Soft Author­i­tar­i­an­ism, a con­cept that appears con­tra­dic­to­ry, aims to cap­ture the cur­rent fuzzi­ness of democ­ra­cies slid­ing into author­i­tar­i­an rule the world over. For­mal elec­tions bol­ster the pow­er of strong­men, majori­tar­i­an democ­ra­cies under­mine the rights of minori­ties, the rule of law is hol­lowed out using the con­sti­tu­tion, and dis­cours­es of free­dom of expres­sion are deployed to dis­man­tle fun­da­men­tal human rights.

Our Research Group stud­ies in com­par­a­tive per­spec­tive the flu­id and flex­i­ble polit­i­cal, juridi­cal, social and dis­cur­sive con­fig­u­ra­tions which blur the line between demo­c­ra­t­ic and author­i­tar­i­an prac­tices of rule. It exam­ines how soft author­i­tar­i­anisms of var­i­ous vari­eties are estab­lished and con­test­ed in dif­fer­ent con­texts. How are these new forms of rule legit­imized dis­cur­sive­ly, imple­ment­ed insti­tu­tion­al­ly? How are respon­si­bil­i­ties and account­abil­i­ty watered down, pow­er cen­tral­ized and its trans­fer imped­ed? What forms of mobi­liza­tion and action by cit­i­zens attempt to stem the slow and sys­tem­at­ic ero­sion of lib­er­al demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions? In what ways has the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic exac­er­bat­ed author­i­tar­i­an ten­den­cies and are they here to stay?

Our three con­trastive case stud­ies link­ing ethnog­ra­phy with dis­course analy­sis and doc­u­men­tary research focus on Poland, France and Turkey/​the Turk­ish-Euro­pean diaspora.

Soft Authoritarianism and the Ambivalences of Europeanisation: What Role Could the EU Play?

Jens Adam6. May 20218 min read

Democ­ra­cy in Ques­tion? – Through a soft author­i­tar­i­an lens In this com­ment, Jens Adam reflects on the lat­est episode of the pod­cast series “Democ­ra­cy in Ques­tion?” fea­tur­ing Tim­o­thy Gar­ton Ash.…

Civil Society Revisited: Democracy and Grassroots Authoritarianism

Jens Adam9. April 20219 min read

Democ­ra­cy in Ques­tion? – Through a Soft Author­i­tar­i­an Lens In this com­ment on the last episode of our pod­cast series ‘Democ­ra­cy in Ques­tion?’ Jens Adam reflects on Mary Kaldor’s notions of  ‘Civ­il Soci­ety’ and…

Ranabir Samaddar: The Postcolonial Age of Migration

Ayşe Çağlar25. March 20219 min read

This book crit­i­cal­ly exam­ines the ques­tion of migra­tion that appears at the inter­sec­tion of glob­al neo-lib­er­al trans­for­ma­tion, post­colo­nial pol­i­tics, and econ­o­my. It analy­ses the spe­cif­ic ways in which colo­nial relations…

Fear Eats the Soul. Ruth Wodak’s The Politics of Fear

Miloš Vec16. March 202110 min read

Far-right pop­ulist pol­i­tics have arrived in the main­stream. We are now wit­ness­ing the shame­less nor­mal­iza­tion of a polit­i­cal dis­course built around nation­al­ism, xeno­pho­bia, racism, sex­ism, anti­semitism and Islam­o­pho­bia. But what…

Introducing Podcast Series: Democracy in Question

S2E2:Does Liberalism Need Reinvention in the 21st Century?

6. May 202127:21 min listen

The decline and even death of lib­er­al­ism has been pre­dict­ed often. Today it faces chal­lenges not only from pop­ulism in Europe and the US but also from Chi­na offer­ing an…

S2E1: Covid-19: How Can We Democratize Vaccine Access?

22. April 202129:54 min listen

Covid-19 vac­cines have been devel­oped in record time and are being dis­trib­uted around the world. But issues like vac­cine hes­i­tan­cy, slow pro­duc­tion and unequal access between as well as within…

S1E10: Democracy from Below: What Real Utopias Can We Build on?

2. March 202126:10

Cit­i­zens have a cru­cial role to play in polit­i­cal life and can have tremen­dous pow­er, as they come togeth­er in asso­ci­a­tions and social move­ments. To close this first sea­son, Professor …

S1E9: Can Liberal Democracy Outlive Climate Change?

17. Feb­ru­ary 202128:00 min listen

Pri­or to the Covid 19 pan­dem­ic, the issue on everyone’s minds was cli­mate change. Sci­en­tists have been rais­ing the alarm for the good part of three decades, but politi­cians the…

Public.Crisis.Academia – Lessons on Repression from Turkish Universities


Time: 16:00 – 18:00

Loca­tion: Uni­ver­si­ty of Bremen

Addi­tion­al event info: Chairs: Nurhak Polat and Ulrike Flad­er (Uni­ver­si­ty of Bremen)

The cur­rent repres­sion towards aca­d­e­mics com­pels us to revis­it the rela­tion between acad­e­mia and a demo­c­ra­t­ic pub­lic in the light of its cur­rent ero­sion by author­i­tar­i­an gov­ern­ments. Ask­ing how we can grasp aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom in terms of rights and respon­si­bil­i­ties for the future of democ­ra­cy, the event will explore lessons that can be learnt from the Turk­ish case and con­tribute to a broad­er diag­no­sis of the sit­u­a­tion of acad­e­mia beyond this spe­cif­ic cri­sis. Draw­ing on the find­ings of their recent study on aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom in Turk­ish uni­ver­si­ties, İnan Özdemir Taş­tan and Aydın Ördek from the School of Human Rights, Ankara/​​Turkey, will dis­cuss the extent of the repres­sion and its implications.

This event is joint­ly orga­nized by the Inter­na­tion­al Office, the Depart­ment of Anthro­pol­o­gy and Cul­tur­al Research, the Research Group Soft Author­i­tar­i­anisms, and Worlds of Con­tra­dic­tion, all Uni­ver­si­ty of Bre­men. It is part of the lec­ture series “Pol­i­tics of Repres­sion – Strate­gies and Resis­tances in Schol­ar­ship” orga­nized in coop­er­a­tion with the Leib­niz Uni­ver­si­ty Han­nover, Carl von Ossi­et­zky Uni­ver­si­ty of Old­en­burg, the Leuphana Uni­ver­si­ty Lüneb­urg and the Georg-August-Uni­ver­si­­ty Göt­tin­gen, and sup­port­ed by the net­work ‘Schol­ars at Risk´.

No reg­is­tra­tion required. 

Access the event here

Webi­­nar-ID: 913 2131 3524

Pass­code: 196314

Yisares Autumn School


8. Octo­ber 202130. Octo­ber 2021

Loca­tion: online

This nine-day inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Autumn Research School aims at map­ping the dif­fer­ent forms of extrac­tivist cap­i­tal­ism across transna­tion­al spaces and emerg­ing rela­tion­al geo­gra­phies includ­ing cur­rent devel­op­ments in finance, logis­tics and dig­i­tal economies.