Summary and objectives

Integration processes and identity formations.

The eroding nation state

What holds people together, what makes them willing to fit within larger political structures? The modern nation state long seemed to provide the model answer to this question, based ultimately on the state’s coercive potential, but primarily ensured by the strong collective identity of citizens, and their adherence to a shared political ideology. In recent decades the firm confidence in the nation state and its uniform identity has been eroded by many factors. Increasingly, dominant European and global contexts, and imperfect integration of immigrants have led to socio-political polarisation and provincialism.

Our project

Our project poses the same question, but looks at answers provided by the practices of dynastic rulership in Eurasian empires ca. 1300-1800. These loose structures accommodated numerous groups under their rule and some showed remarkable resilience over time. We study patterns of compliance and resistance, mostly from the perspective of the dynastic centre. In the process, we reassess age-old images of Asia and Europe. While we focus on the key question of integration and identity, our project also takes into account the global connections and conjunctures increasingly manifest from the thirteenth century onwards.


The program goes beyond the narrow national orientation of historical research, breaks through the isolation of area studies, integrates history of art, religious studies, law, anthropology and other social science perspectives. At the same time, our method of joint comparative research by an international multi-language research team offers a starting point for testing and revitalizing the abstractions of comparative history with the contextual knowledge of area specialists

Last Modified: 05-08-2014