Professor Maruschke, welcome back to Leipzig University! You recently took up the Assistant Professorship for Global Studies at Leipzig University. What is it like to come back to your old place of work in a new capacity?
It is, of course, wonderful to see colleagues again, not only due to the physical distance since I was briefly in Florence and then in Essen, but I had also not seen many Leipzig colleagues in person since at least early 2020 before the first pandemic lockdowns. So, there is a double joy in seeing colleagues again and getting to know the scholarship of new colleagues who have joined Leipzig University and ReCentGlobe since I was last here, such as Dr Edwin Ameso and Dr Julius Wilm.
Tell us a little about the stages of your academic career.
I have spent my career in various international teams in group projects, so I am someone who really appreciates working collectively with others towards research goals. I studied in the US, Italy, Poland, and Germany before starting a dissertation at Leipzig University in the context of a DFG- funded research training group “Critical Junctures of Globalization” in 2012. I wrote my dissertation on the planning debates on free ports, export processing zones, and special economic zones in Western India since 1830, which not only has a longue durée local history of attempts to connect Bombay/Mumbai to certain locations in the world, but also has a global history as well. I was lucky to receive DAAD funding for 4 months of field research in India to carry out this research.
I joined the Collective Research Centre 1199 “Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition” at Leipzig University in 2016 to work on a subproject that was initially about the French Revolution in the Americas, led by Professor Matthias Middell. This turned into a longer project on the entangled histories of French and American globalization projects since the time of the French and American Revolutions. I began within that context to not only write about the empire and the French Revolution in an international collaboration with French and American scholars, but also to work towards a book project on American boundaries (approx. 1780s–1830s).
After spending time at the European University Institute in the winter of 2021 to research custom- free warehouses in the European Union and to work on a new article related to free ports and special economic zones, I joined the ERC project “Atlantic Exiles: Refugees and Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1770s–1820s,” led by Professor Jan C. Jansen at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Within this context, I was able to continue to narrow the focus of my book to Philadelphia as a border town in the early republic, which examines bordering practices in relation to refugees.
What are you particularly looking forward to in Leipzig? What are the challenges you would like to tackle in the coming years?
There are already wonderful initiatives underway at Leipzig University regarding the centrality of globalization research, in particular, the Research Centre Global Dynamics. Within this framework, I am particularly looking forward to working together with other scholars towards the excellence cluster initiative “New Global Dynamics,” which will bring together critical research on pressing global challenges from scholars in Leipzig and Halle. I will also be joining the reapplication for the third phase of the CRC “Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition” as a PI. In my research, I am interested in how actors react to and shape changing world orders, and these frameworks will allow me to deepen that interest. Environmental perspectives in relation to my current book project on borders in the US (1790s–1830) are becoming more central to my work; the “natural” boundaries I research, for example, rivers have been shaped by human intervention. I look forward to connecting with experts in Leipzig who are working on environmental perspectives, another thematic focus of this cooperation.
The Leipzig Centre for the Study of France and the Francophonie has also been given new life in recent years with more scholars in Leipzig who are now doing research on France and Francophone countries. This is just one place where I hope to connect with others in Leipzig and internationally who also research France’s colonial past and present.
What was your most recent research about?
My current book investigates the role of Atlantic exile mobilities in the formation of the early American republic and how the transboundary movement of people fleeing revolution, warfare, and slavery contributed to both the production of boundaries as well as their shifting meaning in a transimperial context during the Age of Revolutions (1770s–1830s). I situate Philadelphia as a border town in four respects: as a city at the boundary of “free soil” in North America and therefore slave flight (from beyond and within the US); as an international port city where refugees and migrants arrived; as a place from which arriving refugees planned borderland filibusters, settlement schemes, and Black emigration projects; and as the capital of the US (between 1790 and 1800), where international boundary lines were debated and negotiated.
I’ll be spending a few weeks this summer in the archives in Philadelphia looking at the role that ethnic benevolent societies played in helping people cross the complex boundaries in Philadelphia – from keeping members of their ethnic groups out of almshouses and prisons to their investigations on the docks regarding passenger safety. If all goes according to plan, I will be publishing this as an article later this year with the German Historical Institute’s Bulletin in an issue titled “Rethinking Cross-border Connections,” which will be guest edited by Andreas Greiner, Carolin Liebisch-Gümüş, Mario Peters and Roland Wenzlhuemer.
What are your next projects?
Well, there are a few projects I am currently developing. First, the history of free ports and free-trade zones and also custom-free warehouses in the history of European economic and political integration has not yet been connected to the discussions on the global history of the free port. It will be necessary to build an international and multilingual team for this project. Second, together with our colleagues in the Department of History, Dr Maike Schmidt and Miriam Pfordte, we aim to create a research network at the intersection of natural boundaries and border infrastructure from an environmental perspective. This network will also bridge temporal gaps between early modern and contemporary perspectives in border studies. Finally, I will also remain a member of the Atlantic Exiles team at the University of Duisburg-Essen, which also includes international scholars who work on refugee histories during a period of intense political upheaval in the Atlantic world. The work they do in refugee history is important, and Leipzig University can profit intellectually from the team’s contributions on this highly relevant topic.