Work Programme


Actively taking part in the Collaborative Research Center 586 “Difference and Integration”, funded by the Deutsche Forschungs Gemeinschaft (German Research Foundation), are the University of Leipzig and the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg; as well as the following research institutes: the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Social Anthropology in Halle, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig, the Leibniz Institute for Regional Studies (IfL) also in Leipzig, as well as the Orient Institute Beirut.

The Collaborative Research Center has entered its third phase, the first having started in 2001. During the third stage (2008–2012) the Collaborative Research Center focuses upon four central strains, which, from a historical perspective, have greatly structured the interaction between nomadic and settled peoples:

  1. Hegemony
    The changing center- and periphery relationships between nomadic and settled peoples in the longue durée, also greatly affecting contemporary societal forms, comprise the central area of the research. The societal composition of space and territory will be examined; this includes early statehood, large empires, modern nation-states, as well as the building of trans-national blocks. Of special relevance is the question regarding, to what extent, relations of economic inequality, asymmetrical power relations and cultural variation configure the interaction of nomadic and settled communities, how structures of societal formation are translated, in a contemporary context, into new, territorially fragmented peripheries.

  2. Mobility
    Mobility is examined as a phenomenon, which extends from nomadic societies into settled contexts and is increasingly seen as a defining marker of late modernity. Taken into consideration here will be the direct significance of mobility. We would like to understand how new forms of mobility are coupled with pastoral production and reproduction systems. In this respect a link will be made with mobility research, which has, so far, remained largely unhistorical and without allusion to nomadic peoples.

  3. Representation
    Elucidated will be the consequences of the concrete and fictitious interaction between nomads and settled people and the negotiation of meaning arising from this. The interplay of (everyday) practices and (textual) knowledge, in which processes of differentiation, appropriation and integration are embedded, will also be examined. Outside perspectives will be scrutinized, such as when images of nomads (i.e. the construction of the ‘other’) impact upon agency, and ultimately materialize into interventionist acts for or against nomads. Self-conceptions are also investigated, when identities are derived from a sense of imagined community and indigenousness is postulated in order to legitimize the utilization of resources.

  4. Disasters
    Natural catastrophes and contemporaneous disruptions in the form of climate fluctuations, droughts, epidemics, famine and war represent central moments for the formation of societies. To what extent does the threat of these occurrences impinge differently upon nomadic and settled people? What importance should be given to the (uneven) access and availability of resources? The causal structure of risk, the course of crises, the possibility of buffering, mitigating or coping with these prospective dangers, and their effects upon societal structures, will be examined. The aim is to establish, through a combination of historical analysis and contemporary development research, an ecological-economic model for sustainable human security in the context of global change.

With this in mind 15 different projects and 10 disciplinary areas work in close cooperation: Ancient Oriental Studies, Ancient History, Old Testament Studies and Palestinian Archaeology, History and the Contemporary History of Central Asia, Islamic Studies, the Christian Oriental Studies, Oriental Archaeology and Art History, Ethnology (Syria, Sudan and Siberia), Geography and the ecological-economic modeling of semi-arid eco-systems.