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Freie Universität Berlin Lands Two European Research Council Starting Grants

ERC Starting Grants for Dr. Genia Kostka and Dr. Jan C. Jansen

№ 254/2019 from Sep 05, 2019

Professor Genia Kostka, a researcher at the Institute of Chinese Studies at Freie Universität Berlin, and Dr. Jan C. Jansen from the German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C., who is currently a guest at Freie Universität Berlin, have been awarded generous Starting Grants by the European Research Council (ERC). Each grant provides up to 1.5 million euros in funding over a maximum term of five years. The goal of Dr. Kostka’s research project “Governing with Data: Local Experimentation in Authoritarian China” is to better understand how the Chinese government uses digital technologies in urban settings. Dr. Jansen’s project “Atlantic Exiles: Refugees and Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1770s–1820s” deals with the widespread refugee movements during this revolutionary period. The ERC Starting Grant format is aimed at excellent junior scholars and scientists. The grants help recipients start independent careers and build up their own research groups.

President of Freie Universität Berlin Günter M. Ziegler congratulated the two grant recipients. “It is a great distinction for you that you have won this highly competitive, Europe-wide competition and an honor for our university as the higher education institution hosting your projects.” Ziegler pointed out that out of the 3,108 ERC grant projects submitted across the EU, only 408 (about 13 percent) ultimately received funding. The success is also noteworthy for Freie Universität in light of the 73 grants going to institutions in Germany in this round of approvals.

A B O U T  T H E  P R O J E C T S

  • Research program – Governing with Data: Local Experimentation in Authoritarian China, by Dr. Genia Kostka

With new information technologies and the rise of big data reshaping Chinese society, there is an urgent need to study the characteristics and forms of “digital governance” and its consequences. This is where Dr. Genia Kostka’s research project comes in.

“Digital technologies have direct effects on social, political, and economic life in Chinese society and around the world,” Kostka explains. The “Digital Governance” project offers a unique opportunity to observe “natural experiments” in China’s advanced smart cities. “Using field research and surveys, we plan to analyze mechanisms through which digital technologies are integrated into local decision-making processes and governance structures.” As the next step, the effects of new digital methods of governance on residents, companies, and the state will be investigated. The research findings should yield new empirical data that can serve as a basis for advancing how people think about newly emerging digital governance methods and assessing their benefits and risks. Kostka sees the project as a “contribution to debates beyond the context of China on the subject of social change in the course of advancing digitization.”


Prof. Dr. Genia Kostka, Institute of Chinese Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838 51280 , Email: g.kostka@fu-berlin.de

  • Research program – Atlantic Exiles: Refugees and Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1770s–1820s, by Dr. Jan C. Jansen

The goal of this project is to study the large-scale movements of refugees involved in the revolutions in North and South America, France, and Haiti in the decades around 1800 from a comparative perspective. “The Atlantic revolutionary age is considered the birth of modern Western politics, giving rise to new concepts of sovereignty, citizenship, and political participation,” Jansen points out. However, this period is also closely linked with the emergence of political refugees as a mass phenomenon. The major revolutionary upheavals and the violent conflicts associated with them drove more than a quarter-million people to relocate during this period. Based on empirical case studies in the Caribbean and the Americas, Jansen’s project explores the question of what role political refugees and their mobility played in the transformations taking place during this era of revolution. The project studies how they helped to shape changes in political affiliations and redraw the line between “citizens” and “foreigners,” and what impact they had on the changing practices of public and private care and early forms of humanitarianism. Other aspects of the project examine how political refugees navigated the shifting and porous boundaries between freedom and slavery and how exile became a field of action that transcended national and imperial borders.

“While it has become the consensus that revolutionary ideas and actors within the Atlantic region at the time cannot be viewed in isolation from each other, those who opposed these revolutions or fled from them have hardly been considered at all until now,” Jansen explains. “With this in mind, we want to break new ground on several levels. We are focusing in particular on the Caribbean as one of the world’s most important receiving and transit regions for refugees during the period. Our goal is to provide the first systematic combination of Atlantic history and the still nascent field of refugee history.” Plans also call for the historical findings on the Atlantic region during the revolutionary era to be set in the context of a comparative global history of involuntary migrations.


Dr. Jan C. Jansen, German Historical Institute, Washington, DC, Tel.: +1 202 387 3355, Email: jansen@ghi-dc.org