In a globalized, interconnected world, governments routinely rely on expert input not only to help develop policies addressing highly complex regional and global challenges but also to better understand the positions of their international negotiation partners. Since these are often rooted in domestic political, economic and social conditions, country experts — which between themselves constitute the academic field of area studies — are especially well-suited to provide this kind of information for decision-makers and the interested public. Research institutes and universities with a regional studies focus are also among the most internationally connected institutions in academia and constantly strive to expand their respective networks through cooperation with partners overseas and the exchange of visiting scholars. While affirming the role of science as an inherently global enterprise — based on the notion that studying the same evidence should lead to shared conclusions — area studies also supply a critical perspective on how local conditions and contexts shape perceptions especially on politically relevant issues, and how these can be reconciled.
As a globally connected regional studies institute, the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies has been a keen observer of these phenomena. The GIGA previously co-organized a workshop on "The Relevance of Area Studies for the Sciences and Public Policy" in Tokyo in November 2016, and the study of "Power and Ideas" has recently been put at the center of its Research Programme 4, which includes many fellows working on the international relations of Asian powers like China, India and Japan. It also co-organized an international workshop on "Think Tanks in Asia" in April 2016 as part of its Research Platform Asia, focusing specifically on the role which these institutes play in bridging knowledge and power in different domestic contexts. With the inception of its alumni initiative, the GIGA strives to further build on this record by engaging former visiting scholars in a series of workshops on "traveling concepts", i.e., obtaining their perspectives on issues of current global relevance, but with possibly diverging regional interpretations.
As China's premier institution for foreign language learning and the training ground for many of its diplomatic professionals, Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) has been similarly engaged in combining regional studies expertise with the study of international issues. BFSU's German Studies Department is currently conducting a research project on the influence of think tanks on German foreign policy, and in October 2016, the university set up a new high-level Academy of Regional and Global Governance that is designed to combine research and teaching with policy consultation, tapping into the expertise of its own alumni network especially within the foreign service.
As part of these activities, GIGA and BFSU will conduct a joint workshop on "Regional Studies between Power and Knowledge", to be held in Beijing on June 17th, 2017. Aside from delegations from each organizer, participants will include regional scholars who previously stayed at the GIGA ("alumni"), and who are based at major research institutes in China, India and Korea.
Organisation: Pascal Abb