Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality

The Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality were jointly organized by the Irmgard Coninx Foundation, the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) and the Humboldt-University Berlin. They provided a forum for international young academics and journalists to discuss the political and social challenges facing a global civil society. The Berlin Roundtables were international conferences that consist of workshops and lecture series for 30 to 65 participants selected by an international jury based on essay competitions. At the end of each Roundtable, the Irmgard Coninx Foundation awarded up to three participants a three-months research grant in Berlin at the WZB and the Humboldt-University. In June 2014, this conference series and grant program came to an end.

Unlike the buzzword globalization which refers mainly to an economic trend, the concept of transnationality aimed at a broader political, social and cultural perspective. How can a global civil society respond to challenges that do not stop at national borders? By addressing different thematic areas, the Berlin Roundtables intended to foster an understanding of the complex interrelations of global societal processes and nationally structured conditions. By organizing the Roundtables, the Foundation also aimed at developing and supporting a network of younger scholars who focus their research around topics relating to transnational issues. 

Previous Roundtables addressed issues relating to memory politics ("Memory Politics") and civic education in divided societies ("Civic Education"), to urban governance regarding the rule of law as well as religious issues ("Urban Governance"), to urban identity and planning as well as the regulation of migratory processes ("Urban Planet"), to the relationship between population politics and human rights ("Population Politics and Human Rights"), to the philosophical and legal underpinnings and questions of implementation of the international human rights system ("Reframing Human Rights"), as well as to the issue of transnational risks and the appropriate national and international responses to them ("Transnational Risks").

As the following comment by a workshop participant on the Sixth Roundtables suggests, the Berlin Roundtables offered a very special and gratifying experience for young scholars and activists to engage in interdisciplinary dialogue and international networking:

"… As people mentioned several times, the interdisciplinary nature of the participants' and presenters' and jury members' backgrounds made the dialog more accessible, potentially applicable and interesting. I met and spoke at length with journalists, activists who run NGOs, human rights lawyers, sociologists, UN officials, anthropologists, economists, doctors, historians and demographers. I can't think of where else in the world or under what other situation such a constellation of educated, involved people come together to consider complex issues and possible approaches and solutions. So now, because of you, I have a model to start with. Will/do/can these types of conversations/forums happen in the UN? In the EU? At the World Forum? How is the tone of this changed by the fact that it is sponsored and supported by a foundation and coupled with history and fun rather than obligatory during employment, inaccessible due to cost, or within one discipline of "experts"? This is a very special and unique kind of thing - perhaps new to this time. …"