Humboldt-Scholarship
‘Sustainability and Global Justice’

Bachelors and Masters

2013-14 Renewable Energies

For the first time, 15 Students from the Bachelor and Master Programs of the Departments of European Ethnology, Philosophy, Geography and Agricultural Economics were funded by Stiftung Humboldt-Universität in 2013/14 to perform joint small research projects on a new era in energy. Their project set out to explore and improve the relationship and cooperation between transformation initiatives and transformation research.

Driven by the challenges of climate change, the rising costs of resources and the results of continuing globalization, people are increasingly getting together in grassroots movements to create visions and projects for a sustainable transformation of society

The project “Research and Transformation” deals with the mutual interaction between such transformation initiatives and the scholars researching them. In this context questions about the (self-)image of science and the humanities and its role are raised. Should research benefit the initiatives researched? What can successful cooperation look like? The perspectives of the researched initiatives on this research work should be taken into account as well. One of the project’s goals is to increase the mutual understanding of scholars and the initiatives they analyse, in order to simplify collaboration.

The Master students Rebecca Lahl (Integrated Natural Resource Management), Daniel Lommes (Philosophy and Linguistics), Kristina Redecker (Human Geography, Political Science and Pedagogics) and Christian Uhle (Philosophy and Economics) got together to join the perspectives of their respective fields as well as their individual expert knowledge for this interdisciplinary research project.

Discussions on topics such as electric mobility, bicycle traffic, public transportation, car sharing, and the development of infrastructure are monitored across electoral programs, political campaigning events, lobby-organization, television interviews and all major German newspapers. By means of a discourse analysis, the project “Sustainable mobility” aims to achieve a better understanding of the concepts and the influences that shape the discourse about sustainable mobility.

First insights suggest that alternative approaches to mobility are mostly discussed as a cumbersome necessity, a threat for the German automobile industry or at best as a technological challenge. Positions that advocate reduction or sharing of mobility instead of solutions that seek for substitution of fossil energy are rarely found. Considerations such as social inclusiveness or how to best address the problem politically also take a rather marginal position in the discourse analyzed.

The project “Land use change” does not want to conceptualize this land use change as a restricted and separated topic, but as influenced by its ties to Berlin as the local center and its dependencies to regional, national and European structures of governance.

To conduct the research, a local case study is planned to do fieldwork and to examine the local basis of the so-called “Energiewende” (energy transition), with its influence on the emergence of energetic autonomy and especially social structures, e.g. with ethnographic methods such as participant observation. Furthermore, soil samples and an analysis of satellite images that might show changes in the structures of land use will be applied.

As field work has its own logic, specific needs and problems in the chosen case study have to be included in a research that tries to deal with the specific instead of the purely general.

The group consists of six students from different disciplines (Geography, Agronomy and European Ethnology) and different stages of their studies.