This module focuses on the academic field of area studies. You will immerse in the various academic debates and political functions that have guided the development of the field in recent years. You will critically discuss concepts such as ‘orientalization’ or ‘idolization’ in the context of area studies. Furthermore, you will learn about the methodological challenges of the field – what are the intricacies of field work? What are the parameters you can study in the field and where are the limits? This module provides you with a broad basis from which to proceed into researching distinct regions of the world – and you will understand the methodological and conceptual differences with the field of global politics.
The unit will introduce students to the debates on the idea of ‘uniqueness’ of Russia in the context of discussions of its ‘special path’ / ‘mission’ in world history. It aims at providing students with basic knowledge about cultural and historical foundations of the Russian ‘uniqueness’ metaphor and will suggest practical implications of these debates for contemporary understanding of regional and global politics. The dilemma of the confrontation / cohabitation with the ‘West’ in Russian national consciousness and its partial incarnation in the form of a ‘special path’ or Sonderweg will be presented as a central point of the debate.
Students should be able to compare different discourses on ‘uniqueness’ in historical perspective as well as in the context of the contemporary confrontation between globalization and nationalism, the nation-building agenda and controversies of international politics. They also will be asked to put the issue into a comparative perspective: in terms of confronting claims for uniqueness and/or Sonderweg advanced by different nations. The unit should also enable students to distinguish between analytical categories and essentialist notions.
- Is the uniqueness agenda unique?
- How is the uniqueness agenda being transferred into political and cultural practices?
- How does Russian ‘uniqueness’ co-exist with and confront the ‘uniqueness’ of its neighbors?