Research fields

In order to provide the broadest possible basis for comparative work and for interdisciplinary research groups, the FI has structured its thematic work priorities into research fields.

These research fields are defined on the basis of the overlapping points of the individual research activities and practical projects.

The following three research fields are currently defined:

F 1:          Peace and conflict research

F 2:          Migration and reception (flight - transit - arrival)

F 3:          Education, social transformation and social change

Research Field 1: Peace and Conflict Research

In the research field "Peace and Conflict Research" the FI is examining different aspects of war, violence, pacification and reconciliation.

Most research is carried out in conjunction with the International Consortium for Research on Violence (ICRoV), which was established in 2013 as a fusion of researchers in the context of the Iraq Conferences of the FI in Kirkuk (2012) and Erbil (20013).

Three long-term projects are currently underway in this research field:

a) "Violence and Society in Iraq"

In 2010, the FI organised a conference in Kirkuk / Iraq for the first time, opening a series of events in Iraq that have been taking place annually since then. The aim is to bring together academic research and local civil society representatives and organisations in a conference workshop format and thus create a dialogue forum on questions of violence and pacification.  In 2012, this event took place for the first time with international participation in the form of an "International Conference on Violence Research in Iraq" in Kirkuk. At this conference, examples from other countries were also treated for the first time, allowing a comparative consideration and initiating a South-South dialogue. Within the framework of the event, the international researchers organised workshops for Iraqi students offering the young academics access to the research fields and experiences of international research after a long period of isolation.

This event has been organised in cooperation with the Center for Iraq Studies (CIS) of the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg since 2013. At the Sulaimaniya conference in 2016, it was decided to focus on the topic of "Rebuilding War Societies" for the next few years. This is also the theme of the 2017 conference in Basra.

b) "Social and everyday history of war"

In this long-term project, Hartmut Quehl is examining selected liberation wars after the end of the Second World War in a global comparative study ("Comparative War Research: Social and Everyday History of Liberation Wars after the Second World War"). This historical study is based on cross-time and cross-culture comparisons and is attempting to establish a comparative conflict history of the global periphery in the late 20th century that transcends regional differences.

The country examples (especially Nicaragua, Iraqi Kurdistan and Eritrea) cover a period of more than 50 years and wars of varying intensity and duration. They are on three different continents and are rooted in, in some respects vastly, in others less strongly differing cultural contexts. Time and space serve as parameters for the analysis of the specific constellations of the locally differing processes and of those components which, taking into account the particularity of the individual country example, indicate universal applicability.

At the core of the study are oral history projects on the life experiences of fighters in war and postwar periods: How do people and societies change in the course of their socialisation into combatants in a war system, and what transformation processes do they go through on the way to peace? On the other hand, it also pursues various aspects of transformation processes, which take place following a transition from peace to war and from war to peace. What happens in countries that undergo a transformation of the political system through a victorious liberation front after a long war?

The study "Comparative War Research: Social and Everyday History of Liberation Wars after the Second World War" is integrated into the interdisciplinary and international contexts of academic research and debate. The country examples, Nicaragua and Iraqi Kurdistan, are being worked on by the research groups in the respective countries.

c) "De-escalation - pacification - reconciliation"

The project "De-escalation - Pacification - Reconciliation" was developed in the years 2014 and 2015 as a synthesis of the results of the Iraq conferences to date and one aspect of the long-term project "Social and Everyday History of the War" namely, "Demobilisation and Reintegration". Prior workshop conferences were held in Bogotá / Colombia on "Realistic Peace and Turbulent Transitions" (2014) and Mekelle / Ethiopia on "Regional Security" (2015). In a symposium on Demilitarisation, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) organised jointly with the Hamburg Institute for Social Research (HIS), a review of the past 25 years of DDR experiences was drawn from the case studies of Eritrea, Nicaragua, Colombia and Rwanda. Building on this review, the question of changed conditions in the shifting contexts of violence was raised - a question which requires new ways of thinking, particularly in view of possible future scenarios in Syria and Iraq. Taking Colombian experiences particularly into account, a new approach is emerging here at the FI, which focuses on de-escalation, pacification and reconciliation as the central components of the rebuilding of war societies.

As a first step, it is planned to continue this interdisciplinary research project in an intercultural context until 2020.

Research Field 2: Migration and Reception (Flight - Transit - Arrival)

Right from the early days of the FI, the research field "Flight and Migration" has been an area that has brought together the expertise of renowned international researchers of diaspora and transnationalism, mainly with respect to Eritrea and the Horn of Africa.

The intra-European and international developments in the second decade of the 21st century have forced this focus to be classified in a wider context: the escalation in the Middle East, the return of war to Europe and the intensified efforts of the European Union to control migratory flows have necessitated an expansion of the research horizon, which brings with it a separation from the narrow regional perspective and a re-interpretation of the connections of violence.

The FI thus defines flight and migration as secondary characteristics of war and armed conflicts resulting from a worsening global North-South confrontation that is running in parallel to global economic polarisations.

a) "Refugee Crisis" in Germany and Europe

The so-called "refugee crisis" in Germany and Europe in 2015 and 2016 has resulted in a reorganisation of the particular research interests at the FI that were previously only loosely interlinked. Various student research projects were developed in 2016 in cooperation with the University of Tennessee. At the same time, the "Felsberg Research Collective" (FFK), a research group of students and graduates focusing on flight and migration research, was created at the FI.

These activities are coordinated by Prof. Dr. Trisha Hepner and Prof Dr. Karen McKanders at the University of Tennessee and Prof. Dr. Magnus Treiber and Dr. Hartmut Quehl from the FI.

The "Felsberg Research Collective" headed by Dr. Hartmut Quehl is also currently running investigations in the following sub-areas:

  • Refugee numbers, reception procedures and asylum practices in Germany
  • Press evaluation: Discourse analysis on the public debate on the "refugee crisis"
  • Militarisation of the EU
  • Khartoum process
  • Political and economic reconfiguration processes

b) Research project "Flight and transit with the example of migration from Eritrea" (six-country study)

The FI has a long-standing research focus on Eritrea. In 2010 the "Eritrea Contact Group" was established, which has been dealing with the topic "Political transition and social change in Eritrea" since then.

A new research approach emerged from the analysis of the results of Research Field 2 and as a result of interaction between international academics associated with the FI in 2016.

This research approach is based on the concept of simultaneous field research in the transit countries that Eritrean migrants pass through on their way to Germany by means of qualitative interviews underpinned by research guidelines in order to first of all arrive at conclusions about the flight biographies of the Eritrean migrants, secondly, to obtain insights into their communication strategies within the framework of the transnational Eritrean community and thirdly, to highlight the stages of individual and collective social change during the migration process.

At the same time, the situation of the migrants in the respective transit country was contextualised, with the aim of identifying specific geographic features as well as regional (cross-border) correlations and / or similarities.

Field research was successfully completed in October and November 2016. The following countries and researchers were involved:

  • Ethiopia: Ms. Mulu Getachew, PhD student at the University of Addis Ababa / Ethiopia
  • Sudan: Günter Schröder, freelancer for the FI and a member of the Eritrea Contact Group
  • Israel: Yacob Abraham, freelancer forthe FI and a member of the Eritrea Contact Group
  • Libya: Maher Omar Sultan, student at the University of Khartoum / Sudan
  • Italy: Dr. Aurora Massa, University of Bergamo / Italy
  • Germany: Abdulkadir Shifa, graduate of the University of Asmara / Eritrea, currently in preparation for his studies at the University of Marburg

A total of 91 interviews were conducted, which were recorded on audio devices and are available in digital form.

The first evaluation workshop of the participating researchers took place in Felsberg at the invitation of the FI from 2 - 4 March 2017. The evaluation of the empirical data, the analysis and contextualisation are planned for 2017-2018.

Research Field 3: Education, social transformation and social change

The field of "Education, social transformation and social change" considers migration after arrival in Germany and Europe as an integral part of the social transformation not only of the countries of origin, but also of the host or receiving country, and sees these processes as part of a mutually dependent social transition.

In order to better understand the situation and needs of refugees and migrants and compile practical recommendations, this focus draws both upon our own findings of conflict and regional research at the Felsberg Institute, as well as on a wide range of subjects including political science, law, sociology, psychology, history and ethnology. The migration-related education and integration research at the Felsberg Institute is thus an inter- and trans-disciplinary interface with concrete applications.

a) Project "Immediate schooling and stabilisation"

In 2012, the FI launched an educational program for unaccompanied minor refugees (umF) at the Kassel site in cooperation with the "Institut für Sprachen".

Between 2012 and 2014, the Felsberg Institute initiated two EU-funded projects with a three-year or one-year term. These worked on "Capacity building, ongoing training  and raising awareness of specialists in the context of psychosocial and therapeutic work with UMF" and "Promoting language and learning of unaccompanied minor refugees (UMF) for integration into the German education / vocational training system".

The symposium "Unaccompanied minors between traumatisation and integration pressure" in Felsberg in August 2014 summed up expert opinions, intermediate results from practical esxperiences and the need for action. The symposium brought together interdisciplinary specialists from various academic disciplines and fields of practice - from social work and educational refugee care as well as from psychotherapy and legal and social sciences, including ethnology - and aimed at interdisciplinary dialogue, further, ongoing professional exchange and mutual cooperation over and above the immediate everyday working life.

Miriam Wolfstein's doctoral research project on the claim and reality of integration through language promotion and education and Rita Horvay's survey of possible social costs through lack of or inadequate education integration were, among others, central to the accompanying academic research.

By 2016 approximately 700 unaccompanied minor refugees had been prepared to attend a regular school through this FI practical project. Since the EU funding came to an end in 2015, the FI has continued the project independently under the name of "Immediate schooling and stabilisation" and without external financing. Detailed project documentation is currently being written.

b) "Research alliance for research alliance for students transferring from other educational systems" (SETI)

The "Research alliance for research alliance for students transferring from other educational systems" (SETI) was founded in 2017 as an interdisciplinary research group (German as Foreign / Second Language (GFL /GSL) DaF / DaZ, Psychology, Social Pedagogy, Political Science, Ethnology) of academics and practitioners of target group-oriented education. Based on the preliminary work of the FI in the area of ​​the educational integration of UMF and the ongoing practical project "immediate schooling and stabilisation", a research project "Learning success and educational integration of students transferring from other educational systems of non-German language of origin - a multi-perspective case study" was conceived and submitted to the Hessian Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs for approval.

The research group includes the following institutions and academics:

  • Dr. Manuela Westphal (University of Kassel - FB 01 / Department of Social Work and Social Welfare)
  • Dr. Hermann Funk (University of Jena - Department of German as a Foreign Languages DaF / DaZ - Centre for Textbook Analysis and Material Design)
  • Ibrahim Özkan (Asklepios Psychiatric Clinic Göttingen / Focus on Cultures, Migration and Mental Illnesses - Psychiatric outpatients)
  • Hartmut Quehl (Felsberg Institute for Education and Academic Research)
  • Sina Motzek-Öz (University of Kassel - FB 01 / Department of Department of Social Work and Social Welfare)
  • Rita Horvay (Felsberg Institute for Education and Academic Research; Clinic for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Lüneburg)
  • Henning Wienefeld (board member of the Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees (BumF) eV)
  • Robert Szeltner (Member of school leadership team, Gudensberg)

In view of the fact that the number of young immigrants - especially those over 16 years of age - has been growing significantly since 2015, it is considered to be a key social policy objective to support the vocational training / educational integration of this group. The complex situation thus arising is new at this scale and could not be systematically, academically elucidated to any great extent up to now. The aim of the research project is, firstly, to gather multi-perspective, empirically ascertained findings on questions of vocational training / education integration in the context of flight.  Examples of the perspectives both of the young people themselves and of other involved parties are to be taken into account. Secondly, the educational and teaching concepts used in school education, in particular the teaching materials, are to be analysed from a GSL point of view. Finally, the project has the goal of further developing the existing theoretical and practical conceptions of educational and integration measures on the basis of empirical findings obtained. This will tie in with the previous academic work and the professional experience of the researchers and practitioners involved. The research group has a particular focus on the ongoing fostering of the language of education, the pedagogic support as well as the organisation of transitions into schools and vocational training, as laid out in the Hessian overall language support concept.

The field of investigation for ​​the planned research are the so-called InteA classes ("Integration durch Anschluss und Abschluss" - integration through connection and certification), which were set up at the beginning of the school year 2015/2016 within the context of the overall language support concept in Hesse for students transferring from other educational systems of non-German language of origin.

Using an exploratory approach, the aim is to investigate as comprehensively and closely as possible how successful learning and the vocational training / educational integration of students transferring from other educational systems of non-German language of origin are achieved in the selected schools and what factors play a role in this process. We assume that linguistic learning success and further transitions into school education and vocational training must be considered against the background of the individual's general educational level and psychological disposition.

c) Writing Workshop"Inana - women writers from Iraq"

With the project "Inana", which was developed in cooperation with the German Embassy in Baghdad and the Goethe Institute Iraq, culture has become a further field of activity of the FI.

In 2013 Birgit Svensson, representative of the FI in Iraq organised a writing workshop for female Iraqi writers in Basra for the first time. It was preceded by an anthology of contemporary Iraqi women writers, the first since the fall of Saddam Hussein in the spring of 2003. The Arabic edition "With the Eyes of Inana" appeared in 2013, exactly ten years after the painful turning point for Iraq. It was soon out of print. A second Arabic edition has already been produced. Meanwhile, German and French translations are available.

The book "With the Eyes of Inana" opens up another world: 19 women writers from Iraq are published in the anthology, which was introduced in German at the Leipzig Book Fair in 2015.  Women write differently to men, which also and especially applies to a country like Iraq. Although they have suffered and are still suffering the same fate, it affects women in different ways, and therefore leaves them with other perspectives. Love in times of terror, confrontations with violence, dreams and fears: the texts of "With the Eyes of Inana" show that women suffer differently, feel differently, and most importantly they have to bear other forms of violence.

Birgit Svensson has given the writing workshop project continuity: writing workshops take place several times a year, giving even more women the chance and an outlet to express and process their often dramatic experiences. “INANA” has thus become a project. Conferences have been initiated

for women writers with international participation, theatrical playsand audio versions of the textshave been created and there have been appearances at book fairs in Germany and France.

Birgit Svensson has given the project writing workshop continuity: the writing workshop is reissued annually and Iraqi women writers present their lyrical poetry at the book fairs in Leipzig or Frankfurt every year.