Universität Bonn

Forum Internationale Wissenschaft

Research Group "ZivDem"

  • Principal investigators: Dr. Mareike Gebhardt (University of Münster) and Dr. Lena Laube (University of Bonn)
  • Project staff: Maria Ullrich, MA (University of Bonn), Sarah Spasiano, MA (University of Bonn)
  • Student assistants: Isabel Vehrkamp (University of Münster), Julius Zumbroich (University of Bonn)
  • Duration of the project: 2022‑2025 (36 months)
  • Project funding: Gerda Henkel Foundation, funding program “Demokratie”

The research group ZivDem (“Zivile Seenotrettung als Kristallisationspunkt des Streits um Demokratie”) commenced its work in July 2022. It is funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation for a period of three years. Principal investigators are Mareike Gebhardt (University of Münster) and Lena Laube (University of Bonn); further project staff members are Sarah Spasiano (University of Bonn, PhD scholarship) and, starting in December 2022, Maria Ullrich (University of Bonn, Postdoc scholarship).

The research group starts with the following hypothesis: The activities of SAR NGOs in the Mediterranean and the discourse about them are symptoms of a more fundamental debate on what democracy is or should be. Based on interdisciplinary approaches from sociology, political science, and democratic theory, the project analyzes the European discourse on rescue by civil society actors at sea. The research is based on the assumption that a movement of social and political groups is emerging around the work of SAR NGOs. These groups criticize the political measures of the European Union and its member states regarding the EU border regime as well as the fact that refugees are left to die in the Mediterranean. In doing so, the movement becomes a target for authoritarian and anti-migrant positions. The debates on rescue at sea are thus not only relevant for designing the EUs common migration and asylum policy, but also for the future of European democracy itself.

Since August 2022 we regularly meet in a colloquium to discuss current research. The colloquium is open for students and researchers from different academic disciplines working on topics related to the project. If you are interested to participate, please send an e-mail to zivdem-foko@uni-bonn.de.

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