The growing influence of the “rising powers” of the Global South, such as Brazil, China, India and South Africa, and the simultaneous emergence of a “world of regions” in which regional governing processes were increasingly important were among the salient traits of world politics in the early years of this century. Based on the assumption that powerful countries such as those named above would play a substantial role in shaping their respective regions, a new research agenda emerged, which conceptualised these countries as “regional powers.”
The GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, where the conference will take place, played a major role in driving the debate on this topic, which led to important comparative insights on regional political dynamics. We unveiled patterns of leadership and followership, hegemony and contestation, and explored the regional powers’ ambivalent influence on regional cooperation as well as the complex relationships between their regional and global policies.
The conference aims to “revisit” the regional powers research agenda. Its goal is to critically assess past research and conceptual work on regional powers and to explore innovative approaches for the future, building on and expanding existing networks of scholars from different geographical and disciplinary backgrounds. This is all the more relevant in light of continuing shifts in global politics – be it the rise of authoritarianism in many regions, the domestic political and economic challenges within some of the most frequently studied regional powers (Brazil and South Africa), or the growing impact of non-state and transnational actors, including (state) corporations, civil society groups, and international organisations. To capture these important developments, we need to expand both the methodological and disciplinary toolkits of research on regional powers.
In five panels and a round-table discussion, the conference will address the “revision” of specific aspects of the regional powers research agenda: (1) the concept itself, as well as the most suitable methodological tools for studying regional powers; (2) the influence of domestic factors, which were neglected in the original regional powers research agenda; (3) the empirical object of analysis, including new regional powers; (4) the different forums, beyond the region, where the influence of regional powers manifests itself; and (5) the previously neglected interdisciplinary component, which is essential for the study of contemporary regional powers.