Democracy and Demography

Summer School 2019
Conferences and Workshops

To exist in a democracy means to be counted, and ideally to feel as if what one does truly counts. At this summer school, we discussed how the demography of a polity is presumed to impact its form of government. Thus, the summer school addressed a few central questions:


  • Are there distinctive concerns associated with being over- versus underpopulated?
  • How and why does migration – both outward and inward – create anxiety that can throw the basis of democratic pluralism into question?
  • What are the various forms of “homogeneity” that different political ideologies seek to achieve or correct for? To what extent does a “longing for homogeneity” underpin the current rise of neo-authoritarian populism?
  • When and how is “the fear of small numbers” instrumentalized?
  • How can political systems – and democracy in particular – expand or limit the participation of certain groups in policymaking?

We proposed to discuss some classic texts and chart a course through various sub-themes ranging from colonialism to “population politics” to Foucauldian “governmentality and biopolitics” to environmentalism, and aimed to deal with different genres and disciplinary approaches such as political and social theory, history, film, fiction, etc.

The summer school offered the opportunity to work on these themes with leading scholars in the field, who include Holly CaseCraig CalhounDilip GaonkarIvan KrastevTill van Rahden, and Shalini Randeria. Besides lectures, discussions, and reading sessions, it also offered the possibility to pursue an optional writing component under the close supervision of long-time magazine editor John Palattella.

Organized by the Institute for Human Sciences (Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen, IWM) in cooperation with the Centre for Transcultural Studies (CTS) and the Center for Global Culture and Communication (CGCC), with the generous support of the MasterCard Foundation.