My current main research interests are (1) immigrant integration policies and (2) the original mobilisation of social identities such as “nation” and “class”. In addition, I continue to be interested in (3) parties’ strategic behaviour in competition (4) ethnic parties and minority representation and (5) institutional design in divided societies. An emerging research interest is (6) democratic innovation, in particular the concept of “liquid democracy”, defended by the family of pirate parties.

1) Immigrant integration policies

Related to this branch of my research agenda, I am working on a book and a special issue.
The book is based on a comparative case study that explains why Catalonia and South Tyrol, two minority regions that cannot control their own borders, respond differently to immigration. South Tyrolean elites frame immigration as a threat to the German-speaking minority and restrict immigrants’ access to social benefits. Catalan elites emphasise the opportunities of immigration, and grant social rights to “new Catalans” on equal terms. Tracing the development of political discourse on and the administrative management of immigration and integration in both regions over time, and ruling out alternative explanations, I show that and how historical experiences with the arrival of internal (that is, Spanish and Italian) migrants in the first half of the 20th century continue to define each region’s approach to immigration until the present day. The book will contribute to debate about the causal role of ideas in the field of public policy and to explanations of citizenship and integration policies in the field of migration studies.

As a spin-off of the book, I started getting interested in regional policies that target the integration processes of immigrants more generally. Together with Anita Manatschal & Verena Wisthaler (both U Neuchâtel) I am putting together a special issue on the causes and effects of regional integration policies in multi-level systems.  The collection of articles departs from the observation that while immigration tends to be a contested issue at the national level, the conditions for immigrants’ daily lives are often set at a lower level, by regional authorities. The special issue provides the first internationally comparative analysis of the causes and effects of immigrant integration policies designed by regional governments in multi-level political systems in Europe, North America and Australia.

2) The electoral mobilisation of social identities: The case of imperial Austria

Together with Phil Howe (Adrian College) and Edina Szöcsik (University of Bern), this project studies electoral mobilisation in the Western (‘Austrian’) part of the multinational Austro-Hungarian empire between 1897 and 1911. The project has two goals: (1) to analyse the emergence, positioning and success of political parties in a democratizing multinational state and (2) to determine the circumstances in which ethno-nationalist mobilization dominates, given multiple alternative social identity categories parties could and did appeal to. We have developed an original coding scheme to measure the policy positions and group appeal of historical political parties. A team of student coders is now working through the campaign material of German parties, next year we will add the Czech parties to the picture.

3) Position, selective emphasis and framing: Party competition in multinational democracies

This was a special issue edited together with Anwen Elias (University of Aberystwyth), and Edina Szöcsik (University of Bern). Together with a group of scholars from the fields of territorial and party politics, we analysed party strategies in contexts where the left-right and territorial dimensions have varying importance for state-wide parties on the one hand, and ethno-regionalist parties on the other hand. The Special Issue argues that position and salience theories of party competition can be combined and was published in Party Politics in autumn 2015.

4) Beyond outbidding – explaining ethnic party behaviour in competition and EPAC data

This was the topic of my cumulative dissertation that bridged the fields of ethnic and party politics to explain the strategic choices of ethnic parties in competition. To gain so far unavailable data on the positioning of political parties on an ethnonational dimension of party competition, Edina Szöcsik and I have conducted an expert survey between June and October 2011. Compiled on the basis of the collected expert ratings, our dataset on ethnonationalism in party competition (EPAC) covers the positions of 210 political parties in 22 multinational European democracies. The data from the first round is available for public use.

We have just completed the second round of EPAC (EPAC 2017) and are currently testing the new data for validity and reliability.

Many of the insights behind this cross-national data collection effort were inspired by my field research in Serbia (April – June 2010) where I conducted interviews with elites of Hungarian and Bosniak ethnic minority parties.

5) Institutional design in divided societies

I have done research on the asymmetrical federalisation process that took place in Russia during the 1990s and on the first elections to the national councils of national minorities (institutions putting the principle of non-territorial autonomy for national minorities into practice) in Serbia. More recently, I have studied the relationship between reserving seats for representatives of ethnic minorities and substantive representation as a contributor to the SCOPES project on Ethnic Quotas and Representation of Minorities in Local Politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina, coordinated by Nenad Stojanovic at the Centre for Democracy Studies (ZDA) Aarau in cooperation with Analitika, Centre for Social Research, Sarajevo.

6) Liquid democracy

Together with political philosopher Christian Blum, I have been working on liquid democracy, a new form of democratic decision-making that promises to combine the merits of direct and representative democracy. In a first step, we have defined key features of liquid democracy and provided normative justifications why it could indeed be superior to classical representative party democracy. In the next step, we plan to analyse liquid democratic innovations within the realm of a system of representative democracy, e.g. as decision-making tools within parties (most prominently the Pirate Parties) and for citizen participation at the local level (e.g. Liquid Friesland in Germany).