Research Topics

The primary focus of our research is on peace and conflict and on international organizations. Currently, we are working in four thematic areas of interest:

  1. International organizations, especially cooperation and conflict among international governmental organizations
  2. International conflict, especially secession and ethics of peace
  3. Post-conflict reconciliation
  4. German foreign and security policy.
International Organizations Expand entry

Our long-standing, much peer-reviewed research on international organizations builds on organization theory in business and management studies and sociology, bridges rationalist and constructivist approaches and studies international governmental organizations worldwide in a comparative perspective with a theory-building ambition. While we also analyze intra-organizational relations, the focus is on cooperation and conflict among organizations, bilateral as well as within larger networks of organizations and states.

Publications by Rafael Biermann thus far have been dedicated to

  • Reviews of the state of the art (Example) [pdf, 868 kb] de
  • Theorizing inter-organizational networking (Example)
  • NATO’s organization-set
  • The institutional designof partnerships (Example [pdf, 410 kb] de)
  • The role of bureaucracies in inter-organizational relations
  • Processes of (de-)legitimationamong international organizations as well as
  • Resource dependence theory (with Michael Harsch).

A major publication was the ‘Palgrave Handbook of Inter-Organizational Relations in World Affairs’, a collaboration of 38 researchers from 12 countries, published in 2017. The Handbook, which Rafael Biermann published together with Professor Joachim Koops (Brussels), includes, beyond some of the articles mentioned above, the introductionand the conclusionsby the editors, and also contributions by others of our team on the cooperation of the Council of Europe with non-state actors(Dr. André Härtel), social network theory (Matthias Schulze and Florian Ries), and population ecology (Florian Ries).

Currently, Rafael Biermann is working on a monograph that analyses the relationships of the European Union with more than 100 partner organizations since 1951, including regional organizations worldwide, the UN specialized agencies, and international financial organizations. The research asks why, how and when cooperation started. It combines a large-N analysis with multiple case studies and builds on in-depth research in the archives of the European Union institutions in Florence and Brussels.

Research by our doctoral students looks at informalization processes within organizations (informal coalitionsin civilian CSDP governance by Christian Opitz) and at informal international organizations (Steve Biedermann).

This research theme is embedded in close collaborative work with many international and national partners. In Jena, it includes the Professorship for International Organizations as well as European Studies at the Institute for Political Science. We are in the process of developing an ambitious Master’s programme “International Organizations and Crisis Management”, which will make our research accessible to students.

Peace and Conflict Expand entry

The study of peace and conflict has been the core theme of Rafael Biermann’s academic interests since the 1980s. Most of the PhDs have been anchored in this topic. Following an initial occupation with questions of arms control, the main concerns shifted to intrastate, especially ethnic conflict and crisis prevention during the post-doctorate degree (Habilitation). Here, his regional focus was on the Balkans, looking at the failure of international crisis prevention before the onset of war in Kosovo. Out of this research grew numerous publications on German conflict resolution in the Balkans, on the stability pact for Southeastern Europe, on the Kosovo conflict, on NATO and EU enlargement in the Balkans, on the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, and on the collapse of Yugoslavia in general. Participation in the DFG research training group ‘Cultural Orientations and Social Structures in Southeast Europe’ (2010-2017) was situated in this context.

In the last few years, new themes have emerged out of this research interest. On the one hand, there is an intensive preoccupation with the instruments of conflict management, especially mediation, peacebuilding as well as humanitarian intervention and responsibility to protect (link). This is also reflected in joint conferences with the Protestant Academy of Thuringia and its former director, Professor Michael Haspel (‘How Effective is Crisis Prevention?’). With that, ethical questions have become increasingly important. A strongly interdisciplinary international conference organized by us in Berlin 2018 on Balancing Legal Norms, Moral Values and National Interestsinspired Rafael Biermann to edit a Roundtable on the same topic with the journal Ethics and International Affairs, due to appear in spring 2020. A summary of the workshop can be retrieved here.

Our colleague Tim Bausch also works on topics within the subject area of peace and conflict studies. He hereby choses an approach situated on the point of convergence between sociology and political science. In particular, he is concerned with the question of how and to which end, social movements chose to use non-verbal forms of communication such as street art. Regionally, his focus is on the Middle East which he visited during the course of several field research trips (Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq). This brought him to his further field of research, namely the Palestinian resistance. Mr. Bausch complements the portfolio through his critical approach. From an institutional point of view, he represents the forthcoming academic generation within the the German Association for Peace and Conflict Studies.  In the name of this very institution, he is also a member of the editorial board of Wissenschaft & Frieden (W&F, Journal).

On the other hand, our conflict research is increasingly focused on secessionist conflict. This research grew out of Rafael Biermann’s study of ethnic conflict in the Balkans, where secessionist strife was and is prevalent. His sights moved from the Balkan conflict (Coercive Europeanization and Secessionism, Irredentism and EU Enlargement in the Western Balkans [pdf, 945 kb] de) to the Caucasus and then to a global comparative perspective, where the emphasis has been, on the one hand, on the establishment of a dataset on worldwide secession conflicts since 1945 and, on the other hand, on norm contestation in the area of tension between territorial integrity, sovereignty and self-determination, and how they are reflected in the struggle over the legitimacy of independence referenda. Most recently, Sebastian Relitz and Rafael Biermann published an extensive review of the de facto states literature. Within the edited volume in EIA mentioned above, Rafael Biermann will publish a piece on norms and interests in secessionist conflict, introducing the notion of norm selectionto the IR literature. Much of our engagement in Ukraine as part of our long-standing Masters programme “German and European Studies”with the National University Kyiv Mohyla Academy is focused on the secessionist conflict within that country since 2014.

Major ongoing PhD theses under the supervision of Rafael Biermann are concerned with secession: one by Sebastian Relitz analyzes the international embeddedness of de facto states, another by Christopher Brucker investigating the influence of international norms on the genesis of secession movements, and a third one by Ivan Laskarin on the interdependence between secession (independentism) and irredentism. Closely related,Roman Labunski works on the Russo-Ukrainian conflict from the perspective of critical geopolitics.

Two further PhD projects are finalized and will be published within our book series Innovation in Conflict Research(Springer) which was inaugurated in 2018. Both focus on questions of identity.  Carolina Rehrmann analyzes (especially psychological) causes of intractability in the conflict on Cyprus, while Johannes Gold discusses the chances of multi-ethnicity by disentangling the ethnic micro cosmos of a supposedly multi-ethnic city in Kosovo,Prizren.

Reconciliation Studies Expand entry

Our research on post-conflict reconciliation and transitional justice is based on a close cooperation with the Jena Center for Reconciliation Studies (Prof. Martin Leiner) and its local as well as international networks. Carolina Rehrmann, a post-doctoral researcher at this Chair and executive manager of the JCRS, is employed at both Chairs and acts as a bridge between them. From this cooperation has emerged an annual joint summer school, the participation of Rafael Biermann and Carolina Rehrmann in the Center’s DFG-funded research training group, as well as the publication of an upcoming edited volume by both on Reconciliation in the Balkans and the Caucasus, with a focus on collective memory, transitional justice and the bottom-up reconciliation initiatives of civil society. Within that volume, Carolina Rehrmann has contributed an introduction theorizing reconciliation, while Rafael Biermann gives an overview of reconciliation in the Balkan countries since the wars of the 1990s. Carolina Rehrmann is pursuing a post-doctorate degree focusing on this topic in Israel and Palestine.

Further information on the Jena Center of Reconciliation Studies (JCRS) 

German Foreign Policy Expand entry

The preoccupation with German foreign policy is a tradition of our team and based on the dissertation of Rafael Biermann (Download [pdf, 1 mb] de), which studied the Soviet role in German reunification1989-1991. Later came the interest in German crisis management in the Balkansand the participation of the German Bundestagin decision-making on military missions of the German armed forces. Sven Morgen has joined Rafael Biermann on that topic (link). At present, Sven Morgen is conceptualizingalliance solidarity in his PhD, investigating how concerns about solidarity influence foreign policy decision-making within NATO. Sven Morgen is also concerned with other issues of German foreign policy, like the influence of non-executive actors in the foreign policy decision-making or the strategic capability in German foreign policy (as part of a Fellowship at the Young DGAP). Our team has an extensive web of contacts in Berlin and Brussels. Since 2016, we have held an annual seminar on decision-making in German foreign policy, in the context of which field trips to the German Federal Chancellery, ministries, think tanks, media, NGOs and other political actors in Berlin take place.