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Bielefeld Graduate School
in History and Sociology
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Katharina Pohl

"To be good at giving development aid is just as important as to be good at skiing" - Media discourses on "development aid" and the construction of Norwegian autostereotypes

Supervisor:Prof. Dr. Martina Kessel

Trans-national and often universalized processes of knowledge production have to a high degree determined the way "development" and its alleged implementation are perceived publicly in "donor countries". The presentation of "development aid" in the media is embedded in the negotiation of universalized norms and their connected action frames, i.e. concepts which are connotated as seemingly neutral and globally valid such as human rights, democratization or gender equality. These concepts are rarely contextualized in terms of their cultural embedment which would disclose for example the specific history of ideas that has an important impact on their particular interpretation. In addition, the discursive negotiation of "development" (or better: the postulated lack of it in some countries thereby labeled as deficient) silently implies that the states on the "donating" end have already reached a "developed" stage.
But in media discourses, the actual measures taken for example to reduce poverty or increase the level of education in "developing countries" are often described in ways that very openly refer to national categorizations. They present or even determine the rules of membership in a specific national community by defining morally opportune behavior and attitudes.
In my project I would firstly like to investigate how in media discourses on Norway?s "development aid" its efforts in Africa are portrayed. In a second step I would like to analyze how the "development assistance" provided by national organizations and institutions is described as a specific feature separating the country from other states, i.e. how "development assistance" is created as an element of explicitly national self-description. In this sense, I will try to argue that the concept of the nation state might on the one hand be contested in such trans-nationalized and seemingly universalized fields such as "development aid" but that perceptions of national belonging and the focus on the construction of identity through the emphasis of difference on the other hand are still rather persistent in the media.

Curriculum Vitae


since April 2009
PhD student
Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology
Universität Bielefeld
2000 - 2008
M.A. in Scandinavian Studies, European Ethnology and Art History
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Universitetet i Tromsø, DAAD and Norwegian Research Council scholarships
Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

Working Experience

since 12/2012
research assistant
Interreg4a-project Emerging Attraction
Internationales Institut für Management und ökonomische Bildung, Universität Flensburg
May 2008 - March 2009
project coordinator
Erasmus Mundus project BalticStudyNet
Nordeuropa-Institut, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
September 2005 - March 2008
student assistant
Baltic Sea School, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
April 2005 - August 2005
student assistant
Project "Hundert Jahre deutsch-norwegische Begegnungen. Nicht nur Lachs und Würstchen", Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Teaching Experience

summer term 2010
"Ingenting er som en felles fiende". Skandinavische Selbst- und Fremdbilder in Medien und Literatur
Institut für Nordische Philologie/Skandinavistik, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
winter term 2008
Die Verhandlung von kulturellen Auto- und Heterostereotypen in Skandinavien
Nordeuropa-Institut, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
winter term 2008
Research Tutorial
Baltic Sea School, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


  • Pohl, Katharina/Speich Chasé, Daniel: Gut im Vergleich. Spannungen im norwegischen und schweizerischen Entwicklungsdiskurs. In: Elmer, Sara/Kuhn, Konrad (Hg.) (et al.): Handlungsfeld Entwicklung. Schweizer Erwartungen und Erfahrungen in der Geschichte der Entwicklungsarbeit. Basel 2014.
  • Frommberg, Patrick/Pohl, Katharina: "Der ökologische Sami". Minderheitenrechte und kulturelle Homogenität in Norwegen. In: Hammerich, Kurt (Hg.) (et al.): Minderheiten und ihr Umgang mit der Natur. Sankt Augustin 2011.
  • Pohl, Katharina: "Not on the edge of Europe". Konzeptualisierungen der Ostseeregion nach 1990. In: Hecker-Stampehl, Jan/Hendriette Kliemann-Geisinger (Hg.): Facetten des Nordens. Räume - Konstruktionen - Identitäten. Berlin 2009.
  • Pohl, Katharina: "Eine unbehagliche Geschichte" - Norwegische Vergangenheitsdebatten und der Holocaust. In: Schmid, Harald (Hg.): Geschichtspolitik und kollektives Gedächtnis. Erinnerungskulturen in Theorie und Praxis. Göttingen 2009.
  • Pohl, Katharina:"Es lebe alles, was saamisch ist" - Saamische Ethnopolitik zwischen Primordialismus und Instrumentalismus. In: NORDEUROPAforum 2/2007: 7-27.
  • Pohl, Katharina:Several articles on different aspects of German-Norwegian encounters in Henningsen, Bernd (ed.): Hundert Jahre deutsch-norwegische Begegnungen. Nicht nur Lachs und Würstchen. Berlin 2005.

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