Projects

Doctoral students at the GIGA are fully integrated into the institute’s research structure. They pursue different research topics that are reflected in the GIGA’s wide-ranging areas of expertise. The following interviews exemplify the in-depth research our doctoral students are engaged in.


Thorsten Wojczewski recently submitted his dissertation, entitled “India and the Quest for World Order: Hegemony and Identity in India’s post-Cold War Foreign Policy Discourse.” We asked him about his research and his time in the Doctoral Programme.

Questions

Thorsten Wojczewski

1. What was your initial motivation for addressing the topic of your dissertation?
My main motivation for investigating India’s world order concepts was to understand the apparent contradictions and ambiguities in India’s foreign policy. Scholars and policymakers are often puzzled when they deal with India and cannot fully comprehend India’s behaviour. My dissertation offers important insights here.

2. What was your most influential experience during your time as a doctoral student?
The most influential experience was probably my visiting fellowship at the University of Oxford. Oxford offered a very stimulating environment for completing my dissertation and access to an impressive range of primary and secondary literature. In addition, the visiting fellowship gave me the opportunity to discuss my work with leading scholars.

3. To whom would you like to present the result of your research, if possible?
Like most scholars, I want to produce research that has an impact on the world. I already had the opportunity to present the findings of my dissertation to German policymakers at an event at the Federal Foreign Office. It was very interesting to discuss my results and to give policy recommendations.

4. Looking back: What advice would you now give to your younger self at the beginning of your doctoral studies?
Everything takes far longer than expected.


Ina Peters recently defended her dissertation, entitled “Cohesion and Fragmentation in the Social Movement against Belo Monte.” In her study, she analysed the collective action against what will be the world’s third-largest hydroelectric power plant. We asked her to tell us more about her research.

Questions

Ina Peters

1. What was your initial motivation for addressing the topic of your dissertation?
I wrote my dissertation in the realm of the Hamburg International Graduate School for the Study of Regional Powers (HIGS). Brazil is considered one of these regional powers, and I was curious to learn more about the domestic conditions of Brazil’s rise. My study shows that the election of the Workers’ Party had severe repercussions for civil society organisations. While the country experienced domestic growth over many years, the relationship between the state and the civil society deteriorated.

2. What was your most influential experience during your time as a doctoral student?
During my field research I conducted interviews with settlers, fishers, and riverine and indigenous people who live inside and off of the forest. They have a very close and spiritual connection to nature, they see man as only one part of a complex system, and they have a very good sense of what sustainability really means. I was inspired by their perception of the world and I believe that modern societies can learn a lot from indigenous and tribal people.

3. What was the biggest challenge during your research process and how did you cope with it?
I had to change my research design several times. First, I was not able to collect the kind of data that I needed for a social network analysis. Then, I felt that my method of analysis was too limited to tease out the deeper meaning of the Belo Monte conflict. Eventually, I based my analysis on grounded theory methodology. It was a long process but the hard work paid off because I was able to reconstruct a comprehensive rationale of the conflict.

4. What was the most valuable piece of advice you received during your doctoral studies?
When I was analysing my interviews, which was extremely time-consuming, I came across a poster (designed by Facebook) saying “Done is better than perfect.” I put the poster up on my wall just above my computer screen, and whenever I got stuck I remembered that done is better than perfect. The poster helped me focus and take some pragmatic decisions in the last year of my dissertation.