Since the end of the Cold War, the significance of regions, regional interaction and regional identities has continually expanded. It appears increasingly possible that the relative importance and impact of entire regions of the world (“the Asian Century”) and certain states (notably Brazil, China, India and Russia) on the world economy, and in international politics at large, is about to change significantly.
Some states, such as China or India, are set to become the leading global economic powers. Other populous states, such as Mexico or South Africa, are also gaining in economic significance and as such are gradually becoming international players to be reckoned with. Furthermore, these rising powers are needed as partners for the tackling of global issues, as illustrated by the prominent role played by the G20 in reforming the international financial system. The newly emerging players are equally needed for the promotion of the global trade agenda within the WTO. In addition, solutions to the global climate challenge will require active participation by the newly industrialized states.
However, these shifts and their repercussions are not limited only to state actors. The emerging world polity is also increasingly characterised by the rising significance of non-state economic and civilian actors. Moreover, the interests and policies of certain states have also become transnational and supranational, something which will certainly affect the relationship between the rising powers themselves, as well as between them and other regions of the world.
The graduate school focuses on selected major regions of the world – namely, Africa, Asia, Latin America, Middle East. It is driven by the perception that a new global world order of strong regions is currently evolving and emerging.
Debates in the discipline of international relations have long reacted to this emerging new world order. Some see it as the rise of a “uni-multipolar period”, others predict a “multi-polar” or, even a “non-polar” order. There is also much debate about the key concept of “power”, in its various dimensions; and about the conceptual definition of the current and future world order and the role played by leading powers. This debate often includes multiple connections to other approaches. Within critical geography, for instance, regions are no longer solely viewed as geographically or culturally defined spaces but as the product of economic and political interaction and social constructions. Furthermore, post-structuralists from political and sociological theory have challenged our understanding of key terms such as “power”, “hegemony” and “leadership”.
The graduate school will contributes to these debates on the basis of four characteristics unique to Hamburg's academic environment, thus providing a stimulating location for excellent and innovative young researchers:
- A social science focus on area studies from a multidisciplinary perspective incorporating detailed expertise on world regions, major regional players and governance fields, including their comparative analysis.
- A research focus embedded in a multidisciplinary group of researchers committed to a plurality of theoretical and methodological approaches and eager to develop new transdisciplinary insights.
- A drive for the systematic inclusion of social, economic, political and ecological processes of transition within the ascending powers, thereby allowing for the detection and inclusion of non-linear trends in projections and for genuine views from what used to be the periphery.
- An operational research network on regional powers which includes some of the leading research institutions in the world.
The rise of new global and regional powers, the emergence of new actors, the challenges in global governance and global norm-building, the expected shifts in the world order, the related conflicts regarding leadership and spheres of influence, and the repercussions for Europe are creating substantial demand for academic expertise now and over the coming years. The graduate school is thus operating at the leading edge, continually tracking and addressing contemporary global developments.
To this end, the school enables students to contribute to the growing body of knowledge about current and future shifts in global and regional power and the ensuing challenges for governance, as well as the repercussions for Europe. By gaining thorough expertise in at least one of the related disciplines, the graduate school’s Ph.D. students become experts on the role of leading powers and secondary leading powers in at least one of the aforementioned major regions of world. They additionally master at least one of the major issue areas of global governance – development, environment, finance, security, social affairs, trade – and are thus able to contribute not only to the global research agenda but also to the resolution of some of the key current global challenges.