Navigation auf


Department of Geography Political Geography

Benedikt Korf
Benedikt Korf, Prof. Dr.

Political Geography

Tel.: 044 635 52 40
Room number: Y25 L 54


violence, politics, dis/order, frontier, territory, postcolonial theory; political theology; German Theory; South Asia, Horn of Africa



MA in Geography, RWTH Aachen

Diplom (M.Sc.) in Civil Engineering, RWTH Aachen

Postgraduate Certificate, Seminar für Ländliche Entwicklung (SLE), HU Berlin

PhD in Agricultural Sciences, HU Berlin


Current Research

My research falls in the fields of development geography, political geography and cultural geography. I understand the cultural as a constitutive force of political economy: my research studies “culture” as a terrain of struggle wherein the political fabrication of territories and the articulation of collective life are contested and negotiated in sites that experience political disorder and protracted violence. My research follows an ethnographic disposition with field work in South Asia and the Horn of Africa. At the same time, I have an interest in political theory - political theology in particular. Postcolonializing the problematic work of Carl Schmitt, I seek to retrieve an emancipatory, hopeful and less Eurocentric political theology contra Schmitt.

In my work on political violence and the fragmented geographies of sovereignty, two themes have been central: first, I have investigated the cultural politics of development, post-war reconstruction and post-disaster transformations in Sri Lanka (and South Asia more broadly). Second, my work has been concerned with the cultural politics of resource violence in the Horn of Africa, where I have looked at pastoral communities and their strategies to cope with political crisis, persistent violence and environmental degradation. I currently consolidate, deepen and expand this agenda around the concept of the frontier to retrieve the spatial politics of land appropriation and dispossession in the Global South.

In my work on political theology, I have been interested in the porous boundaries between religion and politics, the religious and the secular and the politics of policing and negotiating these boundaries. Some of this work is theoretical, some ethnographic. WIth Rory Rowan, I have  excavated the gnostic "ghosts" in the thinking of Heidegger and Schmitt as a basis to critically reconsider their work. Together with late Shahul Hasbullah, I have worked on Muslim geographies and the struggles over purity and belonging in eastern Sri Lanka. With Deborah Johnson, I have worked on Tamil Catholic Priests and their humanitarian work during the war in Sri Lanka. From this empirical work, I hope to develop an "anti-Schmittian" conception of sovereignty.

Carl Schmitt also raises the ghost of illiberalism in democracy that does not only haunt countries, such as Ethiopia or Sri Lanka, but Western democracies as well. In the collaborative SINERGIA project "Reversing the gaze" (with Universities of Basel and Edinburgh), we "reverse the gaze of political theory" - using postcolonial theory and conceptions developed in South Asia to study electoral politics and apply these to democratic politics in Europe, in particular Austria. Through this conceptual move, we hope to irritate current debates in mainstream political theory on right-wing populism by offering an ethnographically emergent theory of "actually existing politics" (Spencer).

Finally: German Theory. For some time, I have been invested - with a group of colleagues, Eberhard Rothfuss and Woody Sahr in particular - to dive deep into the Geistesgeschichte of German (Jewish) thought and to retrieve it for critical human geography. My own dives lead me to Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Jacob Taubes, Odo Marquard and Hans Blumenberg - with detours to Simone Weil. As a side-track to this larger agenda, my recent book "Schwierigkeiten mit der kritischen Geographie" (Transcript, 2022) has been in conversation with these thinkers to ask skeptical questions to some practices of an "uncritical" (Blomley) critical geography.