Prof. Dr Ina Kerner

Alumni Fellow

Research Project at the Centre

Matters of Difference in a Postcolonial World: Traces, Challenges, and Prospects

European colonialism and Western imperialism have left considerable marks on the world as we know it. These marks run from the economic and social realm via national boundaries to political institutions and political culture; from religion to norms, morality and perceptions of normality; from discourse via representations to the arts; and from identity to demography. It almost goes without saying that they are likely to inform both challenges and prospects with regard to equality, democracy, and debates about the legitimacy of Western forms of reasoning and rule, as well.

Against this backdrop, the project 'Matters of Difference in a Postcolonial World' traces, and critically reflects upon, some of the marks that European colonialism and Western imperialism have left on prospects for global cooperation. It focuses on the after- and long-term effects of colonial rule, particularly on the repercussions and re-actualizations of its primary tools of legitimation, namely (gendered) race-thinking/racism and notions of European and Western superiority. Such discourses have for a long time been used to justify and organize inequality and exclusion. This project is based on the assumption that the afterlife of both these discourses, and of the social and political structures they helped to establish, can have a negative effect on the willingness of actors to seriously cooperate across former colonial difference lines, as well as on the mutual trust that seems necessary for any form of cooperation. In order to shed light on the possibility of such negative effects and to reflect upon ways of overcoming it, the project interrogates notions of modernity as well as constructions and contestations of "race" and culture, of social inequality, and of gender.

Methodologically, this project is situated in the field of political and social theory. It particularly draws on postcolonial theories and aims at identifying the ways in which postcolonial studies may help us to understand the complexities, challenges, and prospects of global cooperation. Furthermore, this project makes use of other sources that engage with the aftermath of European colonialism and Western imperialism, like studies and analyses in the fields of history, sociology, gender studies, and anthropology, as well as the claims of select social and political movements working towards social justice and equality.


December 2016 – September 2017