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Sociology of Transnationalization and Social Anthropology

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The research unit addresses questions of mobilities and membership - in particular citizenship and belonging - in cross-border social formations and in transnationalizing social structures on various scales. The unit consists of two research groups, 'Sociology of Transnationalization' and 'Social Anthropology'. Of special importance is the idea that various forms of spatial mobility - such as migration and circular movement - are inextricably connected to various forms of social mobility, and that these processes have implications for the understanding and practices of membership (citizenship, belonging) via changing policies and meanings of equality and inequalities.

Sociology of Transnationalization

At the core of the activities stand the social mechanisms which contribute to the genesis and reproduction of social practices and structures beyond the borders of national states. We specifically deal with the implications for membership, such as citizenship. Our agenda encompasses three areas of research: cross-border migration, development cooperation, and the Transnational Social Question. In all three fields our research is concerned with how categories of persons, organizations and states build social formations which cut across national borders, such as transnational social spaces, diasporas, transnational communities, transnational families, transnational social movements, issue networks of organizations - and the consequences of transnational social formations for life worlds, social inequalities and membership. The work of the 'Center on Migration, Citizenship and Development (COMCAD) builds on the critique of methodological nationalism and above all seeks to develop and employ methods adequate to overcome these shortcomings.

An important part of the working group's activities in research training are doctoral projects which reflect the research fields of transnational migration, development cooperation, climate change, transnational social policy and transnational social protection. Future work of this research group will continue the strands transnationalization and deal more specifically with social protection in and around the European Union and its implication for membership.

Social Anthropology

Anthropology is the comparative study of cultures and societies across time and space. Using a grounded perspective, it is primarily concerned with human relationships in context and with dynamics of social change. The methodological hallmark of the discipline is ethnography, the anthropologist’s work of immersing in the everyday realities of people and communities over long periods of time to understand how larger processes and power relations are at work in their lives.

In a globally connected world, social anthropology is ideally positioned to contribute to the understanding of our diversity and similarity as human beings as well as the global forces that bring us together or set us apart. Students of social anthropology are trained to acquire the tools and concepts that allow them to identify critical social, economic and political patterns in mundane social and cultural artifacts and practices.

Social anthropology is closely related to sociology. While there used to be clear distinctions between the two disciplines, their mutual deployment of concepts, methods and research interests in recent decades indicates an increasingly blurred boundary. Indeed, social anthropology and sociology complement each other very well in advancing knowledge on human societies and social behavior.