Contested Governance

Governance is one of the most widely used conceptual terms in contemporary social science research. Yet in spite of its popularity, ongoing debates on “good governance”, “democratic governance”, or “governance reform” often lack conceptual clarity and contextualization.

In this research cluster, we conceptualize “governance” as a political space of contestation, in which more or less powerful actors continuously compete in order to advance key interests and ideas and translate them into state policies. Political authority, the rules of the game, and policy directions are constantly (re-)negotiated and challenged in local, national, and regional decision-making arenas. This is a multi-scalar process.

The cluster’s objective is to shed empirical light on contested forms of governance in areas that often defy Eurocentric models. Contestations are generally shaped by state and non-state actors, but also beyond the state and in transregional constellations. It is these actors who continuously compete, dispute, and collide, who set the stage for political transformation.

Our research in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East seeks to tackle the question who induces change, where, why and how from different comparative and contextually-grounded perspectives. It seeks to discern institutional and normative change – both over time and space; it aims at tracing contestations over natural resources and extractive rents; it sets out to examine which power asymmetries are at the base of particular governance strategies; and it attempts to understand who and what induces or limits institutional reform and policy innovation.

Contact: Alke Jenss



DAAD Summer School Contested Governance

Infrastructures and Territory (pilot stage)

African Good Governance Network (AGGN) (finalized)

Centre d’Excellence de Gouvernance Locale en Afrique (CEGLA)

China´s extractive power in Latin America? Comparative Perspectives on Brazil and Peru (finalized)

Conflict Transformation Initiatives by Religious Actors: A Comparative Study of Indonesia and the Philippines (finalized)

Established Interests in Changing Environments? The Role of Political-Economic Elites in Southeast Asia

Political Economy of Good Government –Controlled District-Level Comparisons in Four Indonesian Provinces

Restoration and reclamation of mined-out areas and other degraded lands for biodiversity conservation and rural development in Burkina Faso (finalized)

The History of the West-German Intelligence Service (BND) between 1945 and 1968 (finalized)


Publications (selection)

Schütze, Benjamin (2019) Promoting Democracy, Reinforcing Authoritarianism: US and European Policy in Jordan (Cambridge University Press), expected publication in December.

Mehler, Andreas, Caroline A. Hartzell, eds. (2019): Power Sharing and Power Relations After Civil War, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers

Jenss, Alke/Lehmann, Rosa (2019): Multi-Scalar Struggles: The Selectivity of Development Governance in Southern Mexico, Working Papers des Arnold-Bergstraesser-Instituts, 11, 2019-05-17_jenss-lehmann_2019_working_paper_multi-scalar_struggles_development_projects_mexico_final.pdf

Jenss, Alke (2019): Authoritarian Neoliberal Rescaling in Latin America: Urban In/Security and Austerity in Oaxaca. In: Globalizations 16 (3), 304-319.

Jenss, Alke (2018): A Criminal Commodity Consensus: The Coloniality of State Power, State Crime and the Transformation of Property Relations in Mexico. In: State Crime Journal 7 (2), 306-328.

Jenss, Alke (2018): Criminal Heterarchy and Its Critics: Governance and the making of insecurity in Colombia. In: Global Crime 19 (3-4), 250-270.

Eulenberger, Immo, with Kamski, Benedikt; Longole, Hannah (2018): Pastoralist Civil Societies Cooperative empowerment across boundaries in borderlands of Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia Study of civil society in Eastern African border regions

Mehler, Andreas / Lotje De Vries / Tim Glawion (2018): Handle with Care! A Qualitative Comparison of the Fragile States Index's Bottom Three Countries: Central African Republic, Somalia and South Sudan, in: Development and Change 50(2), 277-300.

Schütze, Benjamin (2018) "Confronting Authoritarianism vs. Disciplining Democracy: The Recent Protests in Jordan and US Attempts at Democracy Promotion", Jadaliyya, July 30.

Schütze, Benjamin (2018) "Marketing parliament: The constitutive effects of external attempts at parliamentary strengthening in Jordan", Cooperation and Conflict, Vol. 53, No. 2, pp. 237-58.

Jenss, Alke, Mechthild Exo, Thomas Mickan & Adrian Paukstat (2017): „Epistemisches Unbehagen: Die partizipative Entwicklung des Krisenengagements der Bundesrepublik und ihre Kritik“, in: Peripherie, 37 (148), S. 479-499.

Jürgenmeyer, Clemens (2017): „Wahrheit, Widerstand und selbstloses Handeln. M.K. Gandhis Ethik der Gewaltfreiheit“, in: Peripherie, 37 (148), S. 469–483.

Mehler, Andreas (2017): „Central Africa“, in: Jon Abbink, Sebastian Elischer, Andreas Mehler & Henning Melber (Hg.): Africa Yearbook, Volume 13. Politics, Economy and Society South of the Sahara. Leiden: Brill, S. 181-190.

Schütze, Benjamin (2017): „Simulating, marketing, and playing war: US-Jordanian military collaboration and the politics of commercial security“, in: Security Dialogue 48 (5), S. 431-450.

Jenss, Alke (2016): "Grauzonen staatlicher Gewalt. Staatlich produzierte Unsicherheit in Kolumbien und Mexiko." Bielefeld: Transcript.


In the media (selection)

Interviewausschnitte mit Alke Jenss (04.06.2019):

Interviewausschnitte mit Alke Jenss (18.05.2019): Éxodo Centroamericano,

Interviewausschnitte mit Alke Jenss (02.05.2019): México: Una serie de funcionarios públicos son parte de las organizaciones criminales, Deutsche Welle

Jenss, Alke (03/2019): Die Perspektive umkehren. Illegale Wirtschaft, „Krieg gegen die Drogen“ und Repression in Mexiko, In: ILA Zeitschrift der Informationsstelle Lateinamerika, 03/2019.

Missbach, Antje (30. Mai 2019): “Miserable Verlierer”, Jungle World.

Missbach, Antje (25. April 2019): “Jokowis zweite Runde”, Jungle World.

Schütze, Benjamin (2019): "Militärisches Disneyland: In Jordanien sind Kriegsvorbereitungen ein lukratives Geschäft", iz3w, Januar/Februar 2019, No. 370, pp. 14-5.


Public lectures (selection)

Beyond Fragility: Grauzonen staatlicher Gewalt im 'Süden', Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung, 06.-07.2019 (Alke Jenss)

Die Alte, Neue Rechte und der Staat: Dynamiken und Brüche um den 'Krieg gegen die Drogen' in Kolumbien und Mexiko, Interdisziplinäre Ringvorlesung Lateinamerika Universität Kassel/ Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos, 05.06.2019 (Alke Jenss)

Infrastructures of Authoritarian Entanglements, Workshop Infrastructures and Territories, Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institut Freiburg- Universität Basel, 25.-16.03.2019 (Benjamin Schütze, Alke Jenss)

Infrastructures for a sustainable peace? Extractivism in the context of the Colombian Peace Agreement. Interdisziplinäre Ringvorlesung zum Nachhaltigkeitsverständnis, Universität Bonn, 17.01.2019 (Alke Jenss)

Grauzonen staatlicher Gewalt und Landkonflikte. Hofgeismarer Lateinamerika-Gespräche 2019, 11.-13.01.2019.

Disrupting Rhythms of Violence, Histories and Rhythms of Urban Violence. Erfurt, 05.-07.12.2018.

Opening Panel Antidemokratische Konservative in Parlamenten. Folgen für Rechtsstaatlichkeit und Demokratie. Workshop Nuevo Autoritarismo. Konservative Politik in Brasilien und Kolumbien, Tagung der Assoziation Kritische Gesellschaftsforschung, Universität Hamburg, 30.11.-02.12.2018 (Alke Jenss)

Extractive Infrastructures. Workshop: Logics of Extractive Occupation, Universität Gießen, 26-27.06.2018 (Alke Jenss)


Cluster events (most recent)

DAAD Summer School Contested Governance, 02.-28.09.2019.

Interdisciplinary Workshop Infastructures and Territory 25.-26. März 2019, Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institut Freiburg, with Urban Studies, Basel University;
Keynote: Prof. Dr. Laleh Khalili (Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS London) Tankers, Tycoons, and Radical Transformations. The Making of Modern Regimes of Law, Labour, and Finance

(2019) Politökonomische Kurzanalyse (PÖK) Jordanien (Neufassung), Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ).

Interdisciplinary Workshop Histories and Rhythms of Urban Violence: Global-local Encounters in the Nexus of Space and Time , Erfurt University, 5.-7.12.2018.

(Cross-Cluster Coop) Lecture Series South-South Interventions. ABI & Colloquium Politicum der Universität Freiburg. winter term 2018-19.

Panel Rescaling in Latin American Cities. Section Capitalism and Violence in the City. European International Studies Association EISA Prag, 13.-16.09.2018.

Lecture Series Lateinamerika zwischen Krisen und neuen Möglichkeiten: Soziale Bewegungen, Staat und Demokratie. ABI, Institut für Soziologie & Colloquium Politicum der Universität Freiburg. summer term 2018.