Research Area III: Resistance and Political Ordering

Focus: Causes, Dynamics and Consequences of Social Mobilization

► Political Long and Short-Term Effects of Protest Movements
► Peacebuilding and Local Resistance
► Divergent Paths of Politico-Religious Mobilization

In many countries, social groups organize contestation movements to influence political change in their favour. In Sudan, a broad-based democracy movement succeeded in overthrowing the long-term authoritarian ruler Omar al-Bashir in 2018/19, while the peace process in Colombia was toppled by a social campaign (2016). The two examples illustrate that social mobilization takes place in support of as well as in opposition to peace and democracy. Reflective of this ambivalence, research carried out in the area “Resistance and Political Ordering” probes into the causes and consequences of social resistance in times of fundamental political change.

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Apart from explaining the mobilization of specific social groups, we are interested in the different types of protest strategies used by contestation movements. Furthermore, we take into account that in an increasingly interconnected world, international actors play an important role regarding the mobilization of social groups and the state’s reactions to mobilization. Therefore, our research also studies political environments where social groups and/or the state receive support from external actors for mobilization/repression. This includes investigating UN peace missions, which often face tensions between transnational norms or goals of international actors and the local realities in the areas of operation. In addition to the state, we also examine sub-national non-governmental actors (e.g. chiefs, clan elders, NGO representatives, but also rebels). These often pursue their own agendas based on ideas of order and security that contrast with Western-oriented concepts. We explore resistance not only in terms of its disruptive effects, but also with respect to its contributions to the formation of political order.

Existing research has focussed on the willingness of individuals or entire identity groups (especially ethnic groups) to mobilize. In our projects, we take a different approach by considering the role of social organizations. Social organizations have the networks and resources essential for successful mobilization. Paying particular attention to religious communities, political parties and rebel groups, we pursue a theory-guided empirical research agenda that combines qualitative and quantitative methods.

Selected Publications

► Debiel, Tobias 2018: Pluralisation of Authority in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: The Re-Assignment of Responsibility in Polycentric Governance Arrangements, in: Ulbert, Cornelia / Finkenbusch, Peter / Sondermann, Elena / Debiel, Tobias (eds.): Moral Agency and the Politics of Responsibility. London/New York: Routledge, 135-150. DOI: 10.4324/9781315201399

► Saalfeld, Jannis 2021: Inter-Secular Party Competition and the (Non-)Formation of Salafi-Jihadist Milieus: Evidence from Tanzania, in: Studies in Conflict & Terrorism (online first). DOI: 10.1080/1057610X.2021.1945187

► Vüllers, Johannes / Krtsch, Roman 2020: Raise Your Voices! Civilian Protest in Civil Wars, in: Political Geography, 80, 102183. DOI: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2020.102183

► Vüllers, Johannes 2019: Mobilization for Peace: Analyzing Religious Peace Activism, in: Conflict Management and Peace Science (online first). DOI: 10.1177/0738894219875135

► Vüllers, Johannes / Schwarz, Elisa 2019: The Power of Words: State Reactions to Protest Announcements, in: Comparative Politcal Studies, 52: 3, 347-381. DOI: 10.1177/0010414018784059


Prof. Dr. Tobias Debiel

Room: LF 324
Phone: +49 (0)203-379-2021
Staff Portfolio

Prof. Dr. Christof Hartmann

Room: LS 120
Phone: +49 (0)203-379-4421
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Jannis Saalfeld, M.A.

Room: LS 034
Phone: +49 (0)203-379-3847
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Dipl. Pol. Angelika Spelten

Room: LS 118c
Phone: +49 (0)228-4460-3476
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PD Dr. Johannes Vüllers

Room: LS 030
Phone: +49 (0)203-379-4450
Staff Portfolio