Research Profile


Since 2018 the OIB has developed the broad research profile of RELATIONS in order to generate innovative research questions and sub-fields within the institute’s research community of resident researchers, visiting fellows as well as affiliates and partners. While questions of entanglement, connectivity and interrelatedness in the moves of people, goods and ideas have been on the international research agenda for years now, especially in transnational and transregional frameworks, the nature of the relations established within these moves has been neglected.  Yet, broadly speaking, the basic concept of relations lies at the heart of just about any human social activity and the quality of these relations decides the fates of individuals, families, all kinds of groups, nations, states and even the international order. The concept touches on central questions of the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences and is therefore apt to bring them into a fruitful conversation. 

We focus on four different sub-fields of relations: between humans themselves, between humans and their productions, between humans and their environment, and between humans and the divine.

Human-human relations can be inter-personal on the micro-level of analysis, they can be inter-social on the meso-level and they can be inter-national or inter-regional on the macro-level of analysis. On the micro-level relationships of kinship, friendship and neighbourship have been  in our research focus and yielded 3 successful conferences/workshops. Important questions were: How do neighborhood relationships work and how can we analyze them? Kinship relations, for example, can no longer be looked at solely through the lens of genetics. Friendship is not solely an emotional relation of pure voluntariness. It can also have an important political side to it. Both are in many ways imagined and constructed. Conversely, neighbourship or neighbourliness is a predominantly spatial form of relations. Neighborliness has been a successful theme which met with great interest internationally. 

Looking at the human connectivity between state and society, and the quality of relations between state actors and society actors as well as intra-society relations (labour relations, gender relations, generational relations) is of particular importance. Therefore, within the theme of relations between humans and their productions, we focus on relations between media and the public, between the wide field of scholarly, artistic and literary production and their reception in different groups and media.
The relations between societies and their natural environments encompass also the anthropogenic changes to it, in nature as well as through architecture and archaeological heritage. Here interdisciplinary environmental and landscape studies can open up new research fields.
When looking at relations between humans and the divine, the focus is on the human production of theological and religious knowledge, also in its encounter and competition with philosophy.

On the macro-level the relations between the Middle East and other world regions (Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas) raise theoretical questions which can only be answered by consulting the theories and approaches of a number of disciplines (History, International Relations,  Sociology, Psychology et al.), but of course, centrally  important, also Islamic, Middle Eastern and other Area Studies. Here we are able to fruitfully combine disciplinary knowledge and area knowledge.

This broad profile on “relations” and its four sub-fields thus created academically innovative and intellectually productive overlapping webs and conversations within the OIB’s research community. A circle of resonating intellectual questions and fields of enquiry provided an integrative framework and a chance for everybody to relate to the research profile in different degrees of intensity.

Please see the graphic for an overview of our research projects this year within the thematic subfields.


For details on the projects see Current projects

            •    Current projects
            •    Previous projects