Alumni-Interview

Boris Vormann

Full Name: Boris Vormann

Nationality: German

Country of Work: Germany

Institution: John-F.-Kennedy Institute for North American Studies

Postition: Postdoctoral Fellow

Course: International Futures 5 in 2009

Can you tell us a bit about your career path and your motivation to follow this profession?

After having participated in International Futures 5 in 2009 I decided to write a PhD thesis in political science, because I felt the urge to develop a deeper-going understanding of globalization processes and their effects on societies. In the three years that followed and that it took me to complete my doctoral work, I studied the development of North American global port cities--New York City, Los Angeles, Montréal, and Vancouver--and the effect that transformations in governance, international trade, and the politics of space had on citizens and workers in these cities. I began to understand, in that process, that although a shift toward the private sector was an important development in many arenas of public life after the 1970s, states still retained important steering capacities as facilitators of different types of global flows. Markets, in other words, cannot exist without state support. As a consequence of having come to this insight I decided to take a more theoretical look at the ways in which states do that kind of facilitating work in the context of globalization processes. My postdoctoral project is designed to answer just this question: How do states in different geographical contexts deal with market failure in the provision of infrastructure, education and security?

How much did you plan your current tasks to be as they are today and how much did you leave to chance?

I planned all of my current tasks and projects. Having said that: not all the projects that I have planned have actually materialized. In that sense, I had to leave certain decisions over my future to others--while at the same time trying to apply only to those projects that would leave me enough room to follow my personal research interests. Despite all coincidences and lucky circumstances, I think that this principle--trying to be able to conduct autonomous work--has served me as a constant guideline.

When it comes to influencing the international agenda or shaping public policies in your country, what main challenges do you face in your daily life as a professional?

 

Because I am a researcher and not a policy advisor, my work has a more indirect impact on shaping public policies. I think this impact is limited, more indirectly, to the influence of teaching and sporadic interviews, and, perhaps somewhat more immediately but in a longer term horizon, to the re-thinking of seemingly axiomatic assumptions. I believe that this impact can be more powerful than we tend to assume.

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