Research Projects

Current research projects at the Department.

Mag. Sarah Gold-Ponesch (Project leader)

“Too much mother, not enough professional” or vice versa? How the situated knowledges of feminist academic mothers come to matter

Duration: August 2019 – October 2023

Third-party funding body: DOC stipend of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW)

Studies highlight the prevalence of exclusionary and marginalising mechanisms towards mothers in academia. Thereby, a stereotypic image of “the academic” as implicitly male, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied and otherwise privileged gets reproduced by contrasting it with “the mother” as its “other”. While “the academic” signifies the realm of knowledge, mind and reason, “the mother” is ascribed to the sphere of experience, body and emotion. In my dissertation I argue that this modernist binary is created out of and feeds back into what bell hooks calls ‘imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’. Relying on an intersectional feminism that is deeply informed by Black, de- and postcolonial thinkers allows me to disrupt the above-mentioned binary. This means that I trace how knowledge and experience, theory and practice, rationality and emotion travel between and within feminism, academia and motherhood. I do this through engaging with the ‘situated knowledges’ (Donna Haraway) of self-identifying feminist academic mothers (FAMs). Thereby, I aim to answer the following research questions: (1) how do modernist dualisms, created by and reproduced through ‘imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’, marginalise and exclude FAMs from the realm of academic knowledge production on both discursive and practical levels?; and (2) how do FAMs use their experiences as a basis for subverting these very structures in academia and beyond? In other words, how do the situated knowledges of FAMs allow us to think and live otherwise? Methodologically, I root my work in the experiences and embodied knowledges of FAMs by relying on Grounded Theory. Firstly, I examine essays written by self-defined FAMs from the US, which I then use as starting points to, secondly, conduct and analyse qualitative in-depth interviews with other US-based FAMs. Thereby, my goal is to contribute to a rich body of feminist work criticising the ongoing neoliberalisation of academia as an institution and academic knowledge as its “product”. Since the US lies at the very centre of these developments, it is vital to study its underlying processes on a local level. Ultimately, however, this work aims at informing broader socio-political questions such as: (a) what kinds of knowledges are considered “legitimate” or “relevant” in academia; (b) which discourses, bodies, acts, practices and/or theories are deemed “unprofessional”, “irrelevant” or otherwise inferior; and (c) what kinds of effects does this have on academia as an institution and academic knowledge as its “product”?

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Oliver Marchart (Project leader)

PREDEF – Prefiguring Democratic Futures. Cultural and Theoretical Responses to the Crisis of Political Imagination

Post Doc Researcher: Sara Gebh, Viktoria Hügel, Sergej Seitz

Prae Doc Researcher: Alexander Kurunczi, Madlyn Sauer

Research Administrator: Rainer Stummer

Duration: October 2022 – September 2027

Third-party funded by: European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant

In the ERC project "PREDEF - Prefiguring Democratic Futures" alternative political institutions are being researched which, apart from the existing liberal democratic institutions, have the potential to promote the democratization of democracy. To this end, largely forgotten institutions are salvaged from the history of political ideas and examined for their actualizability in terms of democratic politics. Similarly, contemporary activist and artistic practices of inventing new and appropriating existing institutional formats will be analyzed. This empirical work is embedded in a democratic theory of political imagination that is to be newly developed.

Further information

Ass.-Prof. Dr. Katharina T. Paul (Project leader)

VALUE-VACC - Valuing Vaccination: A multi-sited policy valuography

Prae Doc researchers: Nora Hansl, Anna Pichelstorfer
Post Doc researcher: Dmitrii Zhikharevich

Duration: October 2022 – September 2028

Third-party funded by: Austrian Science Fund (FWF) START Prize Programme

The START project “Valuing Vaccination: A multi-sited policy valuography” examines the value society assigns to vaccinations. How do different players value vaccinations, and how does this value attribution reflect their attitudes towards governance? Based on interviews, ethnographic observation and analysis of social media data, the project aims at a comprehensive analysis of value principles that inform current vaccination practices.

Further information: |


InsSciDE – Inventing a shared Science Diplomacy for Europe

Project fellow: Anna Pichelstorfer

Former project fellow: Myriam Gatisch

Duration: January 2018 – November 2021

Third-party funded by: European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program

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KNOW-VACC: Knowledge production and governance in vaccination policy

Project assistent: Katharina Riesinger

Duration: March 2017 – November 2021

Third-party funded by: Austrian Science Fund (FWF) – Elise Richter grant

Univ.-Prof. retd Dr. Sieglinde Rosenberger (Project leader)

Violence against women migrants and refugees (GBV-MIG)
GENDER-NET Plus Joint Call in Gender and UN Sustainable Development Goals

Project fellows, University of Vienna: Madita Erdmann, Leila Haj-Abdou, Milena Pieper

Former project fellows, University of Vienna: Beate Gassner

Consortium Members: CRESPPA Université Paris 8 France (PI), National University of Ire-land Gal-way, St. Mary’s University Halifax, Oriental Insitute at Czech Academy of Sciences, University of Vienna, Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies Oslo, Bar-Ilan University Tel Aviv

Duration: March 2019 – December 2021

Third-party funded by: Austrian Science Fund (FWF)

Further information:

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a major infringement of women’s human rights, and an obstacle to sustainable development as set out in the SDGs. GBV against migrant and refugee women is wide-spread, but often remains invisible and under-analysed in both academic research and policy-making. This research attempts to understand GBV in the context of migration, analysing the ways in which discriminations and inequalities based on gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orien-tation, gender identity and age, interact to make certain women more vulnerable to GBV and less able to access support and services for survivors than others do. GBV may be exacerbated by poli-cies aiming to restrict migration, or to increase control of borders, which can push women into adopting dangerous routes to arrive in their country of destination. Conflict and the risks of migra-tion may also render women vulnerable to trafficking and sexual exploitation. Conditions of recep-tion and policies for integration in receiving countries may also lead to increased risk of GBV for migrant and refugee women. But these women are not just “victims”, and their strategies and agency are to be explored. As the Austrian team, we look at narratives and the discourse around GBV against women migrants and refugees, the occurrence of GBV at borders by factoring in impacts of the so-called “Balkan Route”, reception centers, women’s shelters etc. We collect relevant information through inter-views with key informants from international, national and local actors. Research also includes the analysis of international and national policy documents and action plans. What is crucial to the pro-ject is the involvement of participants who have witnessed or are exposed to GBV. The involve-ment of different actors on different (non-)governmental and societal level allows us to identify and analyze the gendered and racialized dynamics and narratives. In sum, while we know that fe-male migrants and refugees are particularly exposed to violence we lack a systematic understand-ing of the underlying dynamics that (re)produce patterns of violence.



REvolTURN – Managing migrant return through ‘voluntariness’

Project fellow: Reinhard Schweitzer

Duration: October 2018 – September 2020

Third-party funded by: European Commission, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (IF)

The European Union and many of its Member States increasingly rely on public policies for the so-called ‘voluntary return’ of irregular migrants and (refused) asylum seekers. Very little is known about how these approaches work in practice and whether they meet stated policy goals and discharge state obligations regarding migrants’ human rights. The project REvolTURN addresses this research gap through a close and comparative analysis of ‘voluntary return’ policies in Austria and the UK, including their adoption, implementation and immediate outcome. It examines 1) how voluntariness of return is constructed and framed in law, policy and public discourse, 2) which notions of voluntariness are crucial for policy implementation, and 3) what impact this has on migrants’ own decision-making about their return. REvolTURN thereby addresses a key priority of the Horizon 2020 work programme: to better manage migration; and will contribute to recent scholarship regarding the in/effectiveness of migration policies and the agency of migrants holding no or highly precarious statuses.


PETICIPATE – Petitions and Parliamentary Citizens‘ Initiatives: Linking Citizens and Parliament?

Project fellows: Elio Dalpra, Jeremias Stadlmair & Benedikt Seisl

Cooperation partner: Legal, Legislative and Research Services of Austrian Parliament

Duration: March 2018 – September 2020

Third-party funded by: Austrian National Bank, Jubiläumsfonds

Against the backdrop of decreasing support for institutions and actors of representative democracy, instruments of participatory democracy aim to reconnect citizens and political actors. Petitions and Parliamentary Citizens‘ Initiatives (PCIs) enable citizens to submit initiatives to the Austrian Parliament, either by supplying 500 signatures of support (Parliamentary Citizens’ Initiative) or via a Member of Parliament (Petition). Therefore, PCIs broaden the participatory repertoire in the political system of Austria. In the project, we scrutinise the functions of PCIs for different societal groups and actors, such as public mobilisation, issue-specific policy change, or opposition to government. Overall, we want the explore the potential of PCIs for strengthening the linkage between citizens and representative politics on one hand and their function as instrument of political protest on the other hand.

Addressing these research objectives, we collect information on the proponents, content, and parliamentary processing of all PCIs from 1988 to 2017. In a second step, we conduct a process tracing of recent PCIs, including interviews with proponents of PCIs and Members of Parliament and participant observation.

The societal and scientific contribution of the project is threefold: First, it enables a better understanding of the parliamentary process and outcomes of PCIs and a conceptual connection between direct and representative forms of democracy. Second, proponents of PCIs may benefit from information on effects and factors contributing to the success of PCIs collected in this project. Third, we develop propositions for reforming PCIs in Austria.

Further information


BordEUr: Jean Monnet New European Boderlands' Network

Project fellows: Miriam Haselbacher, Helena Segarra 

Duration: September 2019 – September 2022

Third-party funded by: Erasmus+

The Institute of Political Science, with Sieglinde Rosenberger, Miriam Haselbacher and Helena Segarra, is part of the BordEUr research network. A recently launched network of nine universities that addresses the impact of recent developments in the EU’s and its member states’ bordering practices, how these practices are framed, and how the assigned meanings potentially clash with the EU’s identity as an international actor.  The project is coordinated by the Center for European Neighborhood Studies (CENS) at the Central European University (Hungary).

Further information

Univ.-Prof. retd Dr. Birgit Sauer (Project leader)

Populist Backlash, Democratic Backsliding, and the Crisis of the Rule of Law in the European Union (POPBACK) 

Project fellow: Marlene Radl

Duration: December 2020 - November 2023

Third-party funded by: NORFACE (

The POPBACK project aims to inform strategies to increase democratic resilience by studying the mechanisms “exclusionary populists” use to increase their power by undermining the Rule of Law in the areas of law, the economy, and the media. The project also seeks to identify the “coping strategies” societal actors use when faced with exclusionary populism. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach spanning political science, political economy, legal-, management-, and media studies, the project compares Austria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and Turkey, all of which have experienced varying degrees of populist success. The project will be organised into four Work Packages (WPs), focussing on legal changes (WP1), business and economics (WP2), media and communications (WP3), and impact (WP4).
The Austrian Team will contribute to Work Package 3 employing a multilevel approach to investigate the political economic, legal and discursive pillars of communicative authoritarian populism.

Project homepage:


Cultures of Rejection (CuRe)

Project fellows: Benjamin Opratko, Florian Zeller

Duration: January 2019 – December 2021

Third-party funded by: VolkswagenStiftung

CuRe – Cultures of Rejections aims at a deeper understanding of processes of social polarisation, radicalisation and transformation of everyday life that underpin recent surges in nationalism and right-wing populism in Europe. Cultures of rejection are practices, discourses and cultural formations based on values, norms and affects which reject immigration, domestic political elites, institutions of civil society and the media, shifting gender relations, and European integration. The working hypothesis of the project posits that cultures of rejection emerge from experiences of change and crisis, and fuel rejection of both the EU and national democratic systems as well as institutions of civil society, threatening social cohesion and peaceful coexistence. The project seeks to test this hypothesis and analyse which dimensions of transformation and crisis are processed in cultures of rejection, and how meaning is ascribed to them inter-subjectively in different environments. The researchers will assess the situation along the 2015 migration route across Sweden, Germany, Austria, Croatia and Serbia, thoroughly examining work places, digital and socio-spatial environments. The socio-cultural research conducted is complemented with elements of digital ethnography.

Key research questions are:

• How do workers in two industries affected by economic and technological transformation (logistics/transport and retail) reproduce, justify or contradict cultures of rejection in their everyday lives?
• To which experiences of routines, transformation and crisis do employees ascribe meaning via reference to cultures of rejection?
• Which online and offline environments are relevant to the reproduction of cultures of rejection?
• What similarities and differences can account for the composition of cultures of rejection in different spaces and places?

CuRe is funded by the Volkswagen Stiftung’s initiative „Herausforderungen für Europa“ (2019-2021). Project leaders are Manuela Bojadžijev (Leuphana University Lüneburg , Germany), Irena Fiket (University of Belgrade, Serbia), Birgit Sauer (University of Vienna), Sanja Bojanic (University of Rijeka) and Stefan Jonsson (Linköping University).

Further information


Migrant Children and Communities in a Transforming Europe (MiCREATE) 

Project fellows: Alev Cakir, Mira Liepold, Stella Wolter

Former project fellows: Dovaine Buschmann, Ayse Dursun

Duration: January 2019 – December 2021

Third-party funded by: European Commission Horizon 2020 - SC6-MIGRATION-2018-2019-2020

Lead: Science and Research Center Koper, Slovenia

The project is funded within the framework of Horizon2020, the European Union Research and Innovation program, and is carried out by 15 research institutions from 12 European countries for the duration of 36 months. The goal of the project is to explore the political and institutional framework for migrant children’s social integration at schools in respective country. The research team at the University of Vienna studies the institutional mechanism of social inclusion and exclusion with regard to migrant children in Austria through policy analysis and field research with migrant students, school personnel and political and civil society stakeholders. The context of the research are growing political crises which culminate, not least, in the restructuring of migration regimes. Against this backdrop, the research team is concerned with how the social positions of minor migrants are constructed at the crossroads between political and institutional arrangements regarding asylum and migration on one hand and those regarding child und youth welfare and schooling on the other hand. The research results from Austria shall be coupled with the results of the entire consortium to draw an overall conclusion for Europe.

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POP-MED. Political and Media Populism: “Refugee crisis” in Slovenia and Austria

Project fellows, University of Vienna: Otto Penz, Daniel Thiele

Project fellows, The Peace Institute, Ljubljana: Mojca Pajnik (head of the research team in Ljubljana), Emanuela Fabijan, Iztok Šori, Marko Ribać, Mojca Frelih, Neža Kogovšek Šalamon

Partner Institutions: University of Vienna & The Peace Institute, Ljubljana

Duration: January 2019 – December 2021

Third-party funded by: Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS) & Austrian Science Fund (FWF)

This project investigates the nexus between political parties, media and right-wing populism in Austria and Slovenia. Starting point is the so-called “refugee crisis” in 2015.
Historical background is the erosion of “party democracy” and the rise of “populist democracy”, placing media coverage, opinion polls, and public relations experts center stage. These conditions paved the way especially for right-wing populist actors mobilizing against “the elite” and “others”. The large number of refugees fleeing to Europe along the “Balkan route” from crisis areas fuelled this excluding populism. Right-wing populist parties portray refugees as dangerous, culturally deviant and as a threat to national security and the welfare system.
The research project proposes a novel analysis of this “exclusionary populism” between 2015 and 2021. It encompasses the analysis of a) trends in politics and policy making, b) trends in the media and journalistic field with an emphasis on digital media, and c) the related public perception of migration in a comparative perspective. An innovative focus is placed on the mobilization of affects and emotions like fear, anger or (exclusive) solidarity.
The project will apply a mixed method approach, combining critical affective frame analysis of parliamentary debates and media coverage, in-depth interviews of politicians and journalists, quantitative content analysis of online communication and analyses of survey data.

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Mobilising narratives in a transnational space. New media as a political site for negotiating Malian-diasporic identifications

Project fellows: Syntia Hasenöhrl

Duration: October 2016 – July 2020

Third-party funded by: ÖAW – Austrian Academy of Sciences (Docteam grant)

The PhD project explores the identifications and belongings mobile agents articulate on a Malian-diasporic news portal. It investigates which opportunities for political mobilisation and, thus, agency emerge from such mediated mobilities.

Dr. Magnus G. Schoeller (Project leader)

The Challenge of Regional Leadership: Germany’s Self-Conception and Leadership Performance across EU Policies

Duration: July 2020 - June 2023

Third-party funded by: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (ÖAW) APART-GSK

Project homepage

Leadership of powerful states is considered crucial to the success of regional integration. Since the European Union (EU) finds itself in a ‘polycrisis’, many eyes are on Germany. However, Germany has long been characterized by a ‘leadership avoidance reflex’. Moreover, even if Germany perceives itself as a leader in the EU, it will not be able to provide leadership equally in all EU policies, as such hegemony is precluded for structural and legitimacy reasons. Therefore, this project investigates, first, the extent to which German political elites perceive themselves as a regional leader in different EU policies. Second, the project asks under which conditions Germany actually performs a leading role in a given policy. In order to answer these questions, the project elaborates an innovative theoretical model that integrates rationalist (interest-based) and constructivist (idea-based) perspectives on leadership. Methodologically, the project relies on a mixed-methods design by combining an elite survey with rigorous process-tracing based on semi-structured interviews and document analysis.

Assoz. Prof. Dr. Alice Vadrot (Project leader)

MARIPOLDATA - The Politics of Marine Biodiversity Data: Global and National Policies and Practices of Monitoring the Oceans

Project fellows: Emmanuelle Brogat, Arne Langlet, Ina Tessnow von Wysocki, Petro Tolochko

Duration: November 2018 – October 2023

Third-party funded by: Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC), established by the European Commission

In order to protect marine biodiversity and ensure that benefits are equally shared, the UN General Assembly has decided to develop a new legally binding treaty under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Marine biodiversity data will play a central role: Firstly, in supporting intergovernmental efforts to identify, protect and monitor marine biodiversity. Secondly, in informing governments interested in particular aspects of marine biodiversity, including its economic use and its contribution to biosecurity. In examining how this data are represented and used, this project will create a novel understanding of the materiality of science-policy interrelations in global environmental politics as well as develop the methodologies to do so. This is crucial, because the capacities to develop and use data infrastructures are unequally distributed among countries and global initiatives for data sharing are significantly challenged by conflicting perceptions of who benefits from marine biodiversity research.

The central objective of MARIPOLDATA is to develop and apply a new multiscale methodology for grounding the analysis of science-policy interrelations in empirical research. An interdisciplinary team, led by the PI, will collect and analyse data across different policy-levels and spatial scales by combining 1) ethnographic studies at intergovernmental negotiation sites with 2) a comparative analysis of national marine biodiversity monitoring policies and practices and 3) bibliometric and network analyses and oral history interviews for mapping the field of marine biodiversity science.

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