods for Global Studies, Oakland: University of California Press, chapter 2 and 3, pp. 29-75.February 28 – Approaching the global-local through the concept of assemblage

February 28 – Approaching the global-local through the concept of Assemblage

One way of studying the articulation of the global and the local, is the concept of assemblage. Global assemblages are the local articulations of global forms – territorialisations that create new material, social and discursive relationships, be they public sector reforms, forms of urban planning, or modes of accounting and organising the financial sector. Assemblage is a framework for analysis that foregrounds agency and remains close to practice, allowing for a critical and reflexive approach, and opening up a promising interdisciplinary trajectory for the Social Sciences and Humanities, focused on the study of globalisation.

International guest lecturer: Anna Amelina, Professor of Intercultural Studies, Brandenbug University of Technology
UGent GCGS lecturer: Christopher Parker, Professor of Conflict and Development Studies

Required reading:

  • George Markus and Erkan Saka (2006) ‘Assemblage’, Theory, Culture, Society 23 (2-3):  101-106.
  • Anna Amelina (2017) Transnationalising Inequalities in Europe: Socio-cultural Boundaries, Assemblages and Regimes of Intersection,  London: Routledge, pp. 60-81 (Chapter 4: Where to locate socio-cultural boundaries: Socio-cultural inequalities and their context)

March 14 – Approaching the global-local through the concept of frontier

A second framework to study the interaction of the global and the local, is offered by concept of frontier (and frontier zone), understood as the process (and the spatial setting) of the interaction between two different social systems. The frontier concept offers an analytical tool to examine the local dynamics of transformative processes that push globalization. Examples include the power struggles that come with land governance and property rights, the extraction and commodification of natural resources (e.g. mining), the planning of urban spaces, and the expansion of international trade regimes. Across disciplinary lines, “frontier” enables Global Studies scholars to link the local and the global, not by starting at the global level, but by departing from the frontier process itself.

International guest lecturer: Christian Lund, Professor of Global Development, University of Copenhagen
UGent GCGS lecturer: Eric Vanhaute, Professor of World History

Required reading:

  • Christhian Lund and Mattias Borg Rasmussen (2018) ‘Reconfiguring Frontier Spaces: the territorialisation of resource control’, World Development, vol. 101, pp. 388-399.
  • Ulbe Bosma and Eric Vanhaute (2017) “Capitalism and Commodity Frontiers. The Transformation of the Global Countryside” working paper of the Commodity Frontiers Initiative:

March 28 – Approaching the global-local through the concepts of rule and resistance

Thirdly, we focus on the new regulatory regimes and oppositions that emerge out of the interplay of global forces and local struggles. For, globalization structures concrete spaces and is simultaneously shaped by localized histories. This is not a symbiotic process: it is a contentious interaction that creates new rules and forms of governance, as well as new forms of resistance, from extractive industries and indigenous rights’ movements, to economic (de- and re-)regulations and social movements like Occupy Wall Street.

International guest lecturer: Lara Coleman, senior lecturer in International Relations and International Development, University of Sussex
UGent GCGS lecturer: Marianne Maeckelbergh, Professor of Global Sociology at Leiden University and as from November 1, 2018: professor of Conflict and Development Studies UGent)

Required reading:

  • Lara Montesinos Coleman and Doerthe Rosenow, Mobilisations, in: Pinar Bilgin and Xavier Guillaume (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of International Political Sociology. London and New York: Routledge, 2016.
  • Marianne Maeckelbergh (2011) Doing is Believing: Prefiguration as Strategic Practice in the Alterglobalization Movement, Social Movement Studies, 10:1, 1-20.

May 2 – closing session I– presentation and discussion of papers – part I

Participants apply one or more of the frameworks / concepts discussed in the sessions above to their own research project and explore its promises and pitfalls, possibilities and limits.
In-class discussion and feedback on the presentations

Lecturers: Julie Carlier, Christopher Parker and Eric Vanhaute

May 9 – closing session II–presentation and discussion of papers – part II

Participants apply one or more of the frameworks / concepts discussed in the sessions above to their own research project and explore its promises and pitfalls, possibilities and limits.
In-class discussion and feedback on the presentations

Lecturers: Julie Carlier, Christopher Parker and Eric Vanhaute