Research projects pursue different issues, often in cooperation with colleagues from other disciplines or as part of larger collaborative research projects. Find out more about our current projects here.

Chinese Engineers and their Visions of Space: Builders of a Networked Nation, 1906–1937

The project investigates how the nation state in China was “formatted” with the help of various visions of its infrastructural networking. The study begins in 1906, when the Ministry of Post and Communications was founded while the dynasty began to unravel, and ends after 1937 with the subjugation of the ten-year-old "developmental state" of the Nationalist Party to the imperative of war. While Anderson's concept of the "imagined community" (Anderson 2006) already presupposes the territorial limitations of the nation, we examine the highly diverse notions of how the imagined territory of the nation state should be permeated internally by infrastructure and connected externally to the global spatial order. The nationalist government, which achieved a precarious reunification with the Northern Campaign of 1927, had to bring these visions under control and at the same time align them with its own, Nanjing-centered version of China. We analyze these visions and the plans for their implementation in transport technology using sources from three groups of actors: the Ministry of Communications in its changing institutional forms, the technical schools as places of spatial knowledge production, and engineering associations of various provenance. We ask how these actors at different times defined the national space in dealing with domestic and foreign policy challenges. We understand the discursive focus of nationalist movements on the expansion of the communication infrastructure as a central dimension of the respatialization of the nation in modern China.

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Taiwanese Religious Communities and their Internationalization Strategies (guojihua) since the 1980s

This project explores the global spread of the two Taiwanese religious organizations Foguangshan (“Buddha’s Light Mountain”) and Yiguandao (“Way of Pervading Unity”) by studying their transnational social spaces. Both religious organizations seek to spread their religious and cultural traditions on a global scale, especially since the gradual relaxation of political restraints in Taiwan during the 1980s. Their endeavours connect and cross countries relevant to Chinese migration patterns as well as border crossing spatial arrangements like transnational communities (e.g., Chinese diaspora, Chinese cultural spheres, Buddhist communities). Focusing on four different field sites – South Africa, the United States, Hong Kong, and Japan – and applying the methodological framework of multi-sited ethnography, we aim to understand the transnational organizational structures, creation of transnational social spaces, and dynamics of central control and decentralization of the two religious organizations.

Project durationt: 2016–2019
Principal investigator: Philip Clart
Researchers: Nikolas Broy und Jens Reinke

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