Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Political Theory

PhD projects

Anton Haffner - Transformations of Social Movements: Another World Remains Possible?

The Ph.D. project under the framework of the ERC-project Protest and Order: Contentious Politics, Democratic Theory and the Changing Shape of Western Democracies investigates continuities and breaks between subsequent social movements. Drawing on the transitions from the global justice movement towards both anti-austerity protests and the climate movement, the project is interested in the relative stability of protest movements and their internal and external sources of change. Based on collective identity approaches, the study uses narrative and life-history methods to analyze these processes. In terms of political theory, those movements finally appear as a lasting form of political articulation in contemporary democracies which follows its own internal logic but stands in close exchange with the formal political system.

Daniel Staemmler - The Design of Digital Democracy: On the Productive Protest of Data Activism

This project explores civil society production of digital platforms, applications, and datasets for democratic procedures as a contemporary form of protest. This variant of digital activism pushes social change by exploring alternative forms of digitally supported democratic procedures, such as political decision-making, citizen participation, or administrative action, in the here and now. The qualitative study engages with the discourse of data activism in the German-speaking world and elaborates an grounded theory of those notions of technopolitical order and modes of governance that inform the design of these digital democratic innovations. The project thus aims to broaden the political theory debate on the possibilities of digital democracy by introducing a perspective that incorporates the possibilities of productive technology design for political processes.

Danniel Gobbi - Political Imaginaries from the Identitarian Right

The ascension of several identitarian right-wing parties and movements around the globe has triggered a vivid debate about how these movements, their protests, and mobilizations are impacting politics and the democratic order. Understanding how these movements and groups imagine and reshape democracy is the primary purpose of my research. Based on an inductive perspective, with a Grounded Theory approach, my research project will be conducted based on empirical work that combines ethnographic observation, in-depth interviews and focus groups with leaders and supporters of these movements. Their comprehension of political rule, the way they perceive and authenticate ‘truth’ and an understanding of what appeals to their constituency are the main dimensions of my analysis on how these movements conceive and affect the democratic order

Johanna Hase - Continuity and Change of Citizenship Narratives in Times of Global Migration

Political communities construct themselves through citizenship narratives that make sense of their past, present and future and that draw the line between “self” and “other”. Departing from this premise, the dissertation explores how story, plot, discours and narration of citizenship narratives change in the context of mobility, how migrants (do not) become part of supranational, national and local narratives of the political “we”, and suggests that the crucial question in times of global migration is not “who are we?” but rather “how do we want to tell ourselves?”

Johannes Haaf - The Politics of Human Rights beyond the State

The PhD project discusses how current processes of transnational legalization affect the political capacity of claims about human rights. Although human rights are commonly conceptualized as representing urgent moral concerns that ought to be respected anywhere on the globe, their function is better conceived of as genuinely political. Human rights provide a space to challenge existing institutional arrangements beyond the state, insofar as they enable a practice of rights-claiming to articulate experiences of injustice that are neglected, permitted or caused by the respective institutions. At the same time, processes of transnational legalization increasingly put pressure on this contestatory or even democratic dimension by reconfiguring the political and legal space through which human rights claims operate. Drawing on both democratic and legal theory, the project investigates the changing contours of human rights’ political capacity in transnational times.

Judith Möllhoff - On the expansion of legal subjectivity – How does law include nonhumans? (working title)

The dissertation problematizes diverse forms of the extension who can become a holder of rights or a legal subject. Starting with the observation of current tendencies to acknowledge non-human entities in law, it asks about the meaning, limits and possibilities of this recognition. Here, questions about laws forms of knowing and their structural conditions are central as well as questions about the local and historical particularities of these forms of knowing, power and politics.

Krisztian Simon - Foreign funding for independent news outlets in the hybrid regimes of East and Central Europe

Krisztian Simon’s research looks at the role of foreign support for the independent media outlets of the hybrid regimes of Hungary and Russia; two countries, where the government is hostile towards civil society and independent media, as well as the (overwhelmingly) foreign foundations providing grants to them. Through interviews with journalists and editors in the two countries in question, he aims to determine how news organizations profit from foreign funding, in what forms they receive support from abroad; and aims to identify the conditions that determine whether a news outlet is willing to take the risk of relying on a form of funding that might make it subject to repercussions from the state. While doing this, his dissertation brings together the political science literature on hybrid regimes, as well as research on media capture and the political economy of the media and contrasts it with empirical findings on the ground.

Laura Gorriahn - Precarious Membership and the Limits of Democracy: Protest beyond Citizenship

The PhD project scrutinizes precarious democratic membership as manifestation of the controversial relationship between democratic sovereignty and exclusion on the one hand and universal equality and fundamental freedoms on the other. Arguably, the denial of civil and political rights for large numbers of residents is in deep tension with the self-understanding of democratic constitutional states as spaces of equal freedom and brings a conceptual contradiction to bear. The study combines perspectives from democratic theory and critical migration studies and looks at protest of non-citizens and their supporters against deportations. Precisely because these political struggles foreground the conceptual contradictions internal to the project of democracy, they provide for a crucial epistemic avenue into the study of membership and exclusion. The project reflects upon the implications of these struggles for a critical understanding of democratic membership with the objective to further discussions about the limits and possibilities of citizenship as the material and conceptual horizon of democracy today.

Ole Meinefeld - The Personalization of the Republic. Inquiries into Hannah Arendt’s Political Theory

The dissertation conducts research on a systematic link of Hannah Arendt’s theory of action with her description of historical and contemporary personalities, drawing upon the biographical miniatures of John F. Kennedy, Rosa Luxemburg and Benjamin Disraeli that feature in her work. Such exemplary life stories of politicians enable us to determine first the relevance of individual persons in Arendt’s political theory and second the relevance of personalization for pluralistic institutions in modern societies.

Sebastian Berg - Past and present of political datafication in the context of democratic representation

When we perceive democracy as a fundamentally intermediated project, a complex "economy of representation" (Rosanvallon) comes into view. Here, through a multiplicity of political institutions and practices, ranging from parliament to campaigning or political protest, the demos as a political subject emerges. Under this premise, the doctoral project aims to reconstruct how datafication shapes and transforms political intermediation in the digital constellation. The project not only assesses concept and genealogy of datafication as a practice of available-making [Verfügbarmachen]. It also argues that in the digital constellation the technological character, the economic mode, and the political rationality of this available-making is transformed, giving rise to a new engine of political intermediation. The implications for the democratic project as such and the constitution of the demos in concrete are critically discussed along the platformization of political intermediation.