15-20 July 2024
CEU Campus Budapest

Demographic Imaginaries:

Soft Authoritarianism, Majoritarian Identity Politics and Demographic Anxieties


convened jointly by the Soft Authoritarianisms Research Group, University of Bremen and the Open Society University Network (OSUN)

The Topic

Conservative governments and far-right movements across different country contexts share a set of strikingly similar strategies that can be summed up as ‘demographic imaginaries.’ They facilitate a backlash against progressive reproductive and women’s rights, same-sex marriage, and LGBT+ communities, the use of coercive policies and rhetoric against religious, ethnic, and other minorities, or anti-immigration policies. Demographic anxieties are nurtured by conspiracy myths such as the narrative of the “great replacement,” just as much as by other forms of majoritarian identity politics which imagine the majority (be it: white, Christian and heterosexual, Hindu National, Turkish Sunni Muslim, or European etc.) as threatened by political, ethnic, religious, sexual and other minorities and their struggles for equal rights.

These demographic imaginaries are at the core of soft authoritarian attempts to reconstitute the body politic, transforming the population along ethnic and social lines to uphold the electoral majority. A wide range of tactics from gerrymandering to neo-Malthusian development policies and population control, anti-abortion legislation, anti- and pro-natalist discourses and policies, are used to secure power. By the inherently contradictory concept of soft authoritarianism, we mean to emphasize the specific ways in which democracies are currently being undermined from within. It describes a specific form of government that deliberately blurs the lines between democratic and authoritarian rule.

This Summer School will address the central role of these demographic imaginaries in facilitating soft authoritarian politics in different parts of the world. It aims to approach this topic from an interdisciplinary and globally comparative perspective. Looking into the specific political, juridical, cultural, technological, and discursive practices in the different country contexts, will problematize how these narratives and policies remain entangled with longstanding nationalist, racist, and sexist notions and colonial fantasies. It will examine how they are reframed today and the technological infrastructures and data-political presumptions they involve. The Summer School therefore has the overall goal of grasping the extent of these politics, their contradictions and effects, and the dangers that they entail for democratic and peaceful living together.

The Summer School

The six-day Summer School offers participants an outstanding learning environment with an international faculty of renowned scholars in their respective fields. The intensive interdisciplinary program is composed of five thematic modules and a range of pedagogical formats including keynote lectures and panel discussions, interactive workshop sessions as well as an Academia-meets-Activism event. It also includes group sessions which give participants the opportunity to present and closely discuss their own research interests and projects in a supportive environment and receive feedback from their peers and faculty members. The program aims to enhance the participants’ critical engagement with a variety of cutting-edge approaches and fostering lasting collaborative international exchange among students and scholars from the Global South and North.


Target Group & Eligibilty

The course invites applications from MA students, PhD candidates, and Postdocs from Linguistics, Anthropology, Sociology, Political Science, Geography, Law, and Philosophy, and related fields of study. Applications from advanced undergraduate students will also be considered if they have adequate experience in the subject area, and can make a compelling case in their application.

The language of instruction is English; thus all applicants have to demonstrate a good command of spoken and written English to be able to participate actively in discussions at seminars and workshops.

Application, Fees & Funding

The application includes completing the online SUN application form and submitting a full CV/Resume, a short bio (250 words), a statement of purpose (500 words), a brief desciption of a research project relevant to the topic of the summer school, which you are currently working or planning (max. 300 words). Some of the shortlisted applicants may be contacted for a telephone interview.

You will find detailed information on fees, estimated costs for accommodation and maintenance, as well as funding opportunities here. Applicants who are nationals of countries of the Global South and living, studying, or working in an academic institution/organization in the Global South, currently enrolled students and employees of OSUN member institutions, and applicants from Ukraine (both Ukrainian refugees and those living in Ukraine) are eligible to apply for a SUN tuition waiver and/or a partial or full scholarship. Other applicants can also apply for a limited number of grants for financial support for accomodation and maintenance depending on eliblity and availability.

Faculty Members

Payal Arora, Professor of Inclusive AI Cultures in the Department of Media Culture Studies at Utrecht University, Co-Founder, FemLab (Feminist Futures of Work)

Mukulika Banerjee, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science

Zsolt Enyedi, Professor at the Democracy Institute at CEU, Budapest

Ulrike Flader, Senior Researcher in the RG Soft Authoritarianisms at the University of Bremen and Lecturer at the Department of Anthropology and Cultural Research

Eva Fodor,  Professor of Gender Studies at the Central European University

Nurhak Polat,  Associated Fellow of the RG Soft Authoritarianisms and Senior Researcher at the University of Bremen

Lipin Ram, Postdoc Researcher in the RG Soft Authoritarianisms at the University of Bremen

Shalini Randeria, Rector and President of the Central European University in Vienna and Professor of Social Anthropology and Sociology

Seda Saluk, Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Michigan

Joachim Scharloth, Professor of German Sudies at Waseda University, Tokyo

Hagen Steinhauer, Doctoral Researcher at the RG Soft Authoritarianisms at the University of Bremen

Tyler Zoanni,  Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Bremen

The Organizers

This Summer School is jointly organized by the Research Group “Soft Authoritarianisms“ and the Collaborative Research Platform “Worlds of Contradictions” of the University of Bremen, and Central European University’s Summer University (CEU SUN). It is funded by the Open Society University Network (OSUN), CEU SUN, and the University of Bremen.


Monday, 15 July 2024

Welcome & Orientation

Lecture and Q&A : Shalini Randeria (CEU), Zsolt Enyedi (CEU)

Chair: Ulrike Flader (Bremen)


Lunch & Leisure Time


Workshop & Discussion: Shalini Randeria (CEU), Zsolt Enyedi (CEU)

Chair: Ulrike Flader (Bremen)


Tuesday, 16 July 2024

Panel and Q&A: Joachim Scharloth (Tokyo)

Chair: Hagen Steinhauer (Bremen)

Workshop Discussion: Joachim Scharloth (Tokyo)

Chair: Hagen Steinhauer (Bremen)

Lunch & Leisure Time

Student’s Presentations
(2x parallel session)

Group A) Shalini Randeria, Eva Fodor & Ulrike Flader

Group B) Zsolt Enyedi, Mukulika Banerjee & Lipin Ram

Student’s Presentations
(2x parallel session):

Group C) Joachim Scharloth, Tyler Zoanni & Hagen Steinhauer

Group D) Nurhak Polat

Wednesday, 17 July 2024

Gender Regimes & Anti-Liberal State (I)

Lecture and Q&A: Eva Fodor (CEU) & Seda Saluk (Michigan)

Workshop Discussion:
Eva Fodor (CEU) & Seda Saluk (Michigan)

Lunch & Leisure Time

Student’s Presentations
(2x parallel session)

Group A) Zsolt Enyedi, Tylor Zoanni & Ulrike Flader

Group B) David Lyon, Shalini Randeria & Lipin Ram

Student’s Presentations
(2x parallel session)

Group C) Joachim Scharloth & Hagen Steinhauer

Group D) Eva Fodor, Mukulika Banerjee & Nurhak Polat

Thursday, 18 July 2024

Field visit to NGO’s/Activists in Budapest

Friday, 19 July 2024

Lecture and Q&A:Payal Arora (Utrecht)

Chair: Nurhak Polat (Bremen)

Workshop & Discussion: Payal Arora (Utrecht)

Chair: Nurhak Polat (Bremen)

Lunch & Leisure Time

Student’s Presentations
(2x parallel session)

Group A) Mukulika Banerjee & Ulrike Flader

Group B) Eva Fodor, Tylor Zoanni & Lipin Ram

Student’s Presentations
(2x parallel session)

Group C) Joachim Scharloth, Shalini Randeria & Hagen Steinhauer

Group D) Zsolt Enyedi & Nurhak Polat

Saturday, 20 July 2024

Panel and Q&A: Mukulika Banerjee (LSE), Tyler Zoanni (Bremen)

Chair: Lipin Ram (Bremen)

Workshop & Discussion: Mukulika Banerjee (LSE), Tyler Zoanni (Bremen)

Chair: Lipin Ram (Bremen)

Lunch & Leisure Time

Round Table: Reflections of Students on Presentations and Summer School Content

Peer-to-Peer Session
Ulrike Flader, Hagen Steinhauer & Nurhak Polat

Final Feedback & Farewell

Shalini Randeria & Lipin Ram

Closing Dinner