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



Promises of Democratic Connection? The Politics of Transregional Energy Infrastructure Expansion

Making Infrastructures Global? Design and Governance of Infrastructural Expansion in the Global South (EUCOR Project in Cooperation with Prof. Dr. Kenny Cupers, Urban Studies Department, University of Basel)

Authoritarian Urbanism

DAAD Summer School Contested Governance

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


Publications (selection)

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

Jenss, Alke (2019):  Global flows and everyday violence in urban space: The port-city of Buenaventura, Colombia. Political Geography. 77, 102113. (OPEN ACCESS)

Purdey, Jemma, Antje Missbach and Dave McRae (2019): Indonesia: State and Society in Transition, Lynne Rienner Press, Boulder.

Jenss, Alke/Lehmann, Rosa (2019): Multi-Scalar Struggles: The Selectivity of Development Governance in Southern Mexico, Working Papers des Arnold-Bergstraesser-Instituts No. 11.

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

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

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

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.

Jürgenmeyer, Clemens (2017): „Wahrheit, Widerstand und selbstloses Handeln. M.K. Gandhis Ethik der Gewaltfreiheit“, 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“, Security Dialogue 48 (5), S. 431-450.


In the media (selection)

Missbach, Antje (2020): Feuer und Rauch. Trotz der verheerenden Brände rückt die konservative Regierung Australiens nicht von ihrer Klimapolitik ab. Jungle World, 09.01.2020.

Jenss, Alke (2019): Making Sense of Bolivia’s Discontent. To understand events in Bolivia, we need to unpack its many contradictions over the past decade. But make no mistake, this is a coup. / De Dónde viene el descontento en Bolivia? Para entender los eventos en Bolivia tenemos que analizar sus múltiples contradicciones. Pero no se equivoquen: esto es un golpe. OpenDemocracy, 26.11.2019.

Missbach, Antje (2019): “Sieg mit bitterem Beigeschmack” [Victory with a bitter aftertaste], regiotrendsa, 15 May 2019.

Missbach, Antje (2019): “Miserable Verlierer” [Miserable losers], Jungle World, 30 May 2019. 

Interview with Alke Jenss (04.06.2019): Kolumbien. Wie steht es um die ehemaligen FARC-Kämpferinnen? SüdNordFunk des iz3w im Radio Dreyeckland Freiburg u.a..

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

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


Public lectures (selection)

Neoliberalismus: Austerity Urbanism im ‚Globalen Süden‘, Vortrag für die Ringvorlesung Nachhaltigkeit des Nachhaltigkeitsbüros der Universität Freiburg, 09.01.2020 (Alke Jenss).

Reconceptualizing transit states in an era of border externalization: Insights from Malaysia and Indonesia, at the International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, 19.11.2019 (Antje Missbach).

US and European ‘Democracy Promotion’ Interventions in Jordan: the Reinforcement of Authoritarian Rule and Acts of Resistance. Middle East Studies Association (MESA) conference, New Orleans, 11.2019 (Benjamin Schütze). 

Violent Eco-Territories. Multi-Scalar Governance of Ecological Enclosures, Workshop of the Centre for Advanced Latin American Studies (CALAS), Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica, 04.-05.11.2019 (Alke Jenss).

Beyond Fragility: Grauzonen staatlicher Gewalt im 'Süden', Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung, 06.-07.06.2019 (Alke Jenss).

Promoting Democracy, Reinforcing Authoritarianism: US & European Policy in Jordan. Presented at the British International Studies Association (BISA) conference, London, 2019 (Benjamin Schütze).

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).

Racism, Xenophobia and Refugees, keynote speech, at International Forum for Peace and Human Rights, Erasmus Huis, the Kingdom of Netherlands Embassy Jakarta, 28.03.2019 (Antje Missbach).

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).


Cluster events (most recent)

FRIAS Junior Researcher Conference on Authoritarianism & Democracies, Freiburg, 30.09.2020-02.10.2020.

DAAD Summer School Contested Governance (first round: 02.-28.09.2019, second round: September 2020).

Summer School Democratic Governance (planned date: July 2020)

EUCOR Cross-border Workshop Series: The trouble with the state. Boundaries and Networks in Africa (April 2020)

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.

Beratung: Politökonomische Kurzanalyse (PÖK) Jordanien, Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ). (Neufassung 2018, Aktualisierung 2019).

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

Winter School: Democratic Governance (2015, 2016 and 2018)

Cross-Cluster Cooperation: Lecture Series South-South Interventions. ABI & Colloquium Politicum der Universität Freiburg. Wintersemester 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.

Panel: ‘US foreign policy and public diplomacy in the Middle East’, World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES), Sevilla, 2018.

Faire de la politique (extérieure) sans en avoir l’aire: Les dispositifs à destination des « sociétés civiles » étrangères’, international colloquium organised by CHERPA, SciencesPo Aix-en-Provence and the University of Freiburg with support of the German-French University and the Centre d’Excellence Jean Monnet ‘L’europe au sud’, Aix-en-Provence. März 2018.

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

International Workshop: Structure and agency revisited: new modes of political mobilization in the changing Middle East and North Africa, Cairo, American Political Science Association (APSA).


Finished projects

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

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

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

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

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