Deutsche Vereinigung für Politikwissenschaft
Frist: 25.06.2021

CfP - Annual conference of the Working Group “Sociology in International Relations” of the German Political Science Association (DVPW) in cooperation with the Section “Political Sociology” of the German Sociological Association (DGS)

Public(s) in Global Politics

Annual conference of the Working Group “Sociology in International Relations” of the German Political Science Association (DVPW)
in cooperation with the Section “Political Sociology” of the German Sociological Association (DGS)

November 11 and 12, 2021

Organising team:

Ulrich Franke (University of Erfurt)

Janne Mende (Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law)

Thomas Müller (Bielefeld University)

Jasmin Siri (University of Erfurt/LMU Munich)


Publics are crucial to global politics. They shape our idea of how political decisions are to be made and disputed. Publics are the social spaces in which various actors compete over attention and support for their political agendas and in which political decisions on inter- and transnational issues are demanded, justified, contested and debated. These spaces depend on publicness – the availability of knowledge about political issues and the way they are communicated to those that are governed – and often feature appeals to global public interests in the sense of interests shared by humanity as a whole.

In International Relations as well as in Sociology, there is diverse and rich research on the relation between publics and global politics. The internet and social media are described as having brought about a structural transformation of the public sphere that is as revolutionary and momentous as the invention of the printing press, transforming the ways in which transnational and global publics and politics are constituted and shaped. Against the background of this radical transformation of the public sphere, we want to take stock of the debates about the relation between (the) public(s) and global politics. What is the role of the public(s) in global politics? Which publics matter in global politics? How do inequalities shape access to these new publics? And, more generally speaking: How has the relation between (the) public(s) and global politics changed?

We propose to structure the debate along three pairs of concepts/counter-concepts that inform, implicitly or explicitly, much of the research on publics:

  • analogue/digital: The emergence of public spheres was undergirded by analogue infrastructures such as debate clubs and newspapers, whereas the current transformation of publics is largely driven by digital infrastructures. How (and to what extent) do digital infrastructures supersede the previous infrastructures and what are the implications for global politics? How does e.g. the practice of diplomacy change in a digitalized public sphere?
  • transparent/secretive: Publicness is not a given. It depends on processes through which actors make political issues known to broader audiences. But there are also political reasons to be secretive – that is, to conceal knowledge –because of security concerns or data protection concerns, for instance. Shaping the availability of knowledge is, moreover, an exercise in securing or undermining political power. How has the current transformation affected the way political issues are made known and what is politically expected to be made transparent or to be kept secret?
  • private/public: This differentiation underpins not only the notion of a public sphere but also the notion of public interests. We are witnessing a rising relevance of (global) actors that are defined as private in terms of global governance and international law but at the same time are closely linked to public interests. How do prevalent understandings of “private” and “public” change? How can these changes be conceptualized and what are the implications for global politics?


We invite all researchers interested in participating in the conference to submit short abstracts (300 words) until June 25. We welcome both papers that address the current transformation of (the) public(s) more broadly as well as papers that more specifically focus on one of the three pairs of concepts. Please send the abstracts to aksibdvpwde. Participants will be informed about their acceptance by July 17. Final papers shall not exceed 2000 words and will be circulated two weeks prior to the conference.

Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the Annual Conference 2021 is planned as a digital format.


For more information about the DVPW Working Group “Sociology in International Relations” and the DGS Section “Political Sociology”: