News from the Midterm Conference Day Two

Narratives of Global Cooperation and Anti-globalist Conceptions

The Centre's Midterm Conference, 'New Avenues of Global Cooperation Research', continued in a hybrid format on 16 November 2021 in the Hüttenmagazin, Lanschaftspark Duisburg, enhanced by online communication with various scholars from around the world. During the second day, four panels produced stimulating discussions about peacebuilding interventions, migration governance, narratives of global cooperation, and antiglobalist conceptions. In what follows, we focus on two of these panel in more detail.

A thought-provoking panel on narratives of global cooperation,was moderated by Nina Schneider and Frank Gadinger. The roundtable explored the understanding of narratives, their application in research, and the political dimension of narratives in global cooperation. Stefan Groth was first to elaborate on the moderators’ questions, explaining that he applies a folkloristic understanding of narratives, and that they are shaping the collective life world. He argued further that narratives are recounted with an audience in mind. For example, in international negotiations proverbs are used to serve a specific function, to evoke emotions, or to break the complexity at hand. Groth concluded that social roles must be considered in understanding why some narratives can override others and reduce their mobility.

Wouter Werner offered a perspective on narratives from a public international law perspective. He stated that to construct laws, a beginning to a given story needs to be constructed, thus the creation of a social organization entails an exertion of authority. Therefore, in international law, securing authorship of the beginning means conceptualizing the narrative for the basis of the trials. However one danger inherent to this process of this is that local narratives may be overtaken by global narratives of justice.

Martina Kopf highlighted narratives from an African studies perspective, questioning the perspectives on development and offering that literature from Africa gives a basis for alternative modes for explaining or investigating narratives of development. She elaborated that the story of neoliberal globalization does not begin with failed states but with African achievements of the 1960s. She thus urges reflection on how and by whom the global is used and how this directs narratives of global justice.

Zsuzsanna Török concluded the panel, asserting that a single text can offer a plurality of perspectives. She argued that the knowledge format holds relevance and that narratives and tales from the local can run counter to statistical knowledge relevant to navigate exclusivism and the silencing of the other.

The conference continued with a discussion about antiglobalist conceptions of world order between right and left. The roundtable was moderated by Christine Unrau and Katja Freistein, who posed the provocative question of ‘what is wrong with the global?’ to the panelists. Rita Abrahamsen observed that a glorification of the nuclear family by global right-wing movements, a constellation which is directed to undermine UN human rights declarations and the more open interpretation to rights, such as those concerning LGBTQIA+ individuals and abortion. She argued that the Right’s creative agency in creating institutions and networks should not underestimated.

Nicole Doerr continued the panel with a focus on social justice movements in regard to climate justice. She elaborated on her recent research on climate protests in Germany, where she noticed that indigenous stories are being re-narrated by protesters from the outside. She went on to explain that translation in this regard is always political and that the interpretations of reality from leading figures on the Right tend to be more radical.

Geoffrey Pleyers argued that the perspective of the global applied today is still the perspective developed in the 1990s. He challenged the audiences to think of ‘how global’ the discourse was at the time, positing that many global movements actually originate from indigenous movements, leading a move towards pluralism in the understanding of the global.

Michael Williams concluded the roundtable, offering insight into his research on the dark-side of cooperation. He outlined his finding that the movements of the new right follow a religious traditionalist focus and that they follow not a single actor but a movement that is simultaneously America-focused but in search of global outreach. He argues that liberal academy tends to view right wing movements through a lens of exoticism, describing the movements’ members as the ‘left behind’. This indicates an alarmingly narrow vie of the complex constellation of forces on the right.

Jasmin Schmitz