Dr. Dorothea Gädeke

Universitair hoofddocent
Ethiek Instituut

My research explores how domination and structural injustices are linked to practices of democracy and freedom. 

In my book 'Politik der Beherrschung. Eine kritische Theorie externer Demokratieförderung' (Suhrkamp, 2017; English title: Politics of Domination. Towards a Critical Theory of Democracy Promotion) I have analysed the ambivalent role democracy has come to play in development and world politics more broadly: being celebrated and actively promoted as the only legitimate form of government in the 1990s while being increasingly rejected as the core of a new, democratic imperialism in the 2000s. The critical-republican account of justice as non-domination I develop shows  that democracy promotion and the post-colonial critique raised against it share the same normative concern: Both, I argue, pursue the goal of non-domination; yet, both have, ultimately, reverted into a politics of domination.  An English translation of the book is in preparation.

I am currently working on three research projects. In the first, I carve out the structural dimension of domination. This account seeks to give adequate conceptual expression to what I take to be the core of the republican tradition, namely the understanding of freedom as the denial of status. It serves to show the relevance of republicanism for uncovering to what extent injustices such as racism or sexism pervade society rather than resulting from individuals misbehaving. And it elucidates the inextricable link between freedom and the law, while at the same time casting light on the limits of the law in realizing non-domination.

In a second research project I compare relational approaches in normative thought from both African and European/Anglo American traditions. The aim is to transcend the oversimplifying opposition between allegedly individualist ‘Western’ and collectivist ‘African’ thought and to rethink the moral foundations of critical republicanism.

The third is a new, larger project on 'Theorizing Freedom from Below' that I am currently setting up with the support of a VIDI Grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). Moreover, I am involved in a project on Electoral Technologies within the NWO Zwaartekracht Consortium Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies (since Jan 2021).

Theorizing Freedom from Below 01-09-2022 tot 31-08-2027
Algemene projectbeschrijving

Freedom is the opposite of slavery and domination – or so the republican tradition of political thought argues. Yet, theories of republican freedom rarely engage with actual slavery. Their focus rather lies on specifying the status of free citizens. Slavery merely serves as a metaphor for the condition that is to be avoided. This focus reflects the perspective of those who are concerned with safeguarding their existing freedom. But can such theories make sense of struggles to attain freedom, such as Black Lives Matter or MeToo? Can we fully understand what freedom means without the experience of resisting unfreedom, that is, of resisting existing forms of slavery or domination?

The research project aims to show that theorizing freedom in a way that gains a critical grip on the social world requires rethinking freedom from below; that is by shifting the focus from the lived experience of freedom to the lived experience of slavery and domination – and the struggles against it. The classic republican ideal of the free – i.e. white, male property-owning – citizen serves as a guide to select relevant cases: starting with slave narratives in the 18th century, we will analyse struggles against race-based, gender-based and class-based domination through the work of activists and writers not commonly part of the philosophical canon. 

This analysis will serve (1) to reconstruct conceptions of freedom and resistance emerging from their struggles; (2) to develop a methodological account of how lived experience inform and limit theorizing abstract normative concepts; (3) to analyse whether and if so how theorizing freedom from the perspective of the free citizen may contribute to reproducing the subtle forms of domination against which these writers and activists fought; and (4) to demonstrate how theorizing freedom from below can help address current forms of domination, in the university and beyond. 

2e geldstroom - NWO VIDI
Electoral Technology and Democracy in Global Perspective 01-01-2021
Algemene projectbeschrijving

Genuine  democracy presupposes well-founded trust in the electoral process, regarding electoral procedures and the formation of electoral choice. It requires securing the secrecy as well as the transparancy of the vote. Traditionally, the democratic credentials of elections are based on physical arrangements regarding electoral procedures (printed ballots, isolated voting booths) and the formation of electoral choice (via public information and journalism).  

However, these arrangements (and their normative legitimation) are being disrupted by the spread of new electoral technologies, especially in new democracies of the Global South. Paper-based election systems have increasingly been supplanted by electronic election systems (e.g. [[biometric voter identification]], ballot scanners, internet voting). And as political campaigns have become increasingly complex, datafied, and sophisticated, new technological coping strategies have emerged in response (e.g. [[voting advice applications]], fake-news detectors, and filtered or bubble-bursting news feeds). Despite potential gains in efficiency, reliability, and convenience, such technologies raise concerns about the inclusivity, reliability, manipulability, and verifiability of these electoral technologies.  

In light of these concerns, the project seeks to investigate to what extent new electoral technologies necessitate rethinking normative assumptions about the legitimate basis for confidence in electoral outcomes and trust in democratic institutions, particularly in light of two (potentially) disruptive effects of these technologies. On the one hand, they challenge received normative criteria for democratic credibility by introducing new options and difficulties regarding how to realize (1) secrecy/anonymity, (2) transparency/accountability, and (3) the appropriate balance between (1) and (2). On the other hand, they are being implemented in contexts of power and domination, both domestically and transnationally, that may be transformed or further entrenched as a consequence of their implementation. This, in turn, requires rethinking related concepts political equality, inclusion, freedom, and vulnerability. Particular emphasis will be placed on the context of power in which such technologies are promoted in the Global South. 

2e geldstroom - NWO