Research Excellence Initiative grant for research on depoliticization and the public interest

Alessandra Arcuri and Jeroen Temperman are two of the principal investigators of a research project on depoliticization in Europe that has been awarded a prestigious Research Excellence Initiative (REI) grant of €682.000.

The interdisciplinary research project, hosted by the Erasmus Institute for Public Knowledge (EIPK), is titled Depoliticization and the Public Interest. The grant solidifies interdisciplinary collaboration between young academics from four EUR Faculties, and specifically within these from the Departments of Sociology and of History, the Faculty of Philosophy, the Erasmus School of Law and Erasmus University College.

Interdisciplinary research into depoliticization
The interdisciplinary research project departs from the idea that Europe is undergoing a process of depoliticization and that, in the wake of this, it is increasingly unclear what the meaning of ‘public interest’ is and what the democratic potency is of what is traditionally called ‘the public sphere’. How can public interest be represented and articulated in the face of technocratic governance, populist politics or corporate power protected by supranational regulation? Among other things, depoliticization entails exactly the blotting out of fundamental democratic questions of justice, equality, representation and precarity by the technical details of technological solutions and of regulatory frameworks, by risk calculations or by political debates that have increasingly taken on a technocratic and supposedly post-ideological character. By means of three strategic cases, EIPK’s REI-funded project seeks to untangle the technological, regulatory and affective dimensions of depoliticization, and the potentials for alternative forms of repoliticization. They are:

  1. Public aspects of algorithmic environments
  2. The politics of austerity in Europe
  3. TTIP: regulatory depoliticization and new participatory rights

The project dovetails with recent research on ‘making things public’ and the ‘issuefication’ of public issues, and it builds on classic investigations in the social sciences and humanities of ‘the structural transformation of the public sphere’ or ‘the end of public culture’. It will extend such work by a focus on the technological, regulatory and affective de- and repoliticizing tendencies in key contemporary issues. The project’s interdisciplinary character is tied to the conviction that questions of public interest and of the emergence of alternative forms of politicization are intricately related to both socio-technical infrastructures and legal frameworks. They require social scientific analysis, historical contextualization, legal interpretation and testing, and conceptual philosophical analysis.

Interdisciplinary team of excellent young researchers
The principal applicants are six excellent young scholars who already acquired a total of over € 3,2M in prestigious research grants prior to receiving REI funding. They are Willem Schinkel (FSS), Bregje van Eekelen (ESHCC), Sjoerd van Tuinen (FP), Liesbeth Noordegraaf-Eelens (EUC ), Alessandra Arcuri (ESL) and Jeroen Temperman (ESL). Prof. Schinkel is board member and vice-chair of the Young Academy of the KNAW, which houses the 50 most talented Dutch scientists from all disciplines. Dr. Van Eekelen, Dr. Van Tuinen, Dr. Arcuri, and Dr. Temperman are members of Young Erasmus, which brings together excellent young researchers at Erasmus University. All six researchers are part of the research network coordinated by Erasmus Institute for Public Knowledge (EIPK).

Research Excellence Initiative Project Funding
The Research Excellence Initiative grant offers €682.000 in research funding, which is matched by the participating faculties. The research project will run 5 years, from 2016-2021. Each strategic case will be carried out by a post-doctoral researcher in collaboration with the principal investigators. EIPK will organize monthly research seminars, yearly public knowledge symposia (open to students and non-academic audiences), and a final conference on the relations between depoliticization and articulations of (counter)public interest. An interdisciplinary grant writing lab will help secure future funding. The aim of the research excellence initiative is to enhance the quality and impact of excellent EUR research and to stimulate collaboration between disciplines, in order to attract and retain top talent to the EUR and to reach higher visibility for the best research groups on the international scale.

Erasmus Institute for Public Knowledge
Erasmus Institute for Public Knowledge (EIPK) is an interdisciplinary research institute that seeks to foster and coordinate research on public issues and to forge links with extra-academic publics on these issues. It brings together scientists from the social sciences and the humanities and offers them a platform for exchange with other disciplines. It regularly organizes seminars, public events, and conferences. Its most recent events revolved around the politics and publics of smart cities, TTIP, and Big Data. A start-up grant was provided by the Erasmus Trust Fund. For further information, please email eipk@fsw.eur.nl.