Deutsch Intern
  • Logo: LoSAM
FOR 2757 (2019 - 2023)

Research program

The nucleus of statehood is situated at the local level: in the village, the neighborhood, the city district. This is where a community, beyond the level of the family, first develops collective rules that are intended to ensure its continued existence. But usually this is not the only level of governance at play. Above it, there are supralocal formations of power, varying in scope from regional networks to empires, which supplement the local orders or compete with them. The premise of this Research Unit is that local forms of self-governance are especially heterogeneous and prominent, wherever supralocal statehood exists in the mode of weak permeation.

The central question of our approach is how local forms of self-governance work in this context. We examine the relations to the state level as well as to other local groups as they develop over time; the scope and spatial contingency of forms of self-governance; their legitimization and the interdependency with the organization and collective identity of those groups which carry them out; finally, we turn our attention to the significance of self-governance for the configuration of weak statehood.

The empirical focus is at the local level, which has so far been largely neglected in the research on governance beyond the state. In order to achieve this, we work with case studies that are structured by categories and situated in geographical areas and time periods that lie outside of modern Europe with its particular development of statehood since the Late Middle Ages: in Antiquity, and in the Global South of the present. By incorporating these different time frames, we hope to contribute to overcoming the dichotomy between the modern and pre-modern era, which is often given canonical status. An overview of the seven subprojects can be found here.

Our goal is to create a comparative analysis of different configurations of order as well as the development of a typology of patterns of local governance. The structure of the empirical comparison itself promises methodological insights, since it will entail recognizing, dealing with, and overcoming disciplinary limitations. Starting with the identification of typical patterns and processes, we hope to gain a better grasp of the mechanisms by which local configurations of order succeed, while at the same time advancing the theoretical debate.

This allows us to make an interdisciplinary contribution to the understanding of fundamental elements of statehood and local governance that are of central importance, especially in the context of weak statehood. The insights we gain by adopting this historical perspective will contribute to understanding a present that is not based exclusively on its own, seemingly completely new preconditions, and will thus significantly sharpen the political analysis of various forms of governance.

You can find a more detailed description of our project in our LoSAM Working Paper No. 1.