Käte Hamburger Kolleg

Spokesman: Prof. Dr. Tobias Debiel
Spokesman: Prof. Dr. Tobias Debiel

The research centres on the core task of exploring and better understanding the possibilities of and obstacles to cross-border cooperation. At the Centre, researchers from various disciplines and all regions of the world are developing a framework of contemporary cooperation research in which to explore new approaches to global policy-making for managing crisis and protecting global public goods. The Centre aims to become a hub for this emerging branch of research. Pressing transnational issues, including climate change, global financial crises and acute crisis situations like the current one in Syria and the region as a whole, make clear the central importance of global cooperation and thereby also of cooperation research. Since its opening in February 2012, the Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research has played host to 63 political scientists, sociologists, economists, historians, legal scholars, cultural scientists, philosophers and anthropologists from 21 countries and every continent.

The fellows’ projects make up the core of the Centre’s research activities and are organised thematically into the following four research units:

  • Research Unit 1 “The (Im-)Possibility of Cooperation” explores the question of whether and how cooperation can succeed on a global level. An integral part of the research in this multidisciplinary unit is to transfer findings at the micro level, for instance in experimental research on cooperation in small groups, to the significantly more complex macro level of international negotiations, for example on climate. The research on the role and function of social institutions that support and facilitate transnational cooperation is expected to advance knowledge on the difficult transfer between the micro and macro level. 
  • Research Unit 2 “Global Cultural Conflicts and Transcultural Cooperation” is concerned with the question of how cultural and religious beliefs and worldviews influence global cooperation. One of the goals in this research unit is to explore the cultural meanings underlying different narratives and practices of cooperation. Situations are analysed in which global and transnational conflicts prove difficult to resolve because they are interpreted and experienced as “cultural”. The conditions for successful transcultural cooperation are also analysed. In 2014 and 2015, humanitarianism and gift exchange were themes of central interest.  
  • Research Unit 3 “Global Governance Revisited” takes a critical look at what effect increasingly heterogeneous political and professional cultures have on global governance. Special attention is given to the inclusion of non-western, such as Chinese or Indian, perspectives on world order, and to the implications of a diversification of political and professional cultures specifically for international negotiations, such as on climate policy. In addition to projects on experimental foreign policy research or the role of big data in international governance, a special focus in 2014 and 2015 was on China’s attitude towards solving global problems. 
  • Research Unit 4 “Paradoxes and Perspectives of Democratisation” deals with the relationship between democracy, democratisation and cooperation under conditions of globalisation, and with conflicts of legitimacy in global cooperation processes. Concrete examples of successful or dubious democratisation processes, for example in Mali or Tunisia, have been analysed in recent years. The research unit is also working on the meaning of narratives for successful cooperation and explores what role narrative patterns and elements of fiction play in the description, definition and negotiation of problems in the context of global cooperation. 

The Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research has continued its successful event formats in the past two years with seven workshops for academic experts, nine “Käte Hamburger Lectures” and four “Käte Hamburger Dialogues” for the interested public. In addition to the regular research colloquiums, the fellows have also organised numerous in-house workshops which have covered the Centre’s “routine” research topics and also picked up on various current developments, such as the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

What follows here is just a small selection of the many events:

  • In the Käte Hamburger Lectures of 2014 and 2015, at which Tom G. Weiss, Nadje Al-Ali and Scott Barrett were among the prestigious speakers, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and global (in)equality, the rise of the G20 and the BRICS, and humanitarianism were among the main topics.
  • The Käte Hamburger Dialogues addressed topical issues such as the current developments in Tunisia, the Crimean crisis, and Iran’s new position following the signing of the nuclear agreement and its possible role in resolving the violent conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Yemen. 
  • The Practitioner Seminar Series on the future of climate policy was first launched in 2013 and continued with a second expert workshop. The participants from ministries, NGOs and research institutions exchanged information on climate policy developments since the conferences of Copenhagen in 2009 and Warsaw in 2013 and discussed their expectations of the climate protection agreement that was adopted in Paris in 2015. 
  • The Centre’s second Masterclass, once again held within the Ruhrtriennale arts festival, addressed “Gifts of Cooperation” as its topic. Researchers from more than ten countries and various disciplines discussed the theoretical principles of the gift paradigm and examined the meaning of the gift for global cooperation based on a series of empirical case studies from such fields as development cooperation or international philanthropy. 
  • A successful event in July 2015 was the Centre’s Midterm Conference titled “Global Cooperation: Can we build on it? Findings and perspectives”. The Centre used the halfway mark in its first funding period to review its work so far but especially as an opportunity for prospective reflection. The conference was attended by 100 academics from this still very young research field, among them 30 present and former fellows, for three days of intensive debate and informed exchange.

In addition to its many external publications, the Centre has also increased the number of its own publication series. Current research work by the Centre’s members and guests is published in the twelve Global Cooperation Research Papers to date. The ten Global Dialogues reflect the intellectual and interdisciplinary exchange in the context of the Centre and its events and address a broad expert audience with titles such as “Tafeln, teilen, trennen – Nahrung und Essen als Gaben” on the gift of food, or “Global Cooperation Through Cultural Diversity: Remaking Democracy?”. The coming year will see the start of the interdisciplinary Routledge Global Cooperation Series, edited by Tobias Debiel, Claus Leggewie and Dirk Messner, which deals with diverse issues and problems of global cooperation from a variety of perspectives. The first three volumes, under the titles of “Global Cooperation and the Human Factor in International Relations”, “Peacebuilding in Crisis” and “Humanitarianism and Challenges of Cooperation”, are to be published at the beginning of 2016. The contracts for four further volumes have already been signed, and other new book projects are also in preparation.