Promotionsprogramm "Transformationsprozesse in Europäischen Gesellschaften"

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Maurizio Scelsi, Dipl. sc. pol. Univ., M.A.

3rd Year


Institute for European Ethnology and Cultural Analysis
Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich
Oettingenstr. 67,
80538 Munich,

Further Information

Dissertation Project

"Political Difference(s): between Establishment and Anti-Institutionalism. An Inquiry on Knowledge and Reception of 'Political Defectors'" (working title)

Over the past decade, Western democracies have experienced a stunning upsurge of hate and polarisation. Political criticism and bashing the (anti-)establishment – often directed against activists or politicians – are specific results of it. Political differences seem to be ubiquitous. They are driving a deeper and deeper wedge between the people – sometimes even within political organisations (which I preliminary define in a broad sense, including political parties, non-governmental organisations as well as social movements (Hoebel 2012)).

Political differences can be loosely described as any disagreements or troubles that make a joint political project controversial or even impossible. This research intends to analyse moments of friction, in which disputes arise and individual issue positions do no longer match with the program of once own political organisation. In other words, moments that can ultimately lead people to leave their political organisation (e.g. party resignation).

It is evident that successful examples of "political defectors" are all well-known politicians (e.g. Winston Churchill, Gustav Heinemann, Otto Schily t.b.c.). In contrast, far too little attention has been paid to biographies of the more unknown politicians/activists. Since they represent "capital" for the previous and the subsequent political organisation, it is worthwhile to examine their political voluntary- or working life.

The main- and minor questions of the research are: (1.) How do "ruptures" within political organisations happen and on what knowledge are these based? What are the motives and expectations, and how do "the apostates" communicate their leave? What (public/non-public) follow-up actions are associated with it? (2.) What about the reception of leaving a political organisation and/or founding a new one? How do established politicians, activists or mass media behave towards the so-called "political defectors"? What are the advantages of "representing the difference"?

The ongoing dissertation is located in the research area of political anthropology and emphasises the protagonists' agencies. The empirical part aims to give qualitative insights into political destinies from an actor-centred perspective. In German social and cultural anthropology, the research joins to the studies that investigate resistance, the political in everyday life as well as protests and dissidents. Besides the more common usage of political differences (in the plural form), the research also ties in with post-fundamentalist thinking in political theory around the concept of the political difference (Marchart 2011).

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Irene Götz