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Interviews with Participants of the Summer School 2014

Aug 05, 2014

About 20 young scholars from all over the globe explored historical and contemporary ways of making sense of the future at the Summer School “Politics of Near Futures: Possibilities, Prophecies, Prognoses” in 2014. Five participants share with us both their impressions of the Summer School and their life experiences in the following interviews.

Sibylle is a doctoral student in history in Paris. Gelek has just finished his master studies in social work in Bangalore. Mae is doctoral student in media studies in the Philippines. Divyaraj is lecturer for Modern South Asia Studies and Hindi. And Felix is master student in East Asian Politics.

Interview with Sibylle Duhautois

Sibylle currently works on her Ph.D. thesis in the research project Futurepol at Sciences Po in Paris. Further information on Sibylle's research project "The future as a global issue: images, expertise and policies (1960s-70s)" can be read on the poster about her project.

Sibylle in a Summer School discussion

What has motivated you to participate in the Summer School?
I am a doctoral student in history of the future and am involved in the research project Futurepol at Sciences Po. So there is a connection between my research focus and the Summer School.

How do you like the Summer School so far?
I enjoy the Summer School a lot, especially the interactive afternoon programmes. They helped me develop new ways to discover different subjects. E.g. the film analysis: we watched the movie 'the Rapture' and had an interesting discussion on it. And the presentation by Akhil Gupta was also very inspiring. He named many important books, which could be useful to me. I also appreciate that we have enough time to discuss and exchange with each other.

How do you like Heidelberg? 
I like the historical town of Heidelberg very much. And the academic atmosphere is also appealing to me. The city is very nice and I’d love to take a walk in the town. What a pity that it is raining today!

At the moment, the city of Heidelberg is establishing a new quarter called Bahnstadt, which is one of the world's largest passive housing settlements. You have visited the Bahnstadt with the group. Did you enjoy your trip?
That was interesting but I found it artificial. It’s great that they have gathered many ideas. The Bahnstadt is wonderful regarding the ecological dimension. I enjoyed walking around there. But the social dimension was missing. I prefer active cities. However, the Bahnstadt would be a good choice for smaller families. You can have a peaceful life there.

Can you tell me more about the Future Project you’re working on?
Sure! As you know, I am a Ph.D. student at the end of the first year. My research focuses on how, after the Second World War, the future was constructed as a global issue that needed specific forms of expertise and international governance. Cultural discourses on "world problems" that all humans would share in the future acquired both a scientific dimension and a political strength in the 1960s and the 1970s. To shed light on this transnational construction of global futures, I pore over various case studies such as the foresight activities at UNESCO, the Club of Rome's "world problematique" or Fred Polak's book "The image of the future".

Interview with Gelek Namgyal

Gelek Namgyal was born in Tibet and lives in India. He finished the master studies in social work at the St. Joseph's College in Bangalore. Currently, he is looking forward to pursuing his researches through a PhD project.

Gelek talking about his ideas in the Futures Game

What was your motivation to participate in the Summer School?
I am personally interested in international politics and find the topic very interesting. Although the sessions here are actually different from my expectations, I enjoy the Summer School very much!

Are you working on a thesis on this topic?
No, it is really out of personal interest. Currently, I’m doing researches in social work. My master thesis dealt with sociopolitical problems faced by Tibetan refugees in India.

This is your first visit to Germany. What are your impressions?
Everything looks so organised here. I think nature and environment are well protected in Germany. German people seem to be very responsible. And they also seem to enjoy the life very much.

Did you like the Bahnstadt?
It was different from my expectations. I thought the Bahnstadt should be something approachable to all people. In my point of view, the accessibility to everyone is crucial for the urban development. But I think that the Bahnstadt rather appeals to rich people and the upper-middle class, but definitely not to everyone.

You are a Tibetan living in India. How did that happen?
I was taken to India by my uncle, when I was seven years old. My parents wanted me to go to India because they wanted me to have proper education, which was not available in Tibet. Since then, I have not seen my parents again. But thank the new technologies, we have more and more contacts in recent years.

Interview with Mae Caralde

Mae is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in media studies at the College of Mass Communications of University of the Philippines. She is also a lecturer at the Mapua Institute of Technology and an independent filmmaker. Further information on Mae's research project "Revisiting the Aquiro Magic" can be read on the poster about her project.

Mae in discussion

What was your motivation to participate in the Summer School?
My Ph.D. thesis deals with a political burning issue, namely how the Philippine President uses political heroes and martyrs to justify neoliberal policies. In the Philippines, we like to take part in conferences to share findings of our projects. It sharpens your work perspectives and broadens your horizon.

So what has sharpened your perspective the most?
The keynote lecture by Prof. Akhil Gupta! The topic was very interesting. What Prof. Gupta said does not only concern India but also my own country. When I saw some of the pictures on his slides, I thought: that could be in some areas in Manila. In reality, the pictures were shot in India.

How did you like the Bahnstadt?
I found it too ideal. And the buildings look sterile. But I appreciated the technologies. The style is similar to some buildings in the Philippines in the exclusive cities.

I've heard that you are also a filmmaker. What kind of films are you working on recently?
I am recently working on a documentary film. It focuses on women who are presented as revolutionary mothers in the Philippines. The film deals with their struggles in mothering their children. It is supposed to be released in October. Hopefully! (laughs)

Do you know that the Philippine national hero José Rizal had studied in Heidelberg?
Sure! That was also one motivation to me to come to Heidelberg. At least, he was the first connection to Heidelberg I thought of. When I came here, the first thing I did was to find his memorial plaque. And surprisingly, it is just located hundred metres away from the Karl Jaspers Centre. It was so amazing. I don’t know if you have heard of the organization “Knights of Rizal”. It is an international organisation and deals with Rizal’s works. It exists in a lot of countries and also in Germany. I would like to get to know the people in the organization in Germany, if I had enough time. Unfortunately, I have to leave the country when the Summer School ends.

Interview with Divyaraj Amiya

Divyaraj studied history, political science and geography in Patna and Delhi. He graduated from Jawaharlal Nehru University with master degree in German philology. Since 2004, he teaches Modern South Asia Studies and Hindi in the Department of Indology and Comparative Religious Studies at the University of Tübingen.

Divyaraj in the Bahnstadt

What was your motivation to participate in the Summer School?
I was interested in the topic “Politics of Near Futures”. I am teaching a similar course at the University of Tübingen titled “Images of Futures in India”, which also deals with that topic.

You have presented a non-final version of the movie "Delhi: After 20 Years", which you produced together with your friends. What is the movie about?
That movie is based on experiences of urban middle classes in Delhi. We featured the life of different generations living there. The film questions the consensus that if everyone is educated, works, has a career and a stable source of income, then it will lead to solution. However, this solution has become a nightmare. The real reason behind it is the increasing lack of disposable time. In last 40-50 years, the urban middle class is spending three to four times more time at the workplace in 24 hours. We asked people from different generations to project the future for themselves. None of the answers were optimistic. It seems that the explosion of time poverty in the coming 20 to 40 years will leave no room for friends, relatives, family, community, health or nature. We wanted to point out that this “solution” is actually a problem.

Why did you choose this topic as focus of your movie?
The film questions the normal daily life of the people. We don’t want to show anything spectacular. Because if something spectacular happens, e.g. catastrophic events, there are enough media reporting on it. However, a problem like that, which concerns everyone in the city, is ignored. We wanted to point out the problem and give it a name. The name of that problem is time poverty and the possible way out will be time prosperity for everyone.

How did you like the Summer School?
It was fantastic. It helped me find new ways of approaching the topic.

Interview with Felix Doege

Felix is currently pursuing a master degree in East Asian Politics at the Ruhr University Bochum. Specializing in Japan and international relations, Felix is writing his M.A. thesis on energy security in East Asia with a focus on Japan.

Felix talking about his ideas in the Futures Game

What has motivated you to participate in the Summer School?
First, I wanted to participate in the Summer School because of my master thesis, which deals with collective action problems. And second, I wanted to have some inputs from other disciplines. I read in the Newsletter from my home university that the Summer School is transdiscplinary, so I wanted to come here to broaden my horizon and collect new ideas for my thesis.

What kind of new ideas have you generated from the Summer School?
I realized the importance that transparency and information sharing have for an effective international management of global problems such as climate change and volatile fossil fuel prices. But besides cooperation between states, there is a multitude of other actors that are relevant to finding solutions, such as firms, NGOs, and not least the individual. Because all of us are creating the future through our actions, each of us can make a change. The most fascinating experience to me was that although we were all representing different disciplines, we are working on the same problems. That really motivated me a lot - one is not alone.

Do you have a “favourite” day or a “favourite” topic in the Summer School?
No, I don’t think so. I think the uniqueness about the Summer School is exactly the intermingling of different topics. They are well chosen by the organisers. As I said before, I appreciated this Summer School a lot just because it has no clear boundaries. So I enjoyed the Summer School as a whole and cannot tell which topic was my favorite. But there is one highlight for me. Yesterday, we played the futures game. Everyone receives cards with different pictures. You get one mission and have to fulfill that mission as well as you can. At the same time, your arguments have to be related to the pictures you have. In the end, everyone in the group should rank each. The rankings are graded and the one with the best grade is the winner. And I actually won the game and presented my ideas in front of the whole class.

Congratulations! Have you learned anything from the game?
Yes. I realised how conservative I was at the beginning. I found it impossible to reach the goal. But in the course of the game, I was able to develop new creative ways of thinkings and came to ideas I have never thought of before.

I see that you liked the Summer School very much.
Definitely. Today is the last day and we have had a very dense programme. But I was never tired and never got enough. We get to know people from diverse backgrounds and different countries. That is really the best thing! You get very close to the people in very short time. The discussions built good relations among us and connected us.

You have studied political sciences and Japanese studies. And I’ve heard that you have done an internship which brings these two fields perfectly together. Can you tell me more about that?
Sure! I did an internship at the German Embassy in Tokyo. I worked as assistant to the ambassador and supported him in daily work. I have done a lot of researches and readings. I also had to inform others about the political developments worldwide. So it was a very broad spectrum. In addition to that, I helped to prepare big events for the celebration of 150 years diplomatic relations between Japan and Germany. I even had the chance to see the Japanese crown prince. That was really an internship to recommend.

Additional Information

About the author

Interviews and pictures by Yi Yuan.

About the Summer School 2014

The Summer School "Politics of Near Futures: Possibilities, Prophecies, Prognoses" took place at the Karl Jaspers Centre from July 27 to 31, 2014. It studied transcultural ideas of human and non-human near futures.

The Summer School was coordinated by four Junior Research Group Leaders of the Cluster. Dr. Daniel Münster is group leader of research group C15 "Agrarian Alternatives". Dr. Katja Rakow leads research group B21 on "Transcultural Dynamics on Pentecostalism". Dr. Sophie Roche coordinates the research group C16 “Demographic Turn”. Dr. Kerstin von Lingen is responsible for research group A16 "Transcultural Justice".


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