Jean Blondel PhD Prize

2018 - Lauren Tooker

The 2018 Jean Blondel PhD Prize for the best thesis in politics has been awarded to Lauren Tooker (University of Warwick & Université libre de Bruxelles) for her thesis Ordinary Democracy: Reading Resistances to Debt after the Global Financial Crisis with Stanley Cavell’s Ordinary Language Philosophy

Lauren’s thesis, accomplished as part of an Erasmus Mundus funded Joint PhD programme, examines resistances to debt in the aftermath of the global financial crisis in the UK the US, developing a novel account of democratic subjectivity in the context of International Political Economy. To do so, Lauren applies Stanley Cavell’s ordinary language philosophy.

With this theoretical approach, the thesis shows how 'ordinary democratic subjects' are opposing debt-based economic citizenship in the UK and the US. The study's central argument is that debt’s 'ordinary democrats' are reconstructing debt relations as a site of democratic selfhood and community in finance, thus representing important practices of civic freedom.

From our prize jury

'Lauren’s thesis is not only innovative and theoretically inspiring – it is a thesis with a heart.'

Lauren Tooker will receive her award during the Joint Sessions of Workshops at Université catholique de Louvain, Mons, in April 2019.

The 2018 shortlist also comprised:

Kristina Bakkær, Simonsen Aarhus University, Do They Belong? Host National Boundary Drawing and Immigrants’ Identificational Integration

Tim Micker, Universiteit Leiden, Parliamentary Committees in a Party-Centred Context – Structure, Composition, Functioning

Macarena Ares-Abalde, European University Institute, A New Working Class? A Cross-National and Longitudinal Approach to Class Voting in Post-Industrial Societies

Trineke Palm Vrije, Universiteit Amsterdam, Normative Power and Military Means: The Evolving Character of the EU’s International Power

2017 - Verena Wisthaler

The 2017 Jean Blondel PhD Prize for the best thesis in politics has been awarded to Verena Wisthaler (University of Leicester and EURAC Research) for her thesis: ‘Immigration and Collective Identity in Minority Nations. A longitudinal comparison of Stateless Nationalist and Regionalist Parties in the Basque Country, Corsica, South Tyrol, Scotland and Wales’.

The judges were: Mary Farrell (Plymouth University), Petra Meier (University of Antwerp), and Ferdinand Müller-Rommel (University of Lüneburg); Birgit Sauer represented the ECPR and acted as chair. They were unanimous in their choice and reported as follows:

Verena’s thesis evaluates stateless nationalist and regionalist parties’ identity constructions between 1992 and 2012. Her focus is on the Basque Country, Corsica, South Tyrol, Scotland and Wales. How do these parties construct national identity in a context of rising immigration? Do these parties consider migrants and diversity as an integral part of minority nations? The dissertation for the first-time deals with these questions in a longitudinal study and with a comparative perspective on the stateless nations. The thesis takes a qualitative approach and analyses the parties’ discourses on immigration and their policies on migrant-integration. The study shows that the parties take different approaches to immigration and the construction of the nation in times of rising immigration. The author convincingly explains these different approaches by carving out the specific political institutional relations between the state and the minority nation on the one hand and the conflict-free societal relations between the minority nation and the state majority living within the minority nation. All parties instrumentalised the immigration discourse to differentiate themselves form their national governments and to strengthen their own strategic interests. The thesis has persuasive arguments in detecting a sort of ‘instrumental nationalism’ which facilitates identity construction based on civic and territorial markers. This strategy allows for the inclusion of diverse immigrant groups but at the same time this diversity is always constructed against the central state. Verena covers different fields of political science such as party analysis and studies on immigration and integration. Overall, the thesis generates timely and innovative knowledge and new paths of doing comparative political science analysis. The thesis is problem driven and therefore contributes to our understanding of urgent societal and political problems. Also, the dissertation is a pleasure to read.

Verena Wisthaler will receive her award during the Joint Sessions of Workshops at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus, in April 2018.

The 2017 shortlist also comprised:

  • Clara Egger, University of Grenoble ‘ONG: Organisations Néo-Gouvernementales Analyse des stratégies étatiques de contrôle des ONG humanitaires en zones de conflit (1989-2005)’
  • Ingrid Doris Mauerer, University of Munich ‘A Party-Varying Model of Issue Voting: A Cross-National Study’
  • Maurits J. Meijers, Hertie School of Governance Berlin ‘Contagious Euroscepticism. The Impact of Eurosceptic Challenger Parties on Mainstream Party Attitudes toward European Integration’
  • Cynthia M.C. van Vonno, Leiden University ‘Achieving party unity: a sequential approach to why MPs act in concert’

2016 - Philipp Köker

The 2016 Jean Blondel PhD Prize for the best thesis in politics has been awarded to Philipp Köker (University College London) for his thesis: 'Veto et Peto: Patterns of Presidential Activism in Central and Eastern Europe'.

The judges were: Ferdinand Müller-Rommel (University of Lüneburg), Petra Meier (University of Antwerp), Christoph Scherrer (University of Kassel); Birgit Sauer represented the ECPR and acted as chair. They were unanimous in their choice and reported as follows:

Philipp Köker's thesis maps and explains patterns in the activism of democratic presidents in nine Central and Eastern European democracies between 1990 and 2010 – an issue which has been subject to a number of studies over the last decade. However, only few scholars have explained how presidents actually use their formal powers and actively intervene in politics. To study presidential activism in the region Köker proposes a new theoretical framework – a nested analysis approach, a statistical analysis and in-depth case studies. This approach, the thesis argues is able to explain presidential activism in and by the constitutional setting and the political environment. Köker put together an original data set including semi-structured elite-interviews on the use of presidents' legislative powers. With these data and the innovative approach the thesis provides an impressive cross-country empirical analyses of the actual use of presidents' reactive powers. The qualitative analysis in four selected countries focuses on the use of presidential vetoes and presidential activism in government formation, censure and dismissal. Most prominently, Philipp Köker shows that popular presidential elections, cohabitation between president and government as well as a low seat share of the government are the most important predictors of presidential activism. These factors also correlated with a more frequent use of powers. Also, the study suggests intra-governmental divisions as an additional explanatory factor for presidential activism. The thesis makes an important contribution to studies of presidential activism, it suggests an innovative research approach to explain this activism and, moreover, it is elegantly constructed and the dissertation is a pleasure to read.

Philipp Köker will receive his award during the Joint Sessions of Workshops at the University of Nottingham, UK in April 2017.

This year’s shortlist also comprised:

  • Ruth Dassonneville (University of Leuven)'Stability and Change in Voting Behaviour: Macro and Micro Determinants of Electoral Volatility'
  • Elin Hafsteindottir (Stockholm University) 'The Art of Making Democratic Trouble. Four Art Events and Radical Democratic Theory'
  • Sofia Tipaldou (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) 'Russia's Nationalist-Patriotic Opposition: The Shifting Politics of Right-Wing Contention During Post-Communist Transition'

2015 - Jovana Mihajlovic Trbovc

The 2015 Jean Blondel PhD Prize for the best thesis in politics has been awarded Jovana Mihajlovic Trbovc (University of Ljubljana and Peace Institute Ljubljana) for her thesis: ‘Public Narratives of the Past in the Framework of Transitional Justice Processes: The Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina’.

The judges were: Petra Meier (University of Antwerp), Christoph Scherrer (University of Kassel) and Birte Siim (University of Aalborg); Birgit Sauer (University of Vienna) represented the ECPR and acted as chair. They were unanimous in their choice and reported as follows:

Jovana Mihajlovic Trbovc examines the processes of transitional justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The thesis challenges assumptions about ‘transitional justice’ by studying the prosecution of war crime perpetrators in the 1992 to 1995 war. Different from assumptions that once the ‘truth’ about these crimes is publicly presented, it becomes part of the common public memory of the country, the dissertation shows that memory-making became a new battleground between the three dominant ethno-national elite groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hence, the thesis shows that memory-making was not a process of transnational justice. The dissertation embodies a number of innovations: it critically assesses and introduces the concept of ‘transitional justice’ into political science, and in doing so bridges nicely legal and political science fields; and by selecting important case studies to analyse collective memory-making contributes to a political science concept of collective memory. Jovana Mihajlovic Trbovc enhances studies about transitional justice by taking a nuanced qualitative approach; the thesis analyses meaning production of ethnic elite groups in the processes of transitional justice and is able to show how ethnicity became an important factor in the peace process. A significant research effort the thesis undermines such assumptions as ‘truth’ being easily detected in processes of transition, but shows how truth is part of on-going hegemonic struggles, paving the way forward to further research. Finally, the thesis is nicely constructed, the qualitative research has been very well carried-out, and on the whole is a pleasure to read.

Jovana Mihajlovic Trbovc will receive her award during the Joint Sessions of Workshops at the University of Pisa, Italy in April 2016.

This year’s shortlist also comprised:

  • Andrea Gideon (University of Leeds) ‘European Higher Education Institutions Under EU Law Constraints: an Interdisciplinary Analysis of the Position of European Higher Education Institutions between Directly Applicable EU Law and Their Public Service Mission’
  • Antonia Graf (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster) ‘Shaping Sustainability? Diskursive Macht transnationaler Unternehmen im Nachhaltigkeitsdiskurs’
  • Astrid Reinprech (Universität Wien) ‘Moving Democracy. Student Contention in former Yugoslavia’
  • Joern Richert (University of Bielefeld) ‘Constructing Global Energy Politics’

2014 - Carolina Plescia

The 2014 Jean Blondel PhD Prize for the best thesis in politics has been awarded to Carolina Plescia (Trinity College Dublin and Universität Wien) for her thesis:  Split-Ticket Voting in Mixed-Member Electoral Systems: A Theoretical and Methodological Investigation.

The judges were: Josep Colomer (Institute for Economic Analysis (UAB), Barcelona), Rainer Forst (Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt a. Main) and Martin Westlake (College of Europe, Bruges and LSE (visiting)); Peter Kennealy (EUI, Florence) represented the ECPR Press and acted as chair. They were unanimous in their choice and reported as follows:

Dr Plescia examines the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of split-ticket voting, combining a purely methodological analysis based on the New Zealand and Scottish parliamentary elections, a comparative study across ten mixed-member electoral systems, and two in-depth case studies (Japan and Italy’s regional elections). The dissertation embodies a number of innovations: using both individual and aggregate data (proving, in the process, that a composite approach provides more accurate understanding); a comparative rather than case study approach (though illuminated by the two case studies at the end); separating intentional versus forced split-ticket voting; using the Scottish and New Zealand legislative elections to test the reliability of the predictive model. Dr Plescia enhances electoral analysis by taking a more nuanced approach that does not rely on intuitive assumptions but real behaviour where it can be measured and evaluated. Her findings are notably similar across countries. She highlights some interesting differences across types of mixed systems and levels of experience with electoral rules. A significant research effort the thesis undermines such assumptions as the one party preference and points the way forward to further research. The dissertation is elegantly constructed, the quantitative and qualitative research has been well carried-out, and the whole is a pleasure to read.

Dr Plescia will receive her award during the Joint Sessions of Workshops at the University of Warsaw, Poland (29th March – 2nd April 2015). This year’s shortlist also comprised:

  • Brack, Nathalie (Université libre de Bruxelles) ‘Opposing Europe. Which roles for Eurosceptics in the European Parliament?’
  • Schubiger, Livia Isabella (University of Zurich) ‘Repression and Mobilization in Civil War: The Consequences of State Violence for Wartime Collective Action’

2013 - Christian Rauh

The 2013 Jean Blondel PhD Prize for the best thesis in politics has been awarded to Christian Rauh (Wissenschaftzentrum für Sozialforschung and Freie Universität Berlin) for his thesis:  Politicisation, issue salience, and consumer policies of the European Commission. Does public awareness and contestation of supranational matters increase the responsiveness of Europe’s central agenda-setter?

The jury consisted of the judges, Paolo Bellucci (University of Siena), Paul Heywood (University of Nottingham) and Birgit Sauer (University of Vienna); Peter Kennealy (EUI, Florence) represented the ECPR Press and acted as chair.

The thesis challenges the image of the EU Commission as a technocratic actor removed from societal and political demands. On the contrary, Rauh’s analysis shows that European elites adapt their decisions to a politicised context. His research provides an insightful account of the European Commission’s approach to policy making, helping us understand better the dynamics of policy development in relation to European integration. The extent of public awareness, issue contestation and salience are shown to constrain the Commission positions, and explain the location of its policy stance between laissez-faire and interventionism in consumer and market regulation.  The research design nicely combines public-opinion and public-policy analyses, relying on multiple sources (including public opinion surveys, media analysis, elite interviews, and process tracing) which produce compelling evidence for the conditions (when? why? how?) that promote EU institutions’ responsiveness to European citizens.

Dr Rauh will receive his award during the Joint Sessions of Workshops at the Universidad de Salamanca, Spain, 10–15 April 2014.

This year’s short-list comprised:

  • Patrick Bayer, Universität Mannheim – ‘Distributional, Institutional, and Informational Dynamics in International Cooperation on Climate Change’

  • Hanna Schwander, University of Zurich – ‘The Politicization of the Insider-Outsider Divide in Western Europe: Labour Market Vulnerability and its Political Consequences’

2012 - Didier Caluwaerts, Julian Wucherpfennig

The Jean Blondel PhD Prize for 2012 was, for the first time, jointly awarded to Didier Caluwaerts (Vrije Universiteit Brussels) for a PhD entitled ‘Confrontation and Communication: Experiments on Deliberative Democracy in Linguistically Divided Belgium’, and to Julian Wucherpfennig (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich) for a PhD entitled ‘Fighting for Change: Onset, Duration, and Recurrence of Ethnic Conflict’. The jury consisted of the judges, Robert Elgie, Piero Ignazi and Hanspeter Kriesi; Peter Kennealy, as the representative of ECPR Press, acted as chairman. Dr Caluwaerts’ dissertation asks whether exercises in deliberative democracy in deeply divided societies reduce political conflict. Specifically, it examines whether different institutional rules affect the quality of deliberative democracy. Based on a highly innovative experimental research design, whereby small groups of people from the different linguistic communities in Belgium were brought together to debate contentious political issues, Dr Caluwaerts finds that the quality of deliberative democracy was as high in discussions held between linguistically divided groups as in those between homogenous groups. He also finds that group decision-making rules were good predictors of deliberative quality in linguistically homogeneous groups, but were less so in divided groups. The jury was particularly impressed with the very careful research design and the clarity of the writing style, which makes the thesis accessible to both a professional and a wider audience. Dr Wucherpfennig’s dissertation examines the role of ethnicity in the onset, duration and recurrence of civil wars. It proposes a theoretically grounded grievance-based model in which the systematic denial of state benefits on the basis of ethnicity creates a collective demand for political change that can lead to conflict. It then submits this model to rigorous empirical testing and finds support for it. The jury was impressed by the way in which Dr Wucherpfennig identified the potential impact of his findings. In contrast to much of the existing scholarship, which assumes that grievances are constant and ethnic conflict is inevitable, Dr Wucherpfennig’s work suggests that if grievances can be accommodated, then conflict can be avoided.

2011 - Virginie Van Ingelgom

Integrating Indifference book cover
Integating Indifference
- Virginie Van Ingelgom
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Virginie Van Ingelgom (U.C. de Louvain) for her dissertation on ‘Intégrer l’indifférence: Une approche comparative, qualitative et quantitative, de la légitimité de l’intégration européenne’ (‘Integrating indifference: a comparative, qualitative and quantitative approach to the legitimacy of European integration’). The jury (Manuel Alcantara, Judith Squires, and Dario Castiglione) considered the dissertation to be both innovative and sophisticated in dealing with the EU legitimacy issue. It is written in a clear and effective style, appealing both to a specialist readership and a wider audience. The thesis advances our existing knowledge of the European Union in significant respects, bringing together elements of political theory, empirical analysis of opinions and attitudes, and the study of regional integration processes all of which bear on the issue of legitimacy. The thesis distinguishes itself by a deft combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, as well as its attention to both the macro and the micro dimensions of its topic. The thesis examines the political legitimacy of European integration from an ‘internal’ perspective, focusing on citizens’ subjective perceptions, and their acceptance of, or resistance to, the process of European integration. Distinguishing itself from other literature on this issue, the thesis attempts to analyse and make political sense of the indifference that many citizens have towards integration, by treating this valid reaction rather than a residual state somewhere between acceptance and rejection.

2010 - Paul Gill

Paul Gill (University College Dublin) for his dissertation on ‘The Dynamics of Suicide Bombing in Campaigns of Political Violence’. The jury (Mick Cox, Amy Mazur and Dario Castiglione) considered this dissertation to be well written, engaging and appealing to a wide audience. Its approach is innovative, connecting different areas of political research, and based on solid empirical evidence. It scored high on all criteria, such as research innovation, methodological awareness, knowledge accumulation, research effort and clarity of execution. The thesis offers a new and complex perspective of the 'culture of martyrdom' underlying political experiences of suicide bombing. It proposes a multi-dimensional and interactive model of how such culture emerges and is fostered, mixing psychological, organisational and cultural levels of analysis, and borrowing from a variety of literatures such as social identity and social movement theories. It attempts to confirm its thesis by counterfactual arguments, and addresses a political problem of topical relevance.

2009 - Daniel Mügge

Widen The Market Narrow The Competition Book Cover
Widen the Market, Narrow the Competition
- Daniel Mügge
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Daniel Mügge for his thesis ‘Widen the Market, Narrow the Competition: The Emergence of Supranational Governance in EU Capital Markets’. The jury (Alfio Mastropaolo, Susan Scarrow and Vincent Hoffmann-Martinot) considered this thesis to be extremely well written, fascinating and timely. An excellent dissertation in international political economy, addressing a key issue concerning the supranationalisation of governance: How can we best understand changes in patterns of governance in relation to shifting market structures? The prize was awarded during the Joint Sessions of Workshops in Münster in March 2010. The thesis was developed into a book and was published in 2010 as an ECPR Monograph.Widen the Market, Narrow the Competition.

2008 - Silja Häusermann

Silja Häusermann (European University Institute, Florence) for her thesis analysed the adaptation of continental welfare states to post-industrial risk structures.

2007 - Tanja Aalberts

Tanja Aalberts (Leiden University) for her thesis 'Politics of Sovereignty'. Since August 2006, Tanja E. Aalberts has been Assistant Professor at Leiden University, Department of Political Science. She obtained an MA in 1999 in Public Administration and Management (Bestuurskunde) at Twente University, Enschede, and in 2000 an MscEcon. in International Politics at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. In June 2006, she defended her dissertation Politics of Sovereignty, which was prepared at the Political Science Department of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and was awarded to her cum laude.

2006 - Daniel Naurin

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Deliberation Behind Closed Doors
- Daniel Naurin
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Daniel Naurin (University of Gothenburg) was awarded the 2006 PhD Prize during the inaugural ECPR Graduate Conference at the University of Essex in September 2006 for his thesis 'Dressed for Politics: Why increasing transparency in the European Union will not make lobbyists behave any better than they already do'. A revised version of this work was published in the ECPR Monographs series in 2007 under the title Deliberation Behind Closed Doors.

2005 - Laura Morales Diez De Ulzurrun

Joining Political Organisations
Joining Political Organisations
- Laura Morales
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Laura Morales Diez De Ulzurrun (Universidad de Murcia) for her thesis 'Institutions, Mobilisation, and Political Participation: Political Membership in Western Countries'. A developed version of Dr Morales' thesis was published by the ECPR Press in 2008 under the title Joining Political Organisations.

2004 - Kevin Casas Zamora

Paying for Democracy
Paying for Democracy
- Kevin Casas Zamora
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Kevin Casas Zamora (University of Oxford), for his thesis 'Paying for Democracy in Latin America: Political Finance and State Funding for Parties in Costa Rica and Uruguay'. Dr Casas Zamora's thesis has since been developed into a book, and was published by the ECPR Press in 2005 under the title Paying for Democracy.


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