AFRASO Lecture Series TransArea: "New Spatial Formats and the Emergence of Transregional Studies" by Matthias Middell

11. January 2016
Cas. 1801 (Renate von Metzler Saal), Campus Westend

6-8 p.m.

Third talk of the AFRASO-Lecture Series "TransArea: New Paradigms in Area Studies" (Wintersemester 2015/16)


Spatilization is a central dimension of social actions. Spaces are being made by people. Starting from these basic assumptions the question then is what characterizes these spaces, how they relate to one another, and whether resulting spatial orders are becoming increasingly complex within the context of globalization processes. We consider globalization not as a unilateral and natural process without alternatives that originates from the Global North and, from there, spreads to the rest of the world. Rather, we consider globally influential spatialization processes to be stemming from different world regions. In addition to the acceleration and compression of the dissolution of boundaries and entanglements, we are interested in the creation of orders through new spatializations as well as the actors advancing them. The proposed concept of spatial formats (Raumformate) focuses on the result of spatial actions of different groups of actors, such as different scales of territories, networks, chains, enclaves, corridors, (special) zones, or the various indications of “virtual” and “transnational” spaces. Spatial orders (Raumordnungen) in turn are understood as being the result of multiple processes of spatialization of different groups of actors, which as a consequence lead to a distinct constellation of spatial formats. Given the proliferation of the terminology for spatial formats, being seen as new or adapting to new conditions, we ask in this presentation, what are the consequences of the new interest in transregional connections for the self-understanding of and the methodological preferences in area studies. We will compare transnational approaches, already in place for more than a decade, challenging methodological nationalism with the ways that interest in transregionalism becomes a challenge to region-bound practices of doing area studies. As transnationalism has been integrated into formerly nation state-focused disciplines we believe that a similar integration of a transregional studies’ agenda into area studies is not only possible but necessary at times when these new spatial formats gain increasing importance in many dimensions of our societies.


Matthias Middell studied history at the University of Leipzig. From 1994 till 2008 he served as Managing Director of the Centre for Advanced Study and since 2008 he is Director of the Global and European Studies Institute at Leipzig University where he coordinates the European Master „Global Studies“. Since 2001 he is the Spokesperson of the International PhD Programme "Regionalisation and Transnationalisation since the 18th century“ and he became Director of the Graduate Center Social Sciences and Humanities at the Research Academy Leipzig in 2006. Since 2009 he serves also as Spokesperson of the Center for Area Studies of the University of Leipzig. 

His main research interests include global history with emphasis on spatial configurations; cultural transfers between France and Germany as well as the history of historiography in the 19th and 20th century.

For more information on Matthias Middell, please see:


TransArea: New Paradigms in Area Studies: 

In a rapidly globalizing world, area studies have often come to be regarded as a somewhat old-fashioned relic of the Cold War era and as an attempt to squeeze complex cultural, social and political ensembles into narrowly defined regional containers. In response to this critique, a new array of theories has sought to reconceptionalize area studies from a transregional perspective. The interdisciplinary lecture series "TransArea: New Paradigms in Area Studies" presents new approaches to transregional area studies developed in literary.