Politics of Scale, Contributions by Maren Hofius and Patricia Rinck

In the fall of 2020, researchers from the University of Hamburg, together with the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH), the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) and the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF/HSFK) jointly organized an online workshop on the use of the 'Politics of Scale' concept for Political Science studies. A number of workshop contributions have now been published on the German Political Science Association (DVPW) blog at https://www.dvpw.de/blog/.

In their introductory article, André Bank, Riccarda Flemmer, Regina Heller, KHK Senior Research Fellow Maren Hofius, Hanna Pfeifer and Jan Wilkens explain why it is worthwhile for German political science to take a closer look at the 'politics of scale' concept. The concept is suitable for problematizing the use of analytical categories such as ‘space’, ‘place’ or ‘levels’ whose implicit assumptions about spatial hierarchies often go unnoticed. The ‘politics of scale’ concept seeks to disclose these ‘hidden geographies’ (Agnew 1995: 379) by emphasizing the social constructedness of space and foregrounding how e.g. the division of space into the ‘local’ and ‘global’ is a potent practice that is complicit in producing and reproducing global hierarchies. In her contribution, Anne Menzel shows that spatial attributions, such as the 'local' in development cooperation, are not without consequences when it comes to 'different' actors in the Global South, whose characteristics and problems are also supposed to be fundamentally different from those in the Global North. An instructive example is provided by the expansion of agro-industrial oil palm cultivation in Indonesia. Alina Brad, Riccarda Flemmer and Jonas Hein show how spatial restructuring can restrict the land rights of local populations. At the same time, new transnational levels of negotiation and meaning emerge for these indigenous groups that leapfrog local and national dimensions (scale jumping) by referring to or claiming rules of transnational certification systems.  Patricia Rinck, research group leader at the Centre, explores in Die politics of scale im Peace- und Statebuilding – Was wir aus den Interventionen in Sierra Leone und Bougainville lernen können the question of what use the politics of scale concept might have for intervention research. She uses a comparison of interventions in Bougainville and Sierra Leone to show that the construction of particular levels of scale as the locus of an intervention can have important implications for the design of the intervention as well as the post-conflict transformation process as a whole.

The politics of scale are closely linked to border politics, for the creation of space depends on the social construction of borders.

The Centre will host the online workshop Transnational Boundaries in Practice: Thwarting or Enabling Global Cooperation on 18-19 March 2021, organized by Senior Research Fellow Maren Hofius and Matthias Kranke (University of Kassel).

DVPW Blog Overview: https://www.dvpw.de/blog/