Populist Backlash, Democratic Backsliding, and the Crisis of the Rule of Law in the European Union
The aim of the project is to contribute to the analysis and better understanding of the political strategies of right-wing populism in Europe. In this way, the research aims to promote democratic development in European states. The project investigates how right-wing populist movements and parties in six European countries struggle for political power and how they undermine the rule of law in these processes. In an interdisciplinary research context, Germany, Great Britain, Austria, Poland, Slovenia, and Turkey will be studied comparatively. The researchers from five European countries are primarily interested in analyzing the effects of “excluding populism” on legal systems, the economy and the media landscape in the six countries under investigation. The project aims to identify the social, economic and political causes and consequences of the rise of right-wing populist movements and to develop empirically based theoretical explanations for and policy-oriented strategies against right-wing populism. The starting premise is that right-wing populism builds on argumentation strategies that exclude specific groups in order to create a (national) community. The range of topics of the project therefore includes the following: political and economic risks of right-wing populism, communication strategies and the influence of exclusionary populism on national media landscapes as well as on political attitudes and trust in democratic institutions. The research methods include quantitative legal analyses (“leximetrics”), multi-level analyses of economic and media development in the countries studied, and interviews with experts, e.g. with journalists. The Austrian sub-project focuses on the significance of media for the rise of exclusive populism. Do traditional, but also social media strengthen populist argumentations or do (quality) journalists oppose right-wing populist argumentations with a public voice? The projects thus analyzes what in scientific literature is called “media populism”. The results of the research are continuously made available to the academic community and the broader public through publications.
New Opportunites for Research Funding Agency Cooperation in Europe (NORFACE) Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
1.12.2020 – 30.11.2023
Dr. G. Schnyder (Loughborough University, UK)
Prof. Dr. Birgit Sauer (University of Vienna, Austria)
Dr. D. Sallai (London School of Economics, UK)
Prof. B. Blaszczyk (Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland)
Dr. M. Pajnik (Peace Institute, Slovenia)
Prof. S. Deakin (University of Cambridge, UK)
Prof. A. Nölke (Goethe Universität Frankfurt, Germany)
Political and Media Populism: “Refugee crisis” in Slovenia and Austria
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.
Univ-Prof.in Dr. Birgit Sauer (head of the research team in Vienna)
Univ-Prof.in Dr. Mojca Pajnik (head of the research team in Ljubljana)
Emanuela Fabijan, Iztok Šori, Marko Ribać, Mojca Frelih, Neža Kogovšek Šalamon, Daniel Thiele, Otto Penz
Cultures of Rejection: Conditions of Acceptability in Socio-Spatial and Digital Environments in Contemporary Europe [CURE]
The project examines the social and cultural conditions under which the current boom in right-wing populism and nationalism is taking place in Europe. We examine these conditions as “cultures of rejection”. These are articulated, for example, in the rejection of immigration, political elites, civil society institutions and media, changes in gender relations or European integration. The underlying working hypothesis assumes that rejection cultures are driven by the experience of change and crisis in working life, socio-spatial and digital environments.
The study examines the working and living conditions of employees in the retail and transport/logistics sectors. It is conducted in Sweden, Germany, Austria, Croatia and Serbia and combines methods of qualitative social research with digital and analogue ethnographies.
January 2019 – January 2022
Univ-Prof.in Dr. Birgit Sauer
Dr. Benjamin Opratko, Florian Zeller, BA
Migrant Children and Communities in a Transforming Europe (MiCREATE)
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.
European Commission, Horizon 2020
January 2019 – December 2021
Univ-Prof.in Dr. Birgit Sauer
Dovaine Buschmann, Stella Wolter, Ayşe Dursun
Comparing European Prostitution Policies: Understanding Scales and Cultures of Governance (ProsPol). ISCH COST Action IS1209
ProsPol will compare and disseminate knowledge about the multiple contexts, features and effects of prostitution policies at the European, national and local levels. Due to the combined pressures of globalization and changing patterns of migration, trafficking and the commercialization of sex, prostitution has received unprecedented levels of attention in the last three decades. This has led to a heightened demand for effective models of regulation, for legal harmonization and sharing practice across jurisdictions. Nevertheless, much is contested in this field, with countries adopting varying approaches in light of their own particular political, social and legal cultures. At present there are no efficient strategies to address these complex issues and their comprehensive analysis remain fragmented, with little communication amongst researchers from different countries and between researchers and policy makers. This Action will fulfill the pressing need to exchange knowledge and develop comparative approaches on prostitution policies, their effects and the complex contexts influencing them. It will provide an innovative platform of exchange to enhance understanding of how concepts, policies and practices transfer across national cultures and local contexts, and the implications this has for knowledge exchange and coordination in the field.
2013 to 2017
Member of the Management Committee:
Univ-Prof.in Dr. Birgit Sauer
Affective Labor of Employment Agents. Transformation of Public Services in Austria, Germany and Switzerland
The work of employment agents has become an increasingly difficult task – due to growing unemployment and the reorganization of public services. The study examines the processes of state transformation towards entrepreneurial governance and enabling states, and focuses on the emergence of new “activate” labor market policies in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Since the mid-1990s supposedly rational state bureaucracies are transformed into service providers, where citizens ought to be treated like costumers and public employees have to rely on personal communicative and affective properties in the work process. In that context we conceive affective labor as the centerpiece of contemporary service work and contested area of New Public Management. The empirical focus lies on the interaction between employees of the public sector and their clients – especially on the affective labor of employment agents. It is assumed that the affective work regime in employment services has changed towards marketization of affects and entrepreneurial self-management of employment agents. At all levels of research the comparison of three countries will decide if we either reconstruct nation specific strategies or if we are able to detect converging state roles.
Dr. Otto Penz, Mag. Myriam Gaitsch, Msc. Barbara Glinsner, BA Franziska Meyer, BA, Katja Chmilewski, MA (past), Silvia Schröcker, MA (past)
National Coordination Partner: Ao. Univ.-Prof.in Dr. Johanna Hofbauer (Vienna University of Economics and Business)
MEET – Media Education for Equity and Tolerance
Description and aims of MEET
“MEET, Media Education for Equity and Tolerance” (2016-2018) is a project funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Programme. MEET aims at promoting a critical and inter-cultural understanding as well as an aware use of media among young citizens in multicultural public schools and democratic societies. It mainly addresses economically and socially disadvantaged youth (aged 13-19), including migrants and refugees, by engaging them and their teachers in an action research process to co-design and develop inter-cultural media education practices inspired by principles of equity, tolerance, social justice and solidarity. In this respect, MEET can be seen as an educational (or pedagogical) challenge to a broader culture of exclusion, exclusivism and discrimination that nowadays seems to permeate many political discourses and media representations, as well as the widespread neo-liberal reconfiguration of educational provision. Finally, the project intends to advocate Media Education as a means to support social inclusion/justice among different sections of the public and through several dissemination tools, from the production of an educational documentary to the spreading of policy recommendations, digital toolkits and scientific papers on media and citizenship education.
Main activities of the project are:
Mapping of local, national and European policies on citizenship, media and inter-cultural education
Selection and involvement of research participants in disadvantaged areas (about 150 students, 12 teachers and 6 cultural mediators)
Adaptation and re/co-design of existing media education practices to address students at risk of social exclusion in inter-cultural contexts
Production, testing and evaluation of 6 “learning scenarios” based on a critical literacy approach in three Countries (Germany, Italy and Slovenia)
Multimedia documentation of classroom activities aimed at producing an educational documentary on teaching and learning media literacy in inter-cultural contexts
Delivery of MEET’s learning scenario as Open Educational Resources available even after the end of the project
Definition of guidelines for teachers on how to teach about media in inter-cultural contexts to support democratic citizenship and social inclusion
Networking of local, national and international bodies dealing with education, media literacy and intercultural relations
Advocacy of Media Education in school – as an inclusive and participatory educational practice – among teachers, policy makers and other relevant stakeholders
European Commission ERASMUS+
December 2016 to December 2018
Univ.-Prof.in Dr. Birgit Sauer
Mag.a Fanny Müller-Uri
Articulating ‘Mobilisation’: Subject-Formation in Mediated Mobilities
This interdisciplinary DOC-team will develop a perspective on ‘mobilisation’ as a way of subject-formation that is articulated in and through mediated mobilities and thereby, oscillates between structure and agency.
Mobilities are an integral part of contemporary societies, including not only the physical movements of people and goods but also imaginary, virtual and communicational mobilities. In academia, the mobility turn proclaimed inter alia by Mimi Sheller and John Urry (2006) encourages a mobile research perspective in social and cultural sciences. Past work, however, often neglected the inherent contradictions in these diverse mobilities, as between voluntary and involuntary movements, between encouraged, regulated, prohibited and subversive mobilities.
This project incorporates such assemblages of mobility as it researches subject-formation in specific mediated contexts of narrative fiction, online TV and social media. It explores articulations that connect mobilities in these contexts with specific subject positions: how does German-language narrative fiction of the 18th and 19th century articulate mobility as a part of bourgeois subject culture? How do post-industrial discourses of production and consumption in TV streaming articulate the mobilities of flexible, cosmopolitan subjects that are at the same time embedded in trends of neoliberal commodification and mediated confinement to emotional secureness? Which possibilities for re-articulating exclusionary subject positions emerge from transnational negotiations of political identities and belongings in the diasporic space of social media?
By linking these questions, the DOC-team project will contribute to understanding the processes of subject-formation in societies that experience at the same time increasing mobilities and immobilities.
Mag.a Barbara Maly-Bowie (Anglistik/ Amerikanistik)
Syntia Hasenöhrl, BA MA (Politikwissenschaft)
GENIA. Gender in Academia. Geschlechterarrangments in der unternehmerischen Hochschule
How do New Public Management mechanisms, which have been increasingly implemented in the Entrepreneurial University in the past decade, affect gender relations and, more specifically, career opportunities of academics? Do these new management instruments offer opportunities for gender justice in the Austrian science system, or will they reinforce gender inequalities? This is the leading question of the interdisciplinary research project „Academic Careers and Gender”, for which Professor Johanna Hofbauer, Institute for Sociology at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, and Professor Birgit Sauer, Institute for Political Science at the University of Vienna, acquired financial resources from the Austrian Science Fund. They started working on this project in March, together with two PhD students, Katharina Kreissl and Angelika Striedinger. The research project is part of a collaboration with researchers in Graz, Berlin, Munich and St. Gallen in the framework of the lead-agency German Research Foundation (DFG). The results will be compared with findings on scientific careers and gender in the Entrepreneurial University since 2000 in Germany and France. The research design assumes an interaction between structural and institutional parameters and their adoption, reinterpretation or refusal by individuals; an interaction which redefines gender arrangements. This is analysed against the backdrop of processes of transformation in the Austrian higher education system, particularly through the implementation of the University Act 2002. The distribution of resources – both in terms of academic recognition and in terms of finances – is increasingly dependent on quantitative performance indicators, such as the amount of third-party funds or the number of peer reviewed publications. These indicators also create the conditions for successful academic careers. The research project aims to find out if and how these seemingly objective performance criteria impact equality of opportunity. In particular, the project will focus on how academics integrate the new conditions for performance and recognition in their daily routine. The project will apply a mix of qualitative and quantitative social research methods, including a frame analysis of policy documents related to the university reform, interviews and focus groups with equal opportunities officers, shadowing of academics over several days, as well as an analysis of statistical data on the personnel development in Austrian universities. Now Online: Article about Genia Now Online: Article about Genia
FWF (Austrian Science Fund) under the D-A-CH-cooperation
April 2012 to December 2015
Prof. Dr. Johanna Hofbauer (Vienna University of Economics and Business), Prof. Dr. Birgit Sauer
Mag. Katharina Kreissl (Vienna University of Economics and Business), Mag. Angelika Striedinger
In Whose Best Interest? Exploring Unaccompanied Minors’ Rights Through the Lens of Migration and Asylum Procedures
Many European countries have not yet introduced “Best Interest Concept” (BIC) and “Best Interest Determination” (BID) towards unaccompanied minors into their national legislation. Therefore, lack of appropriate safeguards for unaccompanied minors is most likely, leaving the possibility of (too) flexible interpretation of child’s best interest, which may be in some cases subjected to nationalist, xenophobic and racist discourse. The project aims at analysing the BIC’s and BID’s practical, philosophical and phenomenological dimensions, which will enable a deeper understanding of the best interest of a child in migration as well provide a solid base for proper implementation of the principle in practice. The project will be implemented in Slovenia, Austria, France and UK in order to compare political solutions in these countries.
July 2014 to December 2015
Austrian Project Leader:
Prof. Dr. Birgit Sauer
Mag. Ayse Dursun
RAGE – Hate Speech and Populist Othering in Europe
The project deals with the discourses and practices of right-wing populist parties and movements and explores the role of democratic forces in opposing populism in eight EU member states (Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Slovenia, UK). It works with different (qualitative and quantitative) research methods on the national level and with a comparative perspective. RAGE’s main objectives are:
understandEuropean trends and dynamics identifying messages encouraging racism, xenophobia, intolerance, homophobia, in the political communication of some European movements and parties
examinethe political communication right-wing populist parties and movements address especially to young people: discourses and practices of selected parties and movements (offline and online), strategies in using new media for promotion of anti-other beliefs, gender roles in extremist discourses online
identify ‘antibodies’ that can be mobilized in reaction to ‘hate speech’ and right-wing populism
gaincritical insight into the young people’s motivations to follow anti-other ‘hate speech’ or oppose it
identifypreventive measures and good practices
raiseawareness of the general public.
European Commission, DG Justice
February 2013 to June 2015
Austrian Project Leader:
Prof. Dr. Birgit Sauer
Mag. Edma Ajanovic
e-EAV – e-engagement against violence
The main purpose of the project is to confront new populism and racism transmitted through digital media and social networks. It aims to raise awareness towards violent media content especially among young people and to empower them by means of civic engagement (or e-engagement) and media/digital literacy.
The project is carried out by a consortium of seven European institutions, covering a broad geographical scope and varying national political contexts. Several strategies will be employed to reach its overall purpose. First, a comparative research effort provides a picture of the main populist and racist organizations operating in seven European countries. Case studies are then used for an in-depth analysis of populist communication strategies to understand how these organizations have appropriated new media to spread their violent messages. This analysis will provide the basis for the development of media education modules designed to deconstruct populist messages and stereotypes. Different modules will be developed addressing young people on the one hand side and teachers on the other hand side. Rather than calling for media censorship the project aims at empowering young people through a participatory approach. These media educations modules will be evaluated in all seven participation countries in the course of the project and will be developed into an online environment with resources on new media, hate speech towards the ‘other’ and racism. In line with these different strategies the project will not only address the scientific community (i.a. through peer-reviewed articles, a conference and an edited book) but also direct attention to communication with a wider public and especially young people by means of online- and social media.
Daphne Programme of the European Union
February 2013 to January 2015
Austrian Project Leader:
Prof. Dr. Birgit Sauer
Mag. Stefanie Mayer
ESSIE – Enhancing Social Scientific Research in Kosovo and its Integration into the European Research Area
Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) constitute the majority of scientific work in Kosovo. This is also illustrated by the fact that SHH disciplines as for instance Law, Economics or Political Sciences are the dominant disciplines in the tertiary sector of education. In pure research term, however, social scientific research lacks far behind its given volume in terms of tertiary education. Hence, the main activities of ESSIE – a project implemented by partners from Kosovo and Austria (lead: Kosova Education Center) – are
establishing of an “Empirical Social Sciences Laboratory” at the Institute for Social Studies and Humanities (ISSH) – University of Prishtina;
preparing and implementing a “Training Programme for International Social Scientific Research Qualifications” for 35 Kosovan researchers;
establishing an “International Mentorship Programme” for 10 Kosovan social scientists;
organizing a large public “Horizon 2020” conference and
implementing an international scientific workshop on “The social fabric of Kosovo. New research findings to evidence-base and enhance the political and socio-economic discourse about Kosovo” resulting in an increased international perception of social sciences in Kosovo.
Within the core activities of ESSIE the following thematic areas will be particularly considered and addressed:
labour market research,
social welfare research (inclusion, migration and integration),
science/technology/society studies including social innovation,
political participation and governance.
As one of six project partners the Department of Political Science (University of Vienna) is mainly responsible for the establishment and implementation of the above mentioned international mentoring programme. Young researchers from Kosovo will be given the opportunity of a short term stay in Austria. During this time they will job shadow their mentors – Austrian researchers in the above mentioned fields – at their working place and will have the chance to work on a scientific article. The aim of this stay is to bring together Kosovan researchers with mentors who can support them in elaborating and publishing a scientific article in one of the mentioned thematic areas as well as to provide them with networking possibilities with colleagues from similar research fields.
European Commission Liaison Office to Kosovo, EuropeAid
July 2012 to October 2014
Department of Political Science, University of Vienna (PD Dr. Karin Liebhart, Prof. Dr. Birgit Sauer, Prof. Dr. Dieter Segert, Mag. Edma Ajanovic)
Migrants as a Target Group: Supportive Practices for Migrant Workers by Organised Labour in Austria
The six-month research project „Migrants as a target group“ analyses the role of Austrian trade unions and chambers of labour in organizing migrant workers and protecting their rights. The project is focussing on three particular institutions which are offering advice and support for migrant workers with respect to their specific needs and interests: firstly, the mother-tongue counselling offered by the Austrian Trade Union Confederation; secondly, the cross-border cooperative projects between trade unions from Austria and neighbouring countries; and, thirdly, the mother-tongue counselling offered by the Chamber of Labour Vienna. By the comparative analysis of these institutions a research gap in the academic debates on organised labour and migrant workers shall be filled and the knowledge transfer among involved actors shall be promoted.
Chamber of Labour Vienna
April 2014 to September 2014
Prof. Dr. Birgit Sauer
Dr. Markus Griesser
Does Federalism Promote Gender Equality? Federalized Politics of Gender Equality in Austria and Germany
The research project analyses the influence of federal state architecture on politics of gender equality from the early 1990’s to 2011. By means of a comparison between two federal states, Austria and Germany, with special focus on the multi-level system, we seek to understand the influence of federal state structure and political party constellations on politics of gender equality as well as the significance of the EU.
The following questions are central to the research project:
Which structural advantages does federalism offer with respect to the politics of gender equality? Which disadvantages for politics of gender equality can possibly arise from federal structures?
Which differences do the weak Austrian federalism and the strong German federalism display with regard to politics of gender equality?
Which influence does party constellation have on politics of gender equality? Which party constellations and under which circumstances prove to be profitable for politics of gender equality? Is political party constellation a more significant factor than federal state structures for the success or failure of gender equality politics in Austria and Germany?
Which role does the EU play for federalized gender equality politics?
In which ways have the politics of gender equality changed on the Länder-level in the course of the period of study – particularly in the context of the debates about and measures of federal reform?
The project at hand intends to make both a scientific contribution to current discussions on federalism from the mostly unstudied perspective of gender equality. It will, moreover, approach political science debates around politics of gender equality with special attention to the multi-level system.
Jubiläumsfonds of the Austrian National Bank
February 2012 to January 2014
Prof. Dr. Birgit Sauer, Ass. Prof. Dr. Sabine Lang