One of Hannover University’s main authorities is in teaching and researching the interconnections between Europe, the Americas and Africa since the 16th century. Our research initiative pools this expertise for the first time by bringing together scholars from two successful teaching and research programs: Transformation Studies and DIVERSITY-MIGRATION-EDUCATION. This shall produce further synergy effects benefitting the University’s international profile.
In all societies, humans are not only distinguished by their individual characteristics but are also assigned to specific social groups. These categories of difference, such as gender, class, ethnicity/race as well as generation, religion and education dominate all social clashes and conflicts. Such clashes have resulted in degrading treatment and discrimination, via exclusion, to the point of mass murder.
In political, media but also academic discourses, conflicts about difference are often simplified, as shown for instance by the debate about Islam or juvenile delinquents. In most of these cases, one social category is prioritised and absolutised instead of inquiring as to the effects of social and political constructions of difference and the extent to which these are actually created or modified over the course of the conflict. The understanding of conflict meanwhile tends to be constricted to therapeutical questions, that is to say, conflict analysis and solutions are primarily consulted to explain difference and to regulate conflicts in a way that avoids destruction. Their significance as indicators for and dynamic factors of political-social power schemes has meanwhile been neglected. The same is true for their reciprocal effects in a transnational perspective.
The research initiative “Relations of Difference – Dynamics of Conflict in Global Perspective” attends to these objectives. From an interdisciplinary perspective it brings together insights from history, sociology, educational science, literature and religious studies. This initiative analyses the historical depth and variability of the processes whereby difference is constructed as well as past and current interplays between world regions. Thus the aim is to sharpen the conception of functions and significances of “difference” in conflicts as well as widening empirical knowledge on this subject. The cooperation of scholars from two interdisciplinary research and teaching centres at the Leibniz University of Hanover (Transformation Studies and DIVERSITY-MIGRATION-EDUCATION) and the research clusters "History of National Socialism" and "Citizenship and Participation" , meanwhile, allows for a clearer designation of the scopes, limits, and validity claims regarding theoretical approaches to difference, conflict and conflict resolution.
In addition to an expanded concept of conflict we are also inspired by current trends in intersectionality. This perspective does not limit the analysis of inequality to the established but discrete categories of class, gender and ethnicity but integrates others such as generation and education whilst paying attention to the mutual interdependencies of these categories. Furthermore, the initiative applies a global perspective that implies a certain de-centring of Europe at the level of individual projects. It is important to understand that non-European regions and their existing conflicts vary in their reference degree to Europe – forms of non-observance will thus be objects of research too.
The results will have implications for many policy areas such as social, cultural, integration and development policies, equal opportunities and anti-discrimination work, as well as intercultural pedagogy, for instance with regard to the question of how socio-cultural disadvantages and those based on migration can be resolved and diversity implemented in educational processes.