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Jonas Kreienbaum



Global History

Principal Investigator (DFG project “Neoliberal Globalization or ‘Global Disconnect?’”)

History of Colonialism and Decolonization, Economic History, Violence and Genocide

Koserstraße 20
Room A 361
14195 Berlin

Jonas Kreienbaum is principal investigator of the research project Neoliberal Globalization or “Global Disconnect”? International Financial Institutions, Western Donors, Zambia and the History of Structural Adjustment Programs (ca. 1976-1991) funded by the German Research Council (DFG). He joined Free University Berlin in April 2023.

Prior to coming to Free University, he worked as a lecturer at the University of Rostock (2012-2021) where he finished his Habilitation on the 1970s oil crises and the New International Economic Order in 2020. He holds a PhD (2013) from Humboldt-University Berlin where he also obtained his M.A. in modern history, philosophy and political science (2008). His work has been supported by the DFG, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and the State of Berlin (Elsa Neumann Scholarship).

Jonas specializes in the history of European colonialism and decolonization, economic crises and the history of genocide and mass violence. He has published widely in these fields including a monograph on colonial camps (A Sad Fiasco. Colonial Concentration Camps in Southern Africa, 1900-1908) and, most recently, on economic decolonization (Das Öl und der Kampf um eine Neue Weltwirtschaftsordnung).

Neoliberal Globalization or “Global Disconnect”? International Financial Institutions, Western Donors, Zambia and the History of Structural Adjustment Programs (ca. 1976-1991) funded by the German Research Council (DFG – Eigene Stelle)

The project examines the so-called structural adjustment programs that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund created from the late 1970s onward to counter rising debt in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The international financial institutions provided substantial loans but conditioned their disbursement on economic policy reforms such as opening national markets to international trade and capital, privatizing state-owned enterprises, and reducing subsidies. Against this backdrop, the programs have been widely read, both contemporarily and in the social sciences, as “neocolonial” dictates and as instruments of “neoliberal globalization.”

This is the point of departure for my project, which asks to what extent it makes sense to understand structural adjustment programs as instruments of (de)globalization. I start from the hypothesis that structural adjustment programs represent central “upheavals into the present,” triggering both globalization and deglobalization dynamics, for example when IMF-induced social spending cuts made the promises of global consumer culture visibly unattainable. Also, I understand them neither as exclusively “neocolonial” dictates nor as entirely voluntary reform programs.

Using the example of Zambia, the project pursues a decidedly actor centered approach that aims to analyze the respective scope for action and to illuminate the entire spectrum of actors. In addition to the World Bank and the IMF, this included the governments of central donor countries, especially the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany, as well as the debtor country. Furthermore, there were consultants, journalists and social movements in Zambia as well as in the Global North. Attempting to capture these different perspectives, I draw on the archival holdings of the financial institutions as well as numerous archives in the three countries mentioned. The goal is a global history of Zambia’s experience with structural adjustment that takes an in-depth look at a specific case study in all its historical complexity and contradictoriness. In this way, it will contribute to the historical study of (de)globalization processes, to the genesis of the current global economic order, and thus to the “prehistory of the present.”


Das Öl und der Kampf um eine Neue Weltwirtschaftsordnung. Die Bedeutung der Ölkrisen der 1970er Jahre für die Nord-Süd-Beziehungen, Berlin 2022.

A Sad Fiasco. Colonial Concentration Camps in Southern Africa, 1900-1908, translated by Elizabeth Janik, New York/Oxford 2019.

“Ein trauriges Fiasko”. Koloniale Konzentrationslager im südlichen Afrika, 1900-1908, Hamburg 2015.

Edited Volumes:

The Imperial Cloud (theme issue of the Journal of Modern European History 14 (2016) 2; edited with Christoph Kamissek).

Articles and Book Chapters (Selection):

“Der Kaiser, das Berliner Schloss und der deutsche Kolonialismus”, in: Historische Zeitschrift (forthcoming).

“Between Panic and Feelings of Empowerment: Emotional Reactions to the First Oil Crisis and the Debate about a New International Economic Order”, in: New Global Studies 17 (2023), 2, pp. 193-218.

“Colonial Policy, Colonial Conflicts and War before 1914”, in: 1914-1918 online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, 25.1.2022, DOI: 10.15463/ie1418.11556.

“Der verspätete Schock – Sambia und die erste Ölkrise 1973/74”, in: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 43 (2017), H. 4, pp. 612-633.

“An Imperial Cloud? Conceptualising Interimperial Connections and Transimperial Knowledge”, in: Journal of Modern European History 14 (2016) 2, pp. 164-182. (with Christoph Kamissek)

“Deadly Learning? Concentration Camps and Zones in Colonial Wars around 1900”, in: Volker Barth/Roland Cvetkovski (eds.): Imperial Co-Operation and Transfer, 1870-1930. Empires and Encounters, London/New York 2015, pp. 219-235.

“‘Vernichtungslager’ in Deutsch-Südwestafrika? Zur Funktion der Konzentrationslager im Herero- und Namakrieg (1904–1908)”, in: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 12 (2010), pp. 1014-1026.