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

Brazil between the first and sec­ond rounds of gen­er­al elections

Ricar­do Pagliu­so Regatieri18. Octo­ber 20228 min read

On Octo­ber 2, Brazil­ians went to the bal­lots to vote for pres­i­dent, state gov­er­nors, sen­a­tors, as well as fed­er­al and state rep­re­sen­ta­tives. In the pres­i­den­tial race, the cen­ter-left-wing for­mer president…

The Future Mel­oni Gov­ern­ment and the Long Drift of Ital­ian Democracy

Adri­ano Coz­zoli­no11. Octo­ber 202211 min read

“Rome wasn’t build in a day” – and nei­ther is a rad­i­cal right-wing gov­ern­ment like the one now form­ing in Italy fol­low­ing the elec­tions held in Sep­tem­ber 2022. The result…

Zwis­chen Apathie und Hoffnung

Ulrike Flad­er14. Decem­ber 20218 min read

Zum „san­ften“ Autori­taris­mus in der Türkei. Die strate­gis­che und flex­i­ble Ver­flech­tung von demokratis­chen und nicht-demokratis­chen Prak­tiken ist ein Charak­terzug ‚san­fter‘ For­men autoritär­er Regierung. Ein Ver­ständ­nis von der Pro­duk­tion von Affek­ten wie…

The Weaponiza­tion of Repub­li­can Val­ues in France

Hagen Stein­hauer23. Novem­ber 20218 min read

There is an ongo­ing bat­tle for cul­tur­al hege­mo­ny in France. Far-right ide­olo­gies are being nor­mal­ized, their stig­ma­tiz­ing vocab­u­lary thus not only gains pub­lic accep­tance but also comes to shape the…

Intro­duc­ing Pod­cast Series: Democ­ra­cy in Question

S08E09: Seema Sye­da Address­es Islam­o­pho­bia Across Europe 

22. May 202445:39

This episode explores Islam­o­pho­bia across Europe as a form of struc­tur­al racism. How does Islam­o­pho­bia oper­ate as a tool of diver­sion and divi­sion? And why do such per­cep­tions play a…

S08E08: Zsolt Enye­di on the Crises of Liberalism 

8. May 202450:31

This episode explores the crises of lib­er­al­ism. How do recent con­di­tions of uncer­tain­ty and mul­ti­ple crises play a role in ampli­fy­ing the appeal of illib­er­al ide­olo­gies? And how does illiberalism…

S08E07: Michael Wolde­mari­am on Chal­lenges Fac­ing African Democ­ra­cy (Part 2)

24. April 202434:09

This episode explores how the lega­cies of Euro­pean colo­nial­ism in Africa impact the suc­cess of democ­ra­ti­za­tion today. How do inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions play a role in declin­ing sup­port for demo­c­ra­t­ic politics…

S08E06: Michael Wolde­mari­am on Chal­lenges Fac­ing African Democ­ra­cy (Part 1)

15. April 202440:08

This episode explores polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary con­flicts in Ethiopia and more broad­ly, in the Horn of Africa. Why has Ethiopia’s process of democ­ra­ti­za­tion erod­ed in recent years? And what is…

State Anti-Intel­lec­­tu­al­ism & the Pol­i­tics of Gen­der and Race. Illib­er­al France and Beyond


Time: 18:15–19:45

Loca­tion: Uni­ver­sität Bre­men, SFG 0150

Guest Lec­ture with Éric Fassin (Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis)

In this guest lec­ture, Éric Fassin will present his new book State Anti-Intel­lec­­tu­al­ism and the Pol­i­tics of Gen­der and Race (CEU Press 2024). Using France as his main case study and com­bin­ing it with reflec­tions on the sit­u­a­tion in coun­tries such as Brazil, Turkey, Rus­sia, Hun­gary and the Unit­ed States, his book presents a com­pelling and care­ful analy­sis of cur­rent anti-intel­lec­­tu­al­ism. He argues that today’s anti-intel­lec­­tu­al­ism can no longer be ana­lyzed in terms of local pol­i­tics nor along Cold War geopo­lit­i­cal divi­sions. Instead, we are faced with a glob­al phe­nom­e­non, which is not lim­it­ed to osten­si­bly illib­er­al regimes.

Bring­ing togeth­er pub­lic inter­ven­tions, arti­cles and blogs which exam­ine exam­ples of state racism, gen­der pol­i­tics, cen­sor­ship and can­cel cul­ture in the peri­od from Pres­i­dent Sarkozy until today, as well as direct attacks against aca­d­e­mics – both first­hand and against oth­ers, Fassin’s book makes an urgent plea for the impor­tance of intel­lec­tu­al work in a glob­al moment of polit­i­cal anti-intellectualism.

Work­shop: Anti-Intel­lec­­tu­al­ism, Attacks on Aca­d­e­m­ic Free­dom and Illib­er­al Neoliberalism


Time: 10:15–11:45

Loca­tion: Meet­ing Room RTG Con­tra­dic­tion Stud­ies (GRA2 0030), Graz­er Str. 2, Bremen

Work­shop with Éric Fassin (Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis)

This inter­dis­ci­pli­nary work­shop will address the rise of neolib­er­al illib­er­al pol­i­tics and their con­nec­tion to anti-intel­lec­­tu­al­ism and dis­cours­es around aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom. Based on the guest lec­ture, we will dis­cuss a vari­ety of cas­es, rang­ing from the US-Amer­i­­can moral pan­ic around ‘Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry’, Bolsonaro’s inten­tion­al attacks on Uni­ver­si­ty fund­ing, dis­cours­es around ‘islamo-left­­ism’ and ‘wok­ism’ in France to the ban of Gen­der Stud­ies in Hun­gary. What do those cas­es and the grow­ing hos­til­i­ty against researchers tell us about the glob­al state of democ­ra­cy? How and why are aca­d­e­mics and their modes of knowl­edge pro­duc­tion tar­get­ed not only by far-right actors but increas­ing­ly also by the state?

The work­shop is open for stu­dents, PhD can­di­dates and Post-Doc researchers from all disciplines.

In prepa­ra­tion of the work­shop, par­tic­i­pants are asked to read the fol­low­ing chap­ters from Eric Fassin’s (2024) book State Anti-Intel­lec­­tu­al­ism & the Pol­i­tics of Gen­der and Race (avail­able via SUUB):

Intro­duc­tion: Anti-Intel­lec­­tu­al­ism and the Pol­i­tics of Truth (pp. 1–23)
Con­clu­sion: Democ­ra­cy and the Inter­sec­tion­al Pol­i­tics of Mourn­ing (pp. 149–160)
Epi­logue: In the First Per­son (pp. 161–172)

Reg­is­tra­tion for the work­shop via mail is pos­si­ble until May 30 (hstein­hauer [at] uni-bre­­men [dot] de)