Power and Strategies of Social and Political Order


Project Description

Proceeding from a broad conception of power as the heteronomous reduction of individual and collective autonomy which can be effected through military, economic, ideological, and political means, the project Power and Strategies of Social and Political Order addresses a range of questions pertinent to the study of various Asian and Middle Eastern societies from the ancient past to the present investigating systems and structures that inform power in visible and invisible ways.


Project Goals

Analysing the top-down state governance and the bottom-up answer to such impetuses through compliance and conformity, creative adaptation and resistance, it contributes to an improved historical, sociological, cultural, and anthropological understanding of the emergence, stability and transformation of political and social structures. The project is focused on interdisciplinary collaboration to help foster new ideas and approaches to challenges that affect our lives, such as political struggles, economy or environment, gender and sexuality, language and knowledge, inter-ethnic relations, etc. The research is based on consulting primary sources, archives and fieldwork, and provides an in-depth look at power in the grassroots movements as well as the bottom-up approaches of power in the micro-scale and domestic sphere.


Project Structure

The collaborative research platform Power and Strategies of Social and Political Order brings together a diverse, but coherent set of projects – modules – dealing with the pre-imperial period until the present, various forms of coercive and non-coercive power as well as rafts of legal, moral, ideological, and cultural means of exercising power over populations, which have formed crucial mechanisms aiding in the maintenance of domestic political and social order. The modules currently include:




  • Writing Fiction in Contemporary Cairo: Gender, Class, and State Bureaucracy (Giedre Sabaseviciute)
  • Manifesting Benevolence: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in Sadanobu’s Garden (Nobuko Toyosawa)
  • Art and Literature in Manchukuo: Search for ‘East Asian’ Culture (Nobuko Toyosawa)
  • Modernity and Modernism in Persophone Literary History (Thomas Loy)

This research cluster investigates questions of state governments and national identity, with a close look at policy and conflict and relationships between state and non-state actors. While political power has been studies for centuries, our research applies new theory and evidence to understand the systematic and structural issues that contribute to processes of nation-building and cultural security.

  • Balancing the Interests: Correlations of Ethnic and Foreign Policy in Contemporary China (Lumina: Ondřej Klimeš, Jarmila Ptáčková, Giulia Cabras, Jan Karlach)
  • Study group on Rule and Authority in the Eastern Kokonor Region (: Jarmila Ptáčková, in cooperation with: Jakub Hrubý (OI), Xaver Erhard (Leipzig University), Bianca Horlemann)
  • Tactical Bi-culturalism: Ethnic Entrepreneurship as Nuosu-Yi Identity Self-preservation in Contemporary Liangshan (Jan Karlach)

This thematic cluster examines the “digitalization” of everyday life as seen from the perspective of individuals wielding various, screen-equipped portable devices, who - forming themselves into groups or keep standing out as individuals - reflect and/or deflect the policies imposed on them in a top-down manner. For the increasingly post-digital societies seamlessly intertwining life on and off the global as well as variously segmented, secured, controlled and surveilled networks, where the online practices have increasingly significant consequences for the offline lives and lifeways, and where identities and social bubbles are fluid and prone to rapid transformation, there is a pressing need for reflexive, critical and comparative approach in order to find at least a temporarily firm ground for a responsible assessment of their future trajectories.


  • Ceremonies, Smartphones and Everyday Life: Poaching (in) the Weixin-mediated Cyberspace with the Nuosu-Yi Bimox of Liangshan (Jan Karlach)


Outcomes 2022


Power workshop

Power seminar series


The history of Interhelpo (1922-1943)

Lecturer: Diego Sbriglia

Date: 12 May 2022, 5 pm


Summer school Chaghatay:

In cooperation with University of Vienna

Lecturer: Eric Schluessel

Date: 20. - 24. 6. 2021