Professorship for Political Sociology

Organisational unit: Section

Organisation profile

The working group Political Sociology studies the manifold entanglements and interrelations between politics and society with a particular focus on the implications of processes of digitalisation and transnationalisation on regimes of government and citizen-state relations. One particular concern of the working group is to overcome the traditional division of labour along national demarcation lines between sociology and political science (whose research focuses traditionally on issues inside the nation-state), on the one hand side, and anthropology and International relations (which are traditionally concerned with ‘foreign policy’ and ‘foreign cultures’ outside the nation-state), on the other hand side. Through the study of relations, practices, connections and phenomena that criss-cross geopolitical borders and operate transversal to the local, the national and the global the working group tries to transcend this deeply entrenched methodological nationalism of the social sciences. In conceptual terms, the working group therefore tries to bring into dialogue and possibly combine insights, approaches and methodologies of these disciplines to contribute to the emerging field of an international political sociology.


Thematically, the research and teaching of the working group is located at the intersections of border, migration and citizenship studies as well as critical security and data studies and STS (science and technology studies). At present, the working group is primarily concerned with the following two lines of research:

(1) Cultures and Politics of Nonknowledge

This line of research combines material-semiotic approaches from STS with insights and concepts from the field of ignorance studies to study, expose and critique cultures and politics of nonknowledge. It presumes that (1) the relationship between knowledge and nonknowledge is not a zero-sum game; (2) that there operate different kinds of nonknowledge ranging from secrecy to the active production of ignorance, doubt and uncertainty as well as tacit social and cultural taboos; and (3) that nonknowledge – just like knowledge – is both productive and produced. Starting from these premises, this line of research is concerned with the following research questions: What kind of cultures of nonknowledge operate within particular professions, epistemic communities, political institutions and so forth? How does the circulation of different types of nonknowledge shape our understanding of particular objects of interest and matters of concern such as migration or identity? How do particular forms and modes of nonknowledge affect and reconfigure contemporary regimes and practices of government?

(2) Citizenship and Sovereignty in the Digital Age

Starting from the observation that processes of digitisation alter the material and socio-technical conditions for the enactment of citizenship and sovereignty, this line of inquiry investigates how the practical meaning as well as conceptual understandings of citizenship and sovereignty are reshaped in the digital age. One important analytical entry point for investigating these reconfigurations is offered by the digitisation of statist identification practices which are studied in context of the DigID-project. The project’s central question is how the turn towards digital identification practices affects the relations and transactions between citizens and state authorities (see below for further details). Based on empirical insights from this study, this line of research will also engage with the following, more fundamental question: How do we need to adapt and rethink central concepts of social and political theory such as citizenship, sovereignty or territory – which have been shaped during the formation of the modern nation-state – in the digital era?