Research

Recently called the ‘postfactual’ age, the multifacetted crises of modern institutions extend from the social to the political realm as well as that of knowledge. Economic competition, social exclusion, cultural conflicts, or migration challenge the comprehensive ordering ideal of modernity, undermining trust in the ‘facts’ of established normative systems. The complex societal problems and transnational processes in the European and global contexts also weaken the organization of territory, nation and politics in the state. The resulting disjunctures open opportunities for a diverse range of new actors, networks, strategies, mobilisations and social innovations. Government policies respond by deadlock and repression or reform and transformation, including multi-level governance, international organisations, and EU integration. The various institutional forms may serve states to govern transnationalisation, but overall the political processes are plural and contextually differentiated, as they are not necessarily determined by one specific power, be it market, state, the EU or any sub- or supranational institutions. As democratic societies thus face complex legitimacy crises, the outcomes of the top-down and bottom-up interactions can range from neoliberalisation to institutional deadlock, national populism or collective learning. In critical response to either political or economic authoritarianism as well as cultural relativism, the social sciences gain an important political and ethical task to elaborate shared legitimacies and collective action in an ever more complex world. Situated between theory and practice, social research needs to systematically analyse, normatively reflect, communicate and mediate the contemporary societal transformation to contribute knowledge for a just and democratic society. Cities and transnational regions provide diverse and open contexts for researching these societal changes of power and agency, incl. theoretical conceptions, empirical case-studies, interdisciplinary methods, postnational democratic legitimacies and epistemological debates about knowledge and power.

Key Interests: Transnational & multi-level governance – urban politics & development – regions & territory – culture, heritage & diversity – political marketing & public legitimacy – nation, ethnicity, minorities – interpretative politics & discourse  – expertise & knowledge societies – democracy & participation – new institutionalism – cosmopolitan globalisation –  EU governanc, European politics, Europeanization – Austria in Europe – Vienna, Berlin, London, New Orleans, Chicago, NYC, Jerusalem, United States, SE-Europe, Asia & Pacific

Cosmopolitan Urban Politics: Theorizing Diversity in Globalisation

As cities and metropolitan regions move into the focus of political struggles over contemporary institutional changes, how can we take account of political agency as collective response to cultural diversity and transnationalisation in multi-level governance? This book project (to be published with Palgrave Macmillan) reviews the increasingly complex debate on globalisation and roots the contemporary theories of urban politics within the new institutionalist debate. By discussing the various – political economic and cultural – conceptions of urban power, the book refines a cosmopolitan approach to politics and agency in multi-level governance. Focusing on politics, the first part reviews the literature on urban political economy by explaining the different approaches and concepts of power of the various globalization hypotheses. Deepening the comparative focus, the second part trace the reception of North American and British debates in European and postcolonial research and discusses cultural difference and cosmopolitan diversity. Reaching beyond the urban subfield to relevant concepts of institutional state-transformation in contemporary political sciences, the third part is dedicated to a conception of comparative urban politics as an open-ended and reflective interaction process.

Multi-level Crises of Asylum Politics – an Opportunity for Local Democracy?

The present crisis of asylum politics and emerging gap between urban and rural contexts shifts the political focus to local contexts of problem solving and democratic mobilisation. As citizens claim participation and mayors need to deal with new challenges, this poses a need for political expertise. This seed project begins to enquire into the various ways how political science can offer comparative knowledge from different local practices in Austria and internationally, policy recommendations for developing institutional platforms for knowledge exchange, and practical measures for planning such expert interventions.

Multi-Level Politics of Transnational European Regions – Austria in Europe

Europe provides political economic incentives as well as normative frames for regional integration and diverse political and cultural mobilizations in Central Eastern Europe. Aiming to reconnect with its historical heritage of the Habsburg empire and recently emerging markets, Austria has been a regional pioneer for European integration. For example, the Eastern border region of Burgenland shows the complex Europeanization of an ethnically diverse and contested cultural heritage in the Austrian federal state. Austria’s engagement in the Danube region complements subnational politics by a trans- and supranational strategy in the EU. How does Austria’s engagement for the macro-regional strategies in the Danube and the Alps contribute to European politics in comparison with the Baltics region?

Capital City Cultures: Reconstructing Europe in Vienna and Berlin (Ph.D. Thesis & Book)

In order to reposition cities in a new European context of increased market competition, urban policy-makers employ symbolic flagship projects to redefine urban culture. However, often these culture-led strategies for urban regeneration turn out more contested than planned. The political controversies surrounding Vienna’s cultural district Museumsquartier and the planned Humboldt Forum on Berlin’s Schlossplatz illustrate two such cases of discursive politics. This enquiry (e.g. book Peter Lang 2011) into urban culture interprets and compares the reconstruction of institutional legitimacy and its urban symbols from two different local perspectives of contested state transformation.

Cultural Politics of Institutional Transformations: Urban Heritage, Diversity and Development in European, US and Postcolonial Contexts

As urban policy makers use cultural strategies to promote economic development and mobilize political support, the deep symbolic meanings and diverse identifications of culture can also enhance contention and conflict. The comparison of different European and US cities highlights the relevance of race and class as well as the diverse historical meanings of national heritage, political economic incentives and constraints for cultural creativity in different contexts of multi-level governance. Thus, our thinking about the city reflects diverse societal realities and different knowledge traditions in a cosmopolitan field of knowledge politics and transnational practices. In addition to my previous work on Vienna and Berlin, the cases of London, New Orleans, Chicago and Jerusalem offer case studies of the diverse contemporary role of cultural heritage for urban development in a transnational context. Urban research locates cosmopolitan politics between the metropolitan centers of Europe and USA, Western and Eastern Europe, capitalist and postsocialist societies, North and South.

Transnational Capital Cities: Performing and Negotiating Multi-Level Governance

Particularly in capital cities as centers of states, contemporary state transformation confronts political decision makers with different constraints and opportunities of multi-level governance. Thus, Vienna has repeatedly scored among the world’s best in international city-rankings – despite rapid European transformation pressures since the 1990s. So how do urban leaders use the centrality of capital cities – e.g. in the most opposite cases of London and Vienna –  for political action in multi-level governance?

Communicating Knowledge: Lost in Translation – Or what is Expertise?

In response to the contemporary transformation of multi-level governance, scholars, politicians and everyday people search for new democratic legitimacies of collective action and institutions. In order to complement representative democracy by new forms of political participation, the task of political expertise is to identify, include and empower actors with different knowledge cultures, political claims and resources. So how do experts in different fields, professions, institutions and local contexts contribute to governance in the civic and political spheres? Beyond political marketing, how do various experts contribute to renegotiate social conflicts from the top-down and the bottom-up?

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