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Economic dynamics

What kinds of linkages can be observed between local economic practices and global economies?

What coexistence of different economic practices can be observed when mobility and local embeddedness coincide?

These and other questions are being investigated by the staff of the research focus „Economic Dynamics“. They investigate transnational networks and their manifestation not only in terms of the market economy, but also in social, political and religious terms, i.e. ultimately it is about the intertwining of local economic practices and logics on the one hand and global economic models and contexts on the other. The corresponding projects are based on close cooperation with researchers from Ethiopia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, Pakistan, Israel and Switzerland, who are each at different stages of their careers. The research results are presented for discussion in the form of lectures and publications and made available for the promotion of young academics in the context of courses and the supervision of bachelor's, master's and doctoral theses

Completed and ongoing third-party funded projects

Resource Cultures of Rice and Wheat in South and Central Asia. Religious and (agrarian) economic dimensions of cereals
(Roland Hardenberg, SFB 1070, 2021-2025)

Cultural entrepreneurship and digital transformation in Africa and Asia
(Richard Kuba, as cooperation partner BMBF, 2021-2024)

The bureaucratisation of African societies
(Mamadou Diawara, Max Weber Foundation, 2017-2021)

The search for a "good life". Livelihood strategies in Iran and Germany.
(Mirco Göpfert, Roland Hardenberg, DAAD, 2020-2021)

Informal markets and trade in Central Asia and the Caucasus
(Susanne Fehlings, Volkswagen Foundation 2016-2021)

On the saf(v)e side: informal economic associations and future aspirations in the Ethiopian diaspora
(Sophia Thubauville, Elias Alemu, DFG, 2021-2024)

From “poor man's food” to “nutri-cereals": emergence of a new millet assemblage in Odisha, India
(Roland Hardenberg, funding period 2021-2023, DFG)


Completed project without additional funding

Village and city in Oceania
(Holger Jebens)


More information on the focus...

The insight into the fundamental importance of economic interests, ideas and practices is not new in the history of the Institute. As early as 1921, for example, Frobenius explicitly warned against “examining myths without including the economic system”, and accordingly Adolf Ellegard Jensen saw a connection between the globally widespread mythologem of the killed deity and the economy of the so-called “early planter cultures” in his book “Das religiöse Weltbild einer frühen Kultur” (1948) as well as in his major work “Mythos und Kult bei Naturvölkern” (1951). The monographs of the Institute members who travelled to Ethiopia, India, Bolivia or Venezuela between the 1930s and 1950s regularly contained chapters dealing with agriculture, pastoral nomadism or handicrafts, among other things, according to the classical pattern. From the 1960s onwards, the Institute's own series Studien zur Kulturkunde published more than twenty volumes on economic ethological topics, including economic roles in a Liberian village (1967), iron production in sub-Saharan Africa (1976) and pastoralism in Niger (1998). Questions of economics were also the subject of several essays by Eike Haberland, the last of which was published in 1984 in volume 30 of the journal Paideuma - a Festschrift for the nomadism researcher Rolf Herzog entitled “Wirtschaftsethnologische Studien”.

Compared to older research, the focus today is more on processes of international interdependence and globalisation or change in general. For example, a project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research deals with trade networks and migration between the Sahel and Southeast Asia. In addition, the sub-projects of the Collaborative Research Centre "Resource Cultures" led by Roland Hardenberg deal with, among other things, the consequences of British extractivism for local culture and society in Spain, the commercialisation and commodification of religious resources in South and Central Asia and, also in relation to South Asia, the question of how the global goal of sustainable development affects indigenous agricultural practices.

With the support of the Volkswagen Foundation, an interdisciplinary and international team with more than twelve participants, including BA, MA and PhD students as well as experienced researchers, is investigating small traders, informal markets and trade relations in Eurasia along the former Silk Road and in the Caucasus (Georgia and Armenia), in Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan) and in China in seven subprojects under the leadership of Susanne Fehlings. An additional module focuses on the Covid 19 pandemic and its influence on informal trade and individual cooperation within Chinese-Eurasian business relations. In this context, the people involved in small-scale trade maintain complex relationships with various state institutions. On the one hand, they are anchored in local contexts, but on the other hand they are also strongly networked internationally and very mobile. Therefore, they appear to be important actors in the course of a “globalisation from below”.

Another international team led by Sophia Thubauville is researching informal savings and insurance associations in Ethiopia as well as in the Ethiopian diaspora in the USA, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Kenya. Based on the thesis that such savings and insurance associations express ideas of a "good life" or a better future, the participants investigate how economic practices and social orders change when they encounter new framework conditions as a result of migration. The project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and an additional postdoctoral fellowship from the Gerda Henkel Foundation. The University of Hawassa (Ethiopia) acts as an equal project partner with its own funds for research and equipment.

The work in the research focus “Economic Dynamics” is to be expanded and deepened in the coming years. To this end, the Institute is planning various studies of non-Western concepts and practices in the field of economics as part of the third funding phase of the Collaborative Research Centre “Resource Cultures”. An anthology to conclude this special research area as a basic work for the cultural-scientific consideration of resources is in preparation. Other book projects in which the Institute is playing a leading role are based on the research described above on savings and insurance associations in the Ethiopian diaspora and on the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic on small-scale trade in Eurasia. These impacts are also the subject of a planned follow-up project. In addition, the Institute is participating with a project on “(Neo-)Extractivism, Resistance Movements and Environmental Concepts” in an initiative supported by the Ruhr University Bochum and the German Mining Museum Bochum, which aims to establish a new Collaborative Research Centre entitled “GeoRessourcenVerflechtungen und WeltAneignungen”.