SOAS University of London


Global interactions

SOAS Centenary Research Theme

Increasing interconnections in the world as a result of trade, investment, migration and cultural exchange are seen as driving processes of globalisation and transnationalism, resulting at best in different parts of the world becoming more alike, and at worst in driving new forms of inequality.  Such processes at the very least force us to think in new ways about the field of ‘area studies’.

In practice, SOAS research demonstrates that global interconnections have existed through much of human history: for example, the Silk Road is a metaphor for a form of globalisation that predated the 20th century, which shaped not only present-day China, but also the various other regions that it connected.  

Looking to the future, global interactions are also likely to be shaped by regional influences, and lead to the development of new global and regional cultures and economies, as practices and ideas from one region adapt and develop in new contexts.  

SOAS research over the coming decades, whether focused on connections between Africa and Asia, the growing importance of regional cinemas on the global stage, or emerging global cultures around road-building or entrepreneurship, will stress the enduring significance of places and the influence they have on global ties.

Military mobilities and mobilising movements in the Middle East

Ship heading to a Turkish port Pic: Zeynep Timocin

Professor Laleh Khalili, Department of Politics, is working with a postdoctoral research fellow to understand the emergence of ports and transport infrastructure in the Arabian Peninsula at the conjuncture of wars, military movements, and commercial activities.  The 5-year project will draw on interviews, archival research, business data and a broad range of other sources to analyse the contours of the emergence of transport infrastructure in the region.

Funded by an ESRC grant of £633,871.

Photo credit: Zeynep Timocin SOAS Photography Competition 2013

International Consortium for airline research


Airlines and air traffic have been a dynamic element of an internationalizing world economy. Despite economic crises and terrorism, they have expanded and made air travel a mass phenomenon in many parts of the world. The industry has also seen important changes in types of airlines, strategy, alliances, business models, technology, forms of competition and regulation. The world economic crisis after 2008 and concern over the greenhouse effect have however led to more fundamental questions: Is continued expansion sustainable? Which development of the industry is sustainable, what changes does it imply?

Reinhard Bachmann, SOAS Professor of International Management, leads ICAROS, the International Consortium for Airline Research in Organization Studies, which brings together leading management researchers to investigate the ways in which the airline industry is affected by these changes.


Roads and the politics of thought

Travelling on a road under construction Pic: Luis Fernando Vieira

Dr Edward Simpson, Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology, takes an ethnographic approach to infrastructure development in South Asia. His five-year project will provide the first ethnographic account of the culture of road builders, their knowledge practices, interrelations and motivations.

Funded by a European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant of almost €2 million.

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Photo credit: Luis Fernando Vieira

China goes global

Supong Dam

Dr Frauke Urban, Senior Lecturer in Environment and Development, leads this comparative study of the environmental, social, economic and political impacts of Chinese hydropower dam projects in low and middle income countries in Asia and Africa. 

The 3-year project aims to inform corporate behaviour of hydropower firms in China and the UK and shape emerging national and international policy responses. 

Funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council.