Interpretations of Political Violence

The re­search area Interpretations looks at the changing nature of political violence through the perspective of shifting inter­pretative processes, social practices and individual as well as collective normative evaluations.

In this context, the changing patterns of justifi­cation and attribution of meaning to political violence are con­sidered. Moreover, the impact of memory discourses on shifting inter­pretations of violence will be con­sidered. A special focus will be placed on the city as a central space for the practice and (re-)inter­pretation of violence.

Against the back­drop of the interpretive sovereignty of powerful actors, the research project exa­mines the change in patterns of justification and attribution of meaning of political violence and the conse­quences. Drawing on the case study of Colombia, the effect of ligatures of violence (e.g. colonial norms and practices) on the develop­ment of violence, peace processes and authoritarian structures will be examined. Additionally, the recog­nition of colonial genocides (e.g. of Herero and Nama or of First Na­tions in settler colo­nial states) will be analyzed in order to inves­tigate the reinter­pretation of historical vio­lence and the in­fluence on political rela­tions. The work package is coordinated by Philipps University Marburg and PRIF.


This work package examines how social re­interpretations of violence take place through the heritage or memory boom that has been observed since the 1980s/1990s. Drawing on case studies in different parts of the world, the project looks at the extent to which a re­interpretation of historical heroization takes place through, for instance, memorial overthrows. Re­searchers look at the way marginalized victims, perpetrators, and forms of violence become visible, how discourses shift from the counter-public sphere to the centre of social debates and how change in the official culture of com­memoration is enabled. The work package is co­ordinated by Goethe University Frankfurt.


By focusing on the city, the work package looks at urban spaces as central for the practice and inter­pretation of violence. The work package is firstly dedicated to a historical analysis of violence in street pro­tests by drawing on archival studies, inter­views, and image analyses of urban protests in major cities in Europe and the USA. Research will trace the dif­ferent actors, types of violence, their trans­formation, counter-measures and the con­ditions in cities as an influencing factor. In a further focus, urban terrorism and the relation­ship as well as inter­actions between cities and specific forms of Islamist terror will be examined. The work package is co­ordinated by the TU Darmstadt.