Professor Deitelhoff's research projects

Current projects

No Alternative? Social Protest in the Alter-Globalisation Movement between Opposition and Dissidence

(with Dr. Priska Daphi and Felix Anderl)

No contemporary protest movement against international institutions has achieved a media profile comparable to the alter-globalisation movement. Its protests have repeatedly accompanied World Economic Forums and international summits since the 1999 “Battle of Seattle”, whose influence remains strong in current demonstrations. This reveals a radical contradiction in parts of transnational civil society directed against international institutions and the norms they embody. The movement is hardly monolithic in its aims and strategies despite broad consensus against neoliberal and capitalist globalisation. This is reflected in the diversity of the groups’ positions towards national and international political structures. While some groups pursue their goals in the context of established institutional channels of political participation, others deliberately violate the prevailing rules about how to exert political influence up to and including (sporadic) violence. This sub-project compares various groups in the movement to identify factors that promote the transformation of protest into dissidence and back by looking at the groups’ development (from opposition into peaceful dissidence up to violent dissidence and vice versa). This should also allow a more refined consideration of the social significance of dissident movements in contemporary democracies.

For more information see:

Internationale dissidenz the happy robot

Dissidence: Rule and Resistance in International Politics

(with Prof. Dr. Christopher DaaseBen KamisJannik PfisterSebastian SchindlerThorsten Thiel)

The on-going process of globalisation has intensified international and transnational relations; it has also attracted increased resistance to global regulation and administrative governance. Greater opposition to liberal economic models, contempt for international rules and open protest against 'western values' signal this trend. The central question of this project is how transnational rule relates to transnational resistance. The character of rule in the various sub-orders of global governance is polycentric and cannot be squared with traditional notions of sovereignty focused on the nation-state. Nonetheless, the loci of power, which regulatory norms, institutions and discourses perpetuate, demand adaptation and obedience from those they claim to govern. How and when does resistance to this form of rule emerge? Where is it manifested and in what forms? Although these questions have been largely neglected in the research community, this project aims to answer them by focusing on 'dissidence', which we understand as a form of resistance that rejects the normative status quo, opting instead for unconventional means of organisation and expression. To this end, we chart the amplitudes of rule and resistance empirically.

For more information see

Globale verhandlungen pablo manriquez

Norm Disputes: Contestation and Norm Robusteness

(with Lisbeth Zimmermann

The research group analyzes instances of contestation of international norms that occur at the international, regional, or national levels. Our goal is to understand what kind of effects contestatory practices have on international norms: Does contestation, as is often assumed, weaken a norm’s claim to legitimacy and its effectiveness? Could contestation also work to strengthen a norm – by clarifying its meaning and its conditions for application? If so, when does contestation result in one or the other?

The research group aims to tackle these questions by empirically investigating the conditions under which practices of contestation have weakened or strengthened international norms. It will study six prominent cases of contested international norms from varying policy fields: security (international criminal justice, the Responsibility to Protect, privateering), human rights (ban on torture, slavery), and environmental issues (ban on commercial whaling). In doing so, the group intends to establish the influence different types of norm contestation have on the stability of international norms.

We hypothesize that contention relating to the application of a norm can strengthen its stability, while contention relating the validity of a norm adds to its weakening. Additionally, we want to ascertain under which circumstances contention remains limited to application and when it radicalizes into questioning validity.)



Completed Projects

Opposition und globale politische ordnung antony dovgal

Opposition and Global Political Order

(with Thorsten ThielTheresa ReinoldMariana LaegerLinda Wallbott and Ulrike Höppner)

This research project starts from the observation that criticism of, and resistance against, international institutions is escalating just as the institutions themselves are becoming more politicised. There are many reasons for this, but the transformation of governance and regulatory systems beyond the state are particularly important. Whereas these systems have traditionally been based on horizontal coordination, they are becoming a structure of rule that reaches ever deeper into national governance. These developments have inspired resistance against 'the system' as a whole as well as particular institutions and practices. This project, as part of the Cluster of Excellence: the Formation of Normative Orders, examines state and non-state forms of opposition in and around international institutions and analyses the interactions between those institutions and their opposition. From both normative and empirical perspectives, we survey the form(s) and meaning(s) of opposition in the international order, what reactions it precipitates, and whether any trajectory to its development can be identified. Our core hypothesis is that opposition radicalises in inverse proportion to the space afforded to it in the political order. Because this hypothesis is derived from empirical opposition and democracy research, we must determine its applicability in non-state governance contexts before testing its relevance in comparative case studies of various opposition groups. The results of these empirical case studies will simultaneously allow inferences about the normative status and role of opposition. In sum, this research will provide a better understanding of how global administrative governance deals with criticism, when orders are able to integrate opposing positions, and when radicalisation or violent struggle between rival conceptions of order is to be expected.


  • Nicole Deitelhoff (2012): Leere Versprechungen? Deliberation und Opposition im Kontext transnationaler Legitimitätspolitik, in: Anna Geis, Frank Nullmeier, Christopher Daase (eds.): Der Aufstieg der Legitimitätspolitik. Wiesbaden, S.63-83.
  • Theresa Reinold (2012): “Constitutionalization? Whose constitutionalization? Africa's ambivalent engagement with
    the International Criminal Court,” in: International Journal of Constitutional Law (forthcoming).
  • Theresa Reinold (2012): “The African Union’s Ambivalent Engagement with the International Criminal Court,” in: S.
    Cassese, B. Carotti, L. Casini, M. Macchia, E. MacDonald, and M. Savino, eds. Global
    Administrative Law: Cases, Materials, Issues
    , 3rd ed. (New York: New York University
    School of Law (forthcoming)).


Reconstituting Democracy in Europe

The EU has become an extremely complex, multi-level system. Regardless of whether the EU acquires a constitution and what form it might take, it will remain far more than a common international organization and much less than a typical state. But what does this mean for democracy in Europe? How can the multi-level EU system guarantee democratic oversight and self-determination? These questions were the focus of the international research consortium "Reconstituting Democracy in Europe (RECON)", which was active from 2007 until the end of 2011. RECON was coordinated by the Center for European Studies at the University of Oslo and comprised nineteen universities and research institutes in ten EU countries, Norway and Turkey. Nicole Deitelhoff participated for PRIF in cooperation with Wolfgang Wagner and Dirk Peters on a work package relating to "Foreign and Security Policy". Nicole Deitelhoff also worked on a work package relating to "Theoretical Foundations".



Sicherheit des staates rande archer

The Security of the State

The monopoly of violence was the first step in the development of the modern state in western Europe, historically speaking. Following the suppression of other would-be monopolists of violence and the consolidation of territorial supremacy came the establishment of a tax monopoly as well as the drives to constitutionalize and democratize state rule. As political rule became structurally dependent on the state violence monopoly, there was also an impulse to legitimize this rule by means of constitutionalization (the rule of law) and democracy. The subjugation of the use of violence to standing law and democratic oversight changed the monopoly of violence over time in that it became a monopoly of legitimate violence. Security and the monopoly of violence remain the core of the state regardless of its historical development, because nowhere is the state's duality more apparent. The state monopolizes violence to protect society from violence, but it also becomes the greatest threat to society because of its unparalleled potential to use violence. Law and democratic oversight constrain this potential, but behind the civilized, bureaucratic decision-making procedures of the modern nation-state remains the unbounded violence of the Leviathan. This makes current trends of increased privatization and internationalization of security and defence policy, which is evident in deeper and more frequent public-private joint ventures in the security sector, all the more disturbing. The amplitude and consequences of these shifts require study, especially given the popularity of claims that we have reached a post-national age, where national borders and sovereignty have become irrelevant to international politics in general and to security policy and conflict patterns in particular. The project includes two concrete programmes.

a. The internationalization and privatization of security policy and its implications for democratic theory

(with Anna Geis)
This project studied the simultaneous internationalization and privatization of security and defence policy. It investigated what considerations led democratic decision-makers to opt for privatization or internationalization as well as how these decisions affected the form, content and democratic oversight of national and international security and defence policy.

b. Private actors in conflict zones

 (with Klaus Dieter Wolf, financed by Thyssen, 2006-2009)

This project sought to determine how the public-private relationship has changed in light of private security provision by investigating the strong role of private actors in transnational security provision. Is the state losing significance as a provider of public goods, or is it merely changing the conditions of that provision? How can calls for legitimacy, responsiveness, accountability and the common good be maintained along side private security provision? How can and must international law adapt to such tendencies? How do the strong states of the OECD differ from the weak states of the non-OECD world?


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Transnationale demokratie und gerechtigkeit kai freundlich

Transnational Democracy and Justice: Connections and Tensions

(with Rainer ForstPeter NiesenKlaus Dieter Wolf)

We can no longer assume that the state will contain problems nor that solutions will come from the state-level. This implies a tension between institutional purposes and basic normative concepts, two of which, justice and democratic legitimacy, are traditionally defined with reference to domestic orders. This project identified global practices and institutions related to the construction of a statist order that also displayed a clear connection to these concepts. Further, the project studied their potential to preserve just and democratic governance as well as friction between democracy and justice. The first step was to identify the core elements of democracy and justice as well as the limits of their transferability. The next step was to evaluate their applicability in three strategically chosen kinds of global order construction (deliberative internationalism, global supranationalism, and transnational norm creation and implementation). Nicole Deitelhoffs focused on the question of whether and how fairness and democracy could serve as alternative models of legitimacy for international governance.