Research | 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.


Key Publications

Jenss, Alke (2018): "Criminal Commodity Consensus vs. Commons. Disappearances, Dispossession and the Transformation of Property Relations in Mexico" in: State Crime Journal (7)2

Jenss, Alke (2018): "Authoritarian neoliberal rescaling in Latin America: urban in/security and austerity in Oaxaca", in Globalizations

Jenss, Alke (2018): „Criminal Heterarchy and Its Critics: Governance and the Making of Insecurity in Colombia", in: Global Crime

Jenss, Alke (2018): „Von Dimensionen der Ungleichheit, Konflikten auf Dauer und dem Wissen vom Kontext: Staat und Gewalt in dekolonialer Perspektive“, in: Zeitschrift für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, Sonderband 2

Immo Eulenberger in cooperation with Bendikt Kamski, Hannah Longole (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, Mechthild Exo, Thomas Mickan & Adrian Paukstat (2017): „Epistemisches Unbehagen: Die partizipative Entwicklung des Krisenengagements der Bundesrepublik und ihre Kritik (link is external)“, in: Peripherie, 37 (148), S. 479-499.

Jenss, Alke (2017): „Control, Utility and Formalization at the "Frontier": Contested Discourses on Agriculture in Eastern Colombia (link is external)“, in: Alternautas - Special Issue. Argibusiness, (Neo)Extractivism and Food Sovereignty: Latin America at a Crossroads.

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

Mehler, Andreas (2017): „Central Africa (link is external)“, 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 (link is external)“, in: Security Dialogue 48 (5), S. 431-450.

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

Jenss, Alke (2015): "From Coexistence and Complementarity to Confrontation? Colombian paramilitaries and their successors and their relation to the state. (link is external)" Sicherheit und Frieden (S+F) Sonderheft „Milizen und die Herstellung von (Un-)Sicherheit“, Nomos, pp. 34-39.

Jenss, Alke/ Pimmer, Stefan (2015) (ed.): "Der Staat in Lateinamerika: Kolonialität, Gewalt, Transformation. (link is external)" Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot.


Lüdke, T. (2015), "The Cyprus Conflict: 40 Years after the Division', Freiburger Beiträge zu Entwicklung und Politik, Arnold-Bergstraesser Institut, Freiburg. 

Mehler, A. (2015). 'Neopatrimonialism, Democracy, and Party Research: The German and International Debate – In Remembrance of Gero Erdmann (1952–2014)', Africa Spectrum, 50(2), 113-123; and Zeitschrift für Vergl. Politikwissenschaft  9, 211-218 (together with Marianne Kneuer and Jonas Sell).

von Luebke,C. (2014), ' Modular Comparisons: Grounding and Gauging Southeast Asian Governance.' Pacific Affairs,  87 (3), 509-538.  

Mehler, A. (2014), 'Why Federalism Did Not Lead to Secession in Cameroon', Ethnopolitics, 13 ,1, 48-66.

Mehler, A. (2013), 'Consociationalism for Weaklings, Autocracy for Muscle Men? Determinants of Constitutional Reform in Divided Societies', Civil Wars, Special Issue 1, 15, 21-4.

Adelmann, M. (2012), 'SADC- an Actor in International Relations?', Freiburger Beiträge zu Entwicklung und Politik, Arnold-Bergstraesser Institut, Freiburg. 

von Luebke,C. (2012), ‘A Tale of Two Cities: The Political Economy of Local Investment Climates in Indonesia’,Journal of Development Studies, 18(7):799-816 (together with N. McCulloch and A. Patunru).

von Luebke,C. (2012), ‘Striking the Right Balance: Economic Concentration and Local Government Performance in Indonesia and the Philippines’, European Journal of East Asian Studies, 11(1):17-44.

Mehler, A. (2011), 'Rebels and Parties: The Impact of Armed Insurgency on Representation in the Central African Republic', Journal of Modern African Studies, 49, 1, 115-139.

Mehler, A. (2010), 'Why Security Forces Do Not Deliver Security: Evidence from Liberia and the Central African Republic', Armed Forces and Society, 1, 38, 46-69.

von Luebke,C. (2010), 'The Politics of Reform: Political Scandals, Elite Resistance, and Presidential Leadership in Indonesia’, Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 29 (1): 79-94. 

von Luebke,C. (2009), 'The Political Economy of Local Governance: Findings from an Indonesian Field Study',Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, 45(2):201-30.

Lüdke, T. (2008), 'Kuwait' and 'Oman', in G. Riescher and A. Thumfart (eds.), Monarchien, Nomos, Baden Baden, 123-32 and 228-38.

Mehler, A. (2007). 'Votes, Money and Violence. Parties and Elections in sub-Saharan Africa, Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute (together with Matthias Basedau and Gero Erdmann)


Cluster Events & Activities 

Winter School: Democratic Governance (2015 & 2016)

Conference: Conflict in Burundi - What can be done? (March 2016)

APSA Middle East & North Africa Workshop:
Civil Society Revisited - Researching Associational Life in Comparative Perspective
(May & September 2016 in Beirut/Cairo)