Externally funded project

Merian / CALAS

Coping with Crises: Transdisciplinary Perspectives from Latin America
(Coping with Crises: Transdisciplinary Perspectives from Latin America)

Project Details
Project duration: 01/201902/2025


with multiple crises is a common challenge for (post-)modern societies. In the
global network society crisis cannot be solved only on the ground of national
units, instead complex, translocal approaches are necessary that take into
account local particularities as well as global interconnections.  CALAS understands crises as processes in
which conflicts intensify so that not only do they become more visible, more
easily comprehensible, and more manageable, but that they may even disrupt
current systems and establish new constellations (Koselleck 2010). Crisis
conceived of in this way refers to a situation of sudden change in which the
most basic conditions may themselves be reshaped. Instead of classifying crises
prematurely in – often Eurocentric – metatheories such as progress or decline
(e.g. “crisis of the West”), crisis is understood more as a permanent and
conflictive renewal and the basic condition of a “liquid modernity” (Bauman).
The uncertainty of the future, which increases during crises, implies that
habitual practices no longer suffice, and this results in the need and
opportunity to establish new decision-making processes (Bauman 2014). Precisely
because the status quo is threatened by dissolution and the new conditions are
not yet clear, analyzing crises is of particular importance to understand
change and gain orientation for further action. Hence, besides from taking into
account structural aspects of crises, CALAS places a particular focus on the
actions and reflections of communal actors during “critical events” or
“critical moments” (Gilcher-Holtey 2001). This first implies a break with the
familiar or the recognized normality and, second, a synchronization of
perceptions in the sense that these take on a supra-individual character, which
makes them effective on a collective level. In this context, CALAS`s first
research question is: When and why do social actors perceive and reflect a
given situation in terms of crisis? One element of this conceptualization is
the emergence of neologisms to name the new critical situation associated with
contemporary crises as exemplified by the concepts of “neo-extractivismo”
(Svampa 2018) or “refeudalization” (Kaltmeier 2018).

with crisis situations requires actors to attain high levels of (self-)
reflection. On the one hand, they must determine their own positioning in the
process of change. Such reorientation may lead to “constructive conflict”
(Corona Berkin 2012), since the traditional scope of experience no longer
matches the emergent change. While this process may ultimately be productive at
first, it often implies a highly affective sense of fear and despair that
manifests itself in the public discourses on crisis as well as fictional
representations of crisis. On the other hand, alternative interpretations and
strategies must be invented, given the inadequacy of habitual practices. Based
on the above factors, CALAS connects to discussions on cultural politics and Estudios Culturales held in Latin
America, which have increasingly focused on multiple strategies of coping with

In this sense, CALAS’ second research question is: Which
strategies of coping with crises arise in certain historical situations, and
which approaches to cope with crises can be institutionalized? CALAS research
has explored the room for maneuver in conditions of extreme violence
(Valenzuela 2018) or in structural-historical conditions of racism and
exclusion (Zapata 2018), exploring the strategies of immigrant youth and
indigenous intellectuals.

crises can stimulate transformation processes and also provoke structural
breaks, regime change, or even revolutionary upheavals. This brings up the
diachronical question of social changes. Therefore, CALAS’ third research
question is: How can different conjunctures of confronting crises accelerate or
slow down social changes, and thus help to explain historical conjunctures?

CALAS organizes the
research of the general topic “Coping with Crises” in two transversal and four
thematic axes. The latter also form the backbone of the four Laboratories of
Knowledge of the principal phase.

Last updated on 2020-22-06 at 18:17