How is security provided in today’s turbulent times and how does this affect the relationship between democracy and security? The interdisciplinary graduate programme examines fundamental reconfigurations of the relationship between security and democracy against the backdrop of growing political and societal polarisation in the face of a global pandemic and the rise of antidemocratic forces, the advent of new digital technologies and the rescaling of security to arenas below and beyond the state.
As established ways of resolving conflicts or planning for the future have come under stress, new modes of ordering beyond established rules and processes emerge, yet with often transitionary outcomes and conflictual potential. Unequal dynamics of resource concentration and abandonment shrink political spaces for providing security in line with core democratic principles: what the promise of security entails, how it is imagined, for whom and at what price, is an increasingly divided matter — a tendency which has dramatically deepened in the turbulent times of a global pandemic.
At the intersection of international relations, political theory, sociology, criminology and communication studies, the graduate programme investigates emerging security configurations in turbulent times and contributes to understanding their governability as well as the democratic dilemmas and opportunities that arise.
The graduate programme combines three research perspectives to develop a comprehensive understanding of emerging security configurations. The graduate programme studies how democratic security is reordered, reimagined and redesigned in turbulent times.
Reordering democratic security
The first research perspective focuses on emerging landscapes of security in turbulent times. Security is increasingly scaled up to regional, global and multilateral security arenas and scaled down to local or informal actors, which affects established understandings of legitimate authority and democratic control of security. At the same time, states attempt to increasingly reinstate control over matters of security by strengthening their borders or military capabilities or by turning to increasingly autocratic forms of rule. The focus on reordering democratic security seeks to understand the simultaneity of these forces away from and towards the state, the peculiar landscapes of in/security they constitute and their effects on the democratic quality of security.
Projects in this stream address these diverging forces in the emergence of new landscapes of security. They inquire into the nature and legitimacy of plural forms of security provision by both public and private actors and assess how norms of accountability, participation, transparency and inclusivity can be brought to bear on new security constellations beyond and below the state. They also ask how the reaffirmation of state power and control affects the democratic features of new landscapes of security, when tackling issues such as pandemic contagion, terrorism, or humanitarian crises.
Reimagining democratic security
This research perspective asks how security is claimed and negotiated as an affective matter around which communities and publics form. Its projects study how “security seeking” on different scales is entangled with belonging and othering, collective identities, democratic participation or exclusion and how these dynamics are expressed in public debates and everyday collective practices. It will thus shed light on the various struggles over the democratic qualities of security, claiming that such longings for security have yet to be understood in their affective and ethical aspects.
Projects in this area work at the interface between security, public spheres, community building and affective mobilisation. Potential themes revolve around questions of identity and right-wing publics, security as a populist promise, but also as a humanitarian cause, as well as the ethics of unequal mourning. PhD projects could examine how ethics emerge out of, and are entangled with, everyday resilience practices e.g. in a situation of conflict or in the security crisis of a global pandemic, and how narratives, imagination and moral panic play into the demand for security in increasingly divided social and political spheres. They may address bodily manifestations of security provisions, ontological (in)security as well as trauma and memory as possible sources of community-building and other formations of affective communities.
Redesigning democratic security
The third research perspective focuses on practices of redesigning democratic security in turbulent times. At stake is the creative potential of democratic values and principles in responding to challenging situations, especially those concerned with security. Innovative practices such as democratic experiments and new institutional designs affect contemporary practices of security. Research from this perspective deals with the possibilities, limits and ambiguities of democratising practices on different levels and in formal and informal settings: from the UN Security Council’s (non-)reform to local protests against security measures or civil disobedience, including participatory projects that address the perception of security threats and how to cope with them. We are interested in emancipatory and empowering practices, their norm building power and the ambiguities that come with them.
Projects in this stream focus on community-based approaches to citizens’’democratic involvement, such as gamification or mini-publics and practices of self-protection, strategies of empowerment and inclusion of transnational stakeholders, and the democratisation of local and global security institutions based on a new plurality of stakeholders. They may examine states of emergency and civic resistance in contested settings, practices of contestation, e.g. protest and civil disobedience, and changing security norms. Of interest are also the diffusion of responsibility in ‘resilient’ societies, emerging forms of vigilantism and subversive practices of security provision, as well as claims of rights to protection or self-organisation for new collectivities.
The graduate programme invites PhD projects working with both qualitative and quantitative research methods. A particular strength of the group of PIs is our commitment and attention to the empirical, tangible details of the changing landscapes of security. Dedicated to exploring changes in security practices where and while they occur, our joint research efforts both zoom in on localised practices and zoom out to examine their global effects. Our PhD researchers will be encouraged to pursue strategies that include research stays ‘in the field’, and that rely on data gathered from multiple sources. Given our own broad range of experience with diverse research methods, we will supervise researchers using interpretive and ethnographically inspired research methods, techniques of narrative, problem-centred and expert interviewing, as well as different mapping devices to understand the changing configurations between security and democracy in turbulent times. We will also use text and data mining as well as sentiment analysis whenever larger data corpora are analysed.
As a graduate programme, the project complements its research activities with doctoral qualification in the social sciences. Our qualification programme is dedicated to a structured and rigorous training that enables PhD researchers to complete their doctoral research in a supportive environment. It offers committed supervision within the disciplines of political science, sociology, criminology and communication studies as well as interdisciplinary exchanges and a creative space for collaborative learning among peers. The qualification programme combines training in theory and research methods with key professional skills training and individual career mentoring. Within the programme, PhD researchers have the opportunity to engage in policy and civil society outreach activities and to develop international professional networks by pursuing research stays abroad and by taking part in international conferences and workshops. Additional events, such as method schools and public lectures, as well as guest speakers and visiting fellows will contribute to the intellectual environment of the graduate programme.