Current Research

2019-2020 Transatlantic Research Exchanges

CGES is focused transatlantic research exchanges such as:

1. German Musicology’s Global Reach in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Key UW-Madison Faculty: Ronald Radano, Tejumola Olaniyan, Pamela Potter

Building on a project initiated in the 2017-2018 grant cycle, this project will explore how concepts of race, ethnicity, and nation developed over the first half of the twentieth century and shaped the central methodologies in musicology in Germany. Biologistic concepts and metaphors can be found in writings dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century in discussions of Western and non-Western musical cultures. These notions even survive subconsciously in a wide range of musical clichés that describe various groups as having musical traits “in their blood”. Additionally, the project is exploring the institutional history of German musicology, focusing specifically on Berlin entities such as the Phonogrammarchiv, Curt Sachs’s music instrument collection, and above all the Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung, which was expanded in 1936 to annex all musicological research projects throughout the Third Reich. This project intends to investigate the central role of German thought in the foundation of musicological inquiries.

2. Governance and Reform of the European Union

Key UW-Madison Faculty: Mark Copelovitch, Nils Ringe, Elizabeth Covington

Even in times of crisis, the European Union (EU) remains the archetype of successful and sustained regional integration—a profound, ongoing experiment in deep political and economic cooperation among 28 diverse member states. This project will focus on the politics of European governance in the wake of political and economic crises that have shaken the EU in the last decade. Ringe will focus on issues unique to the EU and those that can serve as a basis of comparison with other national and international polities. Much of Ringe’s past work has focused on how EU institutions have profoundly affected and challenged German domestic politics. Professor Copelovitch works on the EU’s impact on global politics and the global economy and continues to study Germany’s role in broader EU monetary issues. Covington will study how the 2021-2027 EU Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund and potential incorporation of new rules of governance devised for Western liberal democracies may pit southern and eastern European member states against the West by implying that their use of these funds is not in compliance with Western norms. Germany is perceived, whether rightly or wrongly, to have a powerful voice in this matter.

3. Issues and Problems of Data Protection in Germany

Key UW-Madison Faculty: Linda Hogle, Alan Rubel

From Bismarck’s Krankenversicherungsgesetz, to policy deriving from ideologies of Rassenhygiene and Bevölkerungsbiologie, to the clumsy attempts to transition health institutions and law from the former GDR to West Germany, the roles and relationships of the State and its individuals have been vexed. This is especially the case in matters dealing with human bodies and what may be done with them (or not). When brought to the cellular level, such boundary-crossings resurrect both biological and legal-ethical questions about what constitutes “the human.” Philosophers and ethicists have framed questions about ambiguities in just this way: what is the human in light of contemporary bioscience? One could also ask: what is a human individual? This is where the issues and problems of data protection come into play. Germany has thus far resisted some of the large-scale studies attempting to aggregate genetic and behavioral data on individuals at the population level, as is occurring in the U.S., UK, and Denmark. These have proven to be highly contentious for Germany in light of previous histories of the collection of vast troves of information on individuals, especially in the GDR. Rather than asking long-standing, unresolvable questions of what is the human individual, this project looks instead at the actual practices through which scientists, lawyers, and policymakers attempt to ameliorate such ambiguities.

4. Criminal Justice and the German Refugee Crisis

Key UW-Madison Faculty: Michael Light, Michael Massoglia, Ralph Grunewald, Joseph Conti, Alexandra Huneeus, Sumudu Atapattu

The dramatic increase in forced migration is one of the most significant global changes in the past several decades. According to the UNHCR, there are more than 65 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, more than at any point since World War II. Perhaps no other country has received more attention than Germany, where over two million people sought refugee status between 2008 and 2017, more than triple the number of any other EU country over this period. While much research has focused on Germany’s political response to the “refugee crisis,” the increase in anti-refugee violence, or the criminological impact of the newest wave of migrants, we still know comparatively little about the judicial response. That is, how have migrants been treated in the criminal justice system in Germany in recent years? Answering this question speaks to fundamental issues regarding inequality before the law that are at the heart of Western liberal democracies. It also informs our understanding of how courts respond to major and unexpected demographic shifts and, most notably, whether the sanctioning of immigrant offenders is partially linked to judicial responses to the demographic profile of society.

5. Interdisciplinary Approaches to Transnational History

Key UW-Madison Faculty: Kathryn Ciancia, Francine Hirsch, Giuliana Chamedes

In recent decades, scholars across the social sciences and humanities have recognized their own role in prioritizing the nation-state as a historical norm and have begun to explore new ways of thinking about human experiences that span, circumvent, and challenge traditional borders between states. These new approaches have yielded a vast array of innovative works, some looking at international institutions, others examining individual actors—including migrants, stateless people, refugees, and even far-right nationalists—who live “transnational” lives. But this new wave of scholarship has also raised many questions about how best to approach the links between people who are separated by state borders—and the challenges that result from such an enterprise. The three faculty members leading this investigation have each worked on taking various approaches to these questions, looking at ethnography, religion, and national identity in Germany, Europe, and the Soviet Union. This project asks: Why are some fields thinking about internationalism (most notably, Soviet history) and others about transnationalism? To what extent are the approaches pursued in European institutions different from those of North America? How are scholars experimenting with new methodologies for thinking about “doing” history across borders and what are the benefits and challenges of these approaches?

6. The [Un]Documented State: Minorities, Migrants, Refugees in Germany and Beyond

Key UW-Madison Faculty: B. Venkat Mani, Weijia Li

The re-labelling of displaced persons has become particularly prominent after the recent resurgence globally of political populism and nationalism, with the impact of the terms “undocumented,” “minorities,” “migrants,” and “refugees” regaining traction in the larger public discourse and in academic scholarship. What is at stake is the self-representation of the nation and the national community, the question of who belongs, and who does not. While there are a number of research collectives in Germany and elsewhere working on these issues, this project will distinguish itself in four major ways. First, the project will focus on Germany, but in a globally comparative context. Second, by discussing minorities and refugees from the global South, it will challenge the unacknowledged Northern Hemisphere hierarchy of “progressive, enlightened, western” versus “backward, unenlightened, non-Western.” Third, by bringing in the United States as an important point of comparison between Germany/Europe and the global South, the discussions will be relevant for specific local contexts, in which migration is once again, as is has been historically, a volatile and polarizing political topic. Finally, instead of calling human beings “undocumented,” it will question the modes in which states as well as NGOs label, or mis-label, humans as forced migrants, internally displaced people, and asylum seekers.