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Research | World ÷ Space & Organization

The world as viewed through the prism (÷) of Space & Organization...



Materialising networks: moving knowledge, governing mega-events


Principal Investigator: Martin Müller
Team: Christopher Gaffney, Daniel Wolfe
Funding: Swiss National Science Foundation
Duration: 2013 - 2017

In order to coordinate mega-events such as the Olympic Games, the transfer of specialist knowledge from a global organisation like the IOC to the local level of host cities is a key factor. This transfer of knowledge presents a major challenge, since it requires bridging scale levels from the global to the local and adapting knowledge of how to host the same mega-event to ever new local contexts. What adds to the challenge is the tight time frame and the massive scale of mega-events which require completely new forms of organisation and planning.

This project proposes to examine how knowledge on the organisation of mega-events circulates between the organising committees, the IOC and FIFA as well as third parties and how, in the course of this circulation, it is adapted to varying contexts and put into practice. It compares the practices of knowledge transfer, adaptation and application for the Olympic Games in Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 as well as the Football World Cup 2014 in Brazil and 2018 in Russia with regard to three key questions:

1) How and where does knowledge circulate?
2) How is knowledge adapted and put into practice in local contexts?
3) When and why does knowledge transfer work ‘according to plan’? When and why does it produce unintended effects?

In order to capture the social and material substance of the knowledge networks and trace the emerging processes of association, the project will draw on a combination of organisational ethnography, qualitative interviewing and quantitative survey research.

Focussing on how immutable mobile carriers of knowledge create what Bruno Latour, Michel Callon and John Law have dubbed an actor-network, this project contributes to an emerging research agenda around actor-network theory (ANT) and the circulation of knowledge within economic geography, organisation studies as well as planning and urban studies. On the empirical side, it aims to work towards a better understanding of the circumstances under which knowing practices evolve and are shaped in the transient, translocal settings that have become more and more commonplace through the proliferation of projects in the modern organisation of work.



Public event of the political opposition close to Baku in May 2013. The hand (in front of an Azerbaijani flag) represents the symbol for Turkish nationalism.Public event of the political opposition close to Baku in May 2013. The hand (in front of an Azerbaijani flag) represents the symbol for Turkish nationalism.




Affective nationalism and the capacity of political manipulation: locating affect, subjectivity and fantasies of the nation in Azerbaijan


Principal Investigator: Elisabeth Militz

Funding: Canton of Zurich, Forschungskredit (University of Zurich)

Duration: 2013-2016

In engaging with more-than-representational geographies, one prominent debate in human geography circles around the notion of affect. Studies of affect reveal the potential to explain how subjectivities emerge, how social phenomena only become through embodiment, and how representational practices are intertwined with unconscious aspects of social worlds. Furthermore, future studies of affective geographies may develop innovative methods to present and presence the affective dimension of the social and shed light on the pre-cognitive and therefore powerful aspects of the political.

Against this background, this PhD project argues that adding a psychoanalytic understanding of affect to the analysis of the enjoyment and fantasy of the nation strengthens the comprehension of nationalism as a politically and socially engineered, everyday phenomenon. Nationalism in this understanding only becomes in the moment of embodiment and is the trans-personal capacity to affect and to be affected. The un-thought and non-representational nature of an affective nationalism makes for its political relevance and manipulative power. Therefore affect is of superior importance in understanding why and how people are affected by national representations.

In Azerbaijan, I observe an apparent strong national identification, omnipresence of national symbols, as well as people’s indifferent articulations towards the nation. Thus, to study affective nationalism in Azerbaijan helps to study the emergence of subjectivities and discloses much of the unconscious and manipulative power of national representations.

Drawing on material from participant observation on national holidays and mourning days, in families and everyday realms, semi-structured expert interviews, visual and audio material such as short videos, photos and recordings of everyday encounter, I demonstrate how nationalism in Azerbaijan is embodied, and becomes in the moment of flows of affect and is thus politically engineered.

Reflecting on a concept of affect and the fantasied national in explaining how nationalism works, shows how subjectivities emerge in moments of national affectedness and affections and uncovers dimensions and mechanisms of the political manipulation of national identification.



Old woman weeping in front of what is left of the Lenin monument in Kharkiv, Ukraine, September 29, 2014 (source: Tr@ansit online)Old woman weeping in front of what is left of the Lenin monument in Kharkiv, Ukraine, September 29, 2014 (source: Tr@ansit online)


Affect, Identities, Territories: Nationalism Embodied


Principal Investigator: Sun?ana Laketa

Funding: Forschungskredit (University of Zurich)

Duration: 2015-2016


Recent years have seen a proliferation of work concerning emotions and affect in geography as well as throughout social sciences. Situated within this so-called "emotional turn" in social sciences, this project aims to reformulate and rethink previous attempts to theorize nationalism through the intersection of emotion and politics. In other words, this project extends classic studies of nationalism and nation-building in Eastern European geopolitics with recent theoretical and methodological insights from affect and emotion studies.

In order to deepen our understanding of the linkages between identity, power and space that haunt the disparate processes of nation-building, I ask: What role does emotion and affect play in the formation and dissolution of ethno-national identity? My study area are two cities experiencing increased ethno-national polarization - Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kharkiv in Ukraine.

The project focuses on the complex topography of the human body immersed in different force relations for the purpose of questioning why nationalism holds such a prominent position in mobilizing political action. In order to retheorize the emotional/affective underpinnings of national identity, this research investigates the mundane practices of what has been called the
"geopolitics of everyday life" to learn how identity is embodied, i.e. enacted, performed and practiced through a diverse range of affective and emotional socio-spatial practices.



EuroGaps: External Relations and External Perceptions of the EU in sub-Saharan Africa and the Black Sea Region

Principal Investigators: Martin Müller, Veit Bachmann
Funding: German Ministry of Education and Research
Duration: 2010 - 2014

The collective foreign policy mission of the European Union claims to promote peace, prosperity and democratic values around the world. In many ways this is the external projection of the particular model of political and economic organisation and interaction that has materialised within the European Union since the end of World War Two. As part of this foreign policy mission the EU has established a multitude of formal relationships with countries and regions around the world: these range from Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and other long-term political and economic cooperation agreements, such as Cotonou and the Joint Africa-EU strategy, to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and candidate status for possible accession states. But does the global role that the EU ascribes to itself correspond to the perceptions of Europe and the EU in its partner countries and regions?

The proposed project will investigate the concordances and discordances between the foreign policy mission and the external perceptions of the EU and Europe in two regions which have close formal and historical ties with the EU: sub-Saharan Africa and the Black Sea region. Both regions are included in regional cooperation frameworks that support formal ties with the EU: Sub-Saharan Africa is part of the EU-ACP interaction framework, while the Black Sea region is covered by the EU Black Sea Synergy and the recently launched EU Eastern Partnership. What is more, both sub-Saharan Africa and the Black Sea region have historically been part of Europe’s wider area of political and economic interest and are now each subject to challenges from other (re-) emerging global powers: China and Russia.

A total of four case studies drawn from the two regions are designed to capture the wide range of perceptions of the EU’s role in the world. Two case studies in Kenya and Senegal will reflect the EU-ACP regional subdivisions, while in the Black Sea Region two case studies will concentrate on the Ukraine as a state with close formal ties with the EU and a long-term membership perspective and Georgia as a part of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). In focusing on these four case studies, we want to attract attention away from a customary focus on the “big players” in global politics such as the USA, Russia or China whose relationships with and perceptions of the EU have dominated most academic research. We thereby emphasise the importance of understanding differing perceptions of Europe’s geopolitical and geoeconomic role in its historical-geographic vicinity, where the EU continues to exercise significant influence. By contextualizing those perceptions with official accounts of EU external relations this research aims to contribute towards utilizing the appeal of Europe’s model of political and economic organisation and interaction – as manifested within the EU – whilst at the same time transcending an euro-centric viewpoint.