Project Researchers

Julia Leser

© Marcus Held

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the project Challenging Populist Truth-Making in Europe: The Role of Museums in a Digital ‘Post-Truth’ European Society (CHAPTER), which is based at the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage (CARMAH) at the Institute for European Ethnology at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. I studied Political Science and Japanese Studies at Waseda University (Japan) and Leipzig University (Germany), where I obtained my PhD degree in 2019. My prior research affiliations include the BMBF-funded project Strangers in Their Own Land? (Leipzig University), the BMBF-funded project Beyond the Glass Ceiling (TU Darmstadt, HAWK Hildesheim/Holzminden/Göttingen), and the DFG-funded project Institutionalizing Human Trafficking – A French-German Comparison (Leipzig University/CESDIP Guyancourt).

My research is located at the intersections of political science and political anthropology, and I am interested in political ethnography, affect studies, police and policing, as well as nationalism and far-right politics. For my dissertation, I have been doing ethnographic research on the German police and the state. In connecting police ethnography with affect theory, I have explored the constitution, withdrawal, and (un)governability of subjects – in particular, sex workers and victims of human trafficking – in the everyday practices of police officers. With this work, I focus on the role of affects in mechanisms of power, dynamics of governance and the making of social orders. For my postdoc project, I have been working ethnographically on the contemporary rise of nationalism and the normalization of far-right politics in (Eastern) Germany. This has started with ethnographic work on the circulation of national narratives and practices of ‘banal’ nationalism in contemporary Germany, participant observations of party meetings and public events of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), and continues in my current work on the instrumentalisation and use of heritage and monuments by the far right in Germany, Poland and the UK.

My first co-authored book (with Rebecca Pates), The Wolves are Coming Back: The Politics of Fear in Eastern Germany, was published in 2021 by Manchester University Press. The book offers an analysis of the politicisation of the returning wolves to Eastern Germany by the populist far right as part of the political project of normalising notions of belonging, exclusion, environment, and Heimat.

Within the German Political Science Association, I have co-founded the Working Group Political Ethnography, and in this capacity, co-organized workshops on critical ethnography, the politics of ethnographic writing, and power dynamics of ethnographic relations since 2020.

Last updated: October 31, 2023




The wolves are coming back. The politics of fear in Eastern Germany. 2021. Co-Author, with Rebecca Pates. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Publications

Professorinnen an Kunst- und Musikhochschulen im Spannungsfeld zwischen Theorie und Praxis: Der Einfluss informeller Praktiken und künstlerischer Feldlogiken. 2023. Co-Author, with Ricarda Kramer, Tanja Paulitz, & Leonie Wagner. Zeitschrift für empirische Hochschulforschung, 6(1), pp. 45–61.

Entre coopération et conflit: La «coopération de confiance» entre la police et les centres de consultation spécialisés dans l’accompagnement des victimes de la traite des êtres humains. 2022. Co-Author, with Anne Dölemeyer. Cultures & Conflits, 122, pp. 47–65.

Affektive Komplexität in rechten Kontexten – Methodologische Impulse. 2021. Co-Author, with Florian Spissinger. Forum Kritische Psychologie, Neue Folge 3. krise – autoritäre tendenzen – subjektivität, pp. 94–112.

On the sensory policing of vices. Morality at work in a German vice squad. 2020. Journal of Extreme Anthropology, 4(1), pp. 22–44. Open Access.

The category of ‘culture’ in vice squad policing in Germany. 2020. Sociologus, 70(1), pp. 57–72.

The functionality of affects: conceptualizing far-right populist politics beyond negative emotions. 2020. Co-Author, with Florian Spissinger. Global Discourse, 10(2), pp. 325–342.

Ostdeutsche Identität(en) im Wandel? Perspektiven für Intra- und Interkohortenvergleiche. 2020. Co-Author, with Lars Vogel. Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft, 14, pp. 171–197.

Performing ‘resistance’ – the far right’s master narrative. 2019. Co-Author, with Jamela Homeyer, Florian Spissinger, & Tobias Neidel. The Journal of Culture, 8(1), pp. 13–21.

On the affective governmentality of anti-trafficking efforts: an ethnographic exploration. 2019. Co-Author, with Rebecca Pates. Journal of Political Power, 12(3), pp. 339–357.

The Emotional Leviathan: How street-level bureaucrats govern human trafficking victims. 2017. Co-Author, with Rebecca Pates, & Anne Dölemeyer. Digithum, 19, pp. 19–36. Open Access.

Schwierige Verhältnisse. Menschenhandelsopfer und Geschlecht vor Gericht. 2016. Co-Author, with Rebecca Pates, & Anne Dölemeyer. Femina Politica, 25(1), pp. 24–38.

Chapters in Books and Edited Volumes

“Wolf Politics. Modi der (Nicht)Regierbarkeit in den Peripherien Ostdeutschlands.” 2023. In Rechtspopulismen der Gegenwart. Kulturwissenschaftliche Irritationen, C. Hentschel & S. Wellgraf (Eds.). Spector Books, in print.

“The Functionality of Affects: Conceptualising Far-Right Populist Politics beyond Negative Emotions.” 2023. Co-Author, with Florian Spissinger. In The Politics of Negative Emotions, D. Degerman (Ed.). Bristol University Press, pp. 156–176.

“Negotiating the Territories of Anti-Trafficking Efforts: The “Unlikely Cooperation” Between Police Officers and Social Workers in Germany.” 2022. Co-Author, with Anne Dölemeyer. In Trafficking and Sex Work, M. Darley (Ed.). Routledge, pp. 68–83.

“The Framing of Right-Wing Populism: Intricacies of ‘Populist’ Narratives, Emotions, and Resonance.” 2021. Co-Author, with Rebecca Pates. In The Palgrave Handbook of Populism, M. Oswald (Ed.). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham., pp. 437–450.

“Die Übersetzung situativer ‚Bauchgefühle’ in eine Analyse politischer Affekte: Potentiale ethnografischer Affektforschung für die Untersuchung von rechter Politik.” 2021. Co-Author, with Florian Spissinger. In Gesellschaft unter Spannung. Verhandlungen des 40. Kongresses der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie 2020. B. Blättel-Mink (Ed.). Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie, pp. 1–11.

“Toxische Orte? Faktoren der regionalen Anfälligkeit für völkischen Nationalismus.” 2020. Co-Author, with Mary Dellenbaugh-Losse, Jamela Homeyer, & Rebecca Pates. In Rechtes Denken – Rechte Räume, L. Berg & J. Üblacker (Eds.). Bielefeld: transcript. Open Access.

“Befindlichkeiten des Demos – Zur politischen Funktion von Affekten im Zeichen des Populismus und einer „Krise“ der Demokratie.” 2019. Co-Author, with Rebecca Pates, & Florian Spissinger. In Komplexe Dynamiken globaler und lokaler Entwicklungen. Verhandlungen des 39. Kongresses der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie in Göttingen 2018, N. Burzan (Ed.). Göttingen: DGS. Open Access.

“Policing the absence of a victim: An ethnography of raids in sex trafficking operations.” 2018. In Policing the Sex Industry: Protection, Paternalism and Politics, T. Sanders & M. Laing (Eds.). Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge, pp. 109–125.

Other Academic Writing (Invited Blog Posts, Project Reports, Etc.)

State sensorium. Rethinking the role of senses and affects in street-level bureaucrats’ discretion. 2022. PoLAR – Political and Legal Anthropology Review, Virtual Edition on Bureaucracy and Tactics.

Museums and populism(s) – Perspectives from an emerging field of research. 2022. Co-Author, with Alice Millar, Marlena Nikody and Pia Schramm. CARMAH Reflections.

“Vorwort.” 2022. In Pauline Betche, Das Politikum Wolf. Spurensuche nach den politischen Funktionalisierungen eines denaturalisierten Tieres, Logos Verlag Berlin, pp. 3–4.

Die Nation als Exklusionsmaschine (Interactive Scrollitelling). 2021. Co-Author, with Tobias Neidel, Florian Spissinger, Jamela Stratenwerth. PoliLab.

Affective politics of the far right beyond negative emotions. 2020. Co-Author, with Florian Spissinger. Global Discourse Blog.