Shifting Epistemologies in Area Studies: From Space to Scale

Claudia Derichs


Area studies suffer from various epistemic borderlines which have been drawn and grown during decades of constructing a ‘world order’ that is ultimately defined by political power relations. The question of what constitutes am ‘area’ or a ‘region’ is a timely and contested one. Moreover, epistemic borderlines have been constructed by a hegemonic way of identifying academic disciplines. The separation between area studies and disciplines, too, is a decision based on global epistemic power relations. The following paragraphs address the constructivist dimension of area studies and disciplines. The main argument is that area studies and disciplines are in no way bound to geographical settings but derive from a politically-informed defining and ‘scaling’ of localities, ethnicities, languages, religions, and cultures.


Area Studies; Disciplines; Hegemony; Epistemology

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Claudia Derichs is full professor for Comparative Politics and International Development Studies at Marburg University and is currently holding a Senior Fellowship at the Centre for Global Cooperation Research in Duisburg. Moreover she is appointed member of AcademiaNet (, a network profiling Germany's most outstanding female scholars. Academic record: Translator for Japanese and Arabic (Bonn University), PhD in Japanology (Berlin Free University); Professorial Dissertation/Habilitation in Political Science (University of Duisburg-Essen). Research interests: political Islam and transition in Southeast Asia and the Middle East; Gender and Development Studies; Area Studies (Asia and MENA).