Reflecting on a vibrant exchange of ideas and expertise, we would like to give you a review of INFRAGLOB’s diverse contributions to the 2023 Pan-European Conference of the European International Studies Association held in Potsdam from 5 to 9 September.

At the conference, Jan Sändig participated in the inspiring section on ‘Infrastructures and Global Order’. The section covered various types of infrastructures – from digital via financial to physical infrastructures (like pipelines, dams, ports, and roads). In his presentation, Jan Sändig examined two major European agricultural companies with a particular focus on their Cameroonian plantations. To explain why the companies have been differently contested, he argued that differing corporate practices matter. This is relevant for the literature on contestations against large-scale investment projects, which so far has given surprisingly little attention to corporate practices. Feedback, especially by the discussant Jutta Bakonyi (Durham University), centered on the meaning of land, the notion of the community, possible time gaps between dispossession and resistance, and the potential of corporate social actions to motivate (rather than demobilise) contentious actions.

Jan Sändig and Jana Hönke were also part of the interesting section ‘Global China and the changing international order’. The section covered issues such as the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s foreign policy, and security politics. Within the section, Jana Hönke and Jan Sändig presented some of their recent findings from a collaborative study with Claude Kabemba, Director of the NGO Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW). The presented paper examines how Chinese mining companies in Africa respond to contentious actions. It seeks to contribute to the literature by showing the circumstances under which these companies concede to protesters by taking social actions, rather than disregarding grievances or repressing dissent. Feedback, most importantly by the discussant Wrenn Yennie Lindgren (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs), concerned methodological detail and suggestions for further social movement theories.

Furthermore, Jana Hönke and Nina Reiners convened the panel ‘Transnational Professionals within and beyond ‘the West’: Reshaping Global Governance?’. This panel featured insightful presentations of scholars from various sub-fields in International Relations and neighbouring disciplines in which they explored the composition, role, and profound impact of transnational professionals in shaping the complex landscape of global politics. Discussions delved into the multifaceted challenges and opportunities faced by these professionals as they navigate the intricate web of cultural, political, and regulatory boundaries across different contexts. Jana Hönke and Raoul Bunskoek jointly presented their paper titled ‘Party Time: Entering the Life Worlds and Career Trajectories of Chinese Transnational Professionals.’ In this paper, the authors challenge the Western-centric view of transnational professionals and explore how Chinese transnational professionals have distinct lifeworlds that shape their practices. They analyse the skills, social capital, and structures influencing their competence and success, emphasizing the need to consider diverse lifeworlds in understanding transnational governance. The panelists agreed that research has to move further beyond the idea that Western practices will spread across the globe and that scholars need to acknowledge how practices by actors from other (Global South) countries might influence transnational professionals.
Finally, we would like to thank the section organizers:
  • Jutta Bakonyi (Durham University) and Shrey Kapoor (University of Basel) for the section “Infrastructures and Global Order”
  • Jonna Nyman (University of Sheffield) and Chenchen Zhang (Durham University) for the section “Global China and the changing international order”
  • Jef Huysmans (University of London) and Joao Nogueira (International Relations Institute, Rio de Janeiro) for the section “Doing International Political Sociology”

We would also like to thank everybody who made the conference possible and are grateful for the insightful feedback we collected. Click here if you would like to get some more impressions from the conference.