Does COVID-19 Spell the End of Globalisation?

The year of social distancing, which has seen travel interrupted and the establishment of virtual forms of meeting, has fundamentally shaken confidence in practices and infrastructures of migration and transport that were believed to be safe. This has also laid bare the unequal consequences that interruptions in mobility have in different regions of the world and social groups. For mobility researchers, this allows a new perspective on the forms and limits of movement and travel for different groups of people. In its fifth annual conference from 7 to 10 October, the Leipzig University Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 1199, Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition, will address the challenges this poses for mobility research in the social sciences and humanities.

The online conference will bring together scholars from Germany, Austria, Finland, the United Kingdom, the US and Canada to discuss the question of how new spaces are created by different forms and practices of mobility, and which stakeholders shape them. For Dr Steffi Marung, who devised the conference together with Professor Matthias Middell, this year makes it particularly clear that globalisation is not an abstract power. “Globalisation processes are the result of the many things that people, companies or organisations do to hold their own in a closely interwoven world,’ she said. Professor Matthias Middell added: “Suddenly we hear people talking about the end of globalisation. But this misses the point.’ Indeed for Marung and Middell, it is clearly more important than ever to investigate mobility in the context of historical and social science studies of globalisation. “This is not merely about interdependencies and mobility per se, but about understanding the inequalities and ruptures in these connections and exploring who benefits and who doesn’t, and which globalisation projects will prevail,’ said Marung.

The annual conference is also a response to an interdisciplinary discussion that focuses on the connection between mobility and immobility and that problematises a “mobility bias? of migration research, which emphasises circulation and movement but neglects the fact that many people do not migrate between the regions of the world, but remain relatively immobile. This creates the impression of a whole world “on the move’, masking the fact that many people are forced or feel compelled to migrate, but the vast majority of humankind remain relatively stationary. Only then does the necessity of mobility regimes arise, which mediate between migration and stationary lifestyles, control movement, and give rise to new practices of movement. The fact that they are becoming increasingly intertwined at the transregional level is one of the special challenges for interdisciplinary research.

The English-language online conference will open with a presentation by Tim Cresswell (University of Edinburgh) entitled Valuing Mobility in a Post COVID-19 World, followed by numerous round table discussions, panels with commentaries, and open working formats. Among other information, the conference website has a link to the virtual rooms, for which participants will require an access code. Please register on the website if you wish to take part. You will then be sent a code.

About CRC 1199:
Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 1199, Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition, at Leipzig University has been funded by the German Research Foundation since 2016. In 17 sub-projects, around 50 researchers are investigating the formation and change of spatial orders in an increasingly interwoven world, offering new perspectives on globalisation processes both past and present. The CRC is part of the Research Centre Global Dynamics (ReCentGlobe) at Leipzig University, where it is linked to other diverse fields and topics under the umbrella of Leipzig’s globalisation research.

Pia Siemer

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