An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Cancelled Seminar Session: November 13, 2023: Claudia Gatzka

What is a good representative and how is this related to material culture? Dis:connecting citizens and Members of parliament in postwar Italy and West Germany”

November 13, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:


After fascism, the reestablishment of parliamentary systems brought along a central yet often neglected question of modern democracy: what was a good representative, and why? Zooming into the urban everyday of postwar Italy and the Federal Republic during election campaigns, my talk examines how and where voters and Members of Parliament met and negotiated their relationship. It scrutinizes public and private expectations of the people’s representatives and considers, vice versa, the perspectives of political parties and parliamentary elites on the electorate. What becomes clear is that the dis:connection of voters and their representatives in a period of rapid social change depended not only on mental and emotional conditions, but also on certain material circumstances of political communication.

Claudia Gatzka is a historian researching the history of democracy and
political communication, tourism and the construction of the “European”. Gatzka studied history and political science as well as European ethnology in Berlin and Bologna. She has been a research associate at the department of History at the University of Freiburg since 2015 and a teaching professor since 2020. Her dissertation on “Democracy as Local Practice. Citizens, Politics, and Urban Electoral Culture in Italy and the Federal Republic 1945-1976” was awarded the Tiburtius Prize in 2017. Among her publications: “Political education and electoral politics: Communists and Catholics as teachers of democracy in early post-war Italy” (European Review of History: Revue européenne d’histoire, 2022); “Des Wahlvolks großer Auftritt. Wahlritual und demokratische Kultur in Italien und Westdeutschland nach 1945” (Comparativ, 2013, 23-1). A post-Nazi path to participatory democracy. Popular deliberation and electoral politics in West Germany and Europe, 1940s–1970s, in: Parliaments, Estates, and Representation, Special Issue: Ruling the Assembly. Procedural Fairness, Popular Emotion, and the Access to Democracy, 19th-20th century, ed. by Anne Heyer, Anne Peterson and Henk te Velde (forthcoming).

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: October 16, 2023: Charis Boutieri

The Art of Public Speaking (Fan al-Khitaba al- Amma): The Tunisian Public Sphere after 2011

October 16, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:


The dismantling of the police state headed by President Ben Ali in 2011 and the subsequent ratification of the rights of freedom of expression and association marked the end of censorship and silence, which had been the communicative conditions of Tunisian public life since the establishment of the French Protectorate in 1881. The broad institutional transformations that came about in the aftermath of the revolution were reinforced by a plethora of pedagogical undertakings that targeted the Tunisian public. Thus, the emerging civil society benefited from the support of foreign donors to launch training programmes aimed at inculcating the skills of public deliberation among the citizenry.  This talk engages with the unfolding of these programmes as civic trainers navigate the local and historical articulations of liberalism and of democracy. The talk examines the most intensely promoted and widely disseminated civic training programme in post-revolutionary Tunisia: debate training. The talk argues that debate training aims to inculcate liberal glossaries and dispositions for democracy across the social fabric. It places systematic observations on debate training at the intersection of transnational trajectories of international democracy promotion and the legacies of liberalism in pre and post-2011 Tunisia. 

Charis Boutieri teaches anthropology at King’s College London, UK. She is the author, among others, of the monograph Learning in Morocco: Language Politics and the Abandoned Educational Dreams (Indiana University Press, 2016) and of “The Democratic Grotesque: Distortion, Liminality, and Dissensus in Post-Revolutionary Tunisia” (Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, 2021) as well as “Events of Citizenship“. Her current research on the Tunisian public sphere has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust UK (2015) and the British Academy (2021).

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