Project Researchers

Dr. Julia Leser

I am a political anthropologist and 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. My research is concerned with the role of emotions in knowledge production processes, in particular in political realms. My fields of interest include political anthropology, political ethnography, and affect studies, and further include national security and migration control, nationalism, populism, and political theory.

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).

For my doctoral research, I have carried out ethnographic research in a German police department for sexual offences, investigating the affective nature of police officers’ decision-making in their everyday practices. Since 2018, I have been conducting ethnographic research at populist parties’ meetings in Germany, focusing on the functions of affects in political practices and in producing ‘truths.’ Since 2020, I am one of the official speakers of the DVWP working group Political Ethnography.



The Wolves are Coming Back: The Politics of Fear in Eastern Germany. Co-author, with Rebecca Pates, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

“Affektive Komplexität in rechten Kontexten – Methodologische Impulse.” Co-Author, with Florian Spissinger. In Forum Kritische Psychologie, Neue Folge 3. krise – autoritäre tendenzen – subjektivität, A. Brensell, U. Eichinger, A. Hofmeister, J. Kalpein, C. Küpper, H.-P. Michels, T. Pappritz, K. Reimer-Gordinskaya, S. Vollmer, E. Wengemuth, M. Zander (Eds.). Hamburg: Argument Verlag, pp. 94–112.

“Die Übersetzung situativer ‚Bauchgefühle’ in eine Analyse politischer Affekte: Potentiale ethnografischer Affektforschung für die Untersuchung von rechter Politik.” 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.


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

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

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

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

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

“Toxische Orte? Faktoren der regionalen Anfälligkeit für völkischen Nationalismus.” Co-Author, with Mary Dellenbaugh-Losse, Jamela Homeyer, & Rebecca Pates. In Rechtes Denken – Rechte Räume, L. Berg & J. Üblacker (Eds.). Bielefeld: transcript, pp. 47–82. Open Access.


Performing ‘resistance’ – the far right’s master narrative. 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. Co-Author, with Rebecca Pates. Journal of Political Power, 12(3), pp. 339–357.

Befindlichkeiten des Demos – Zur politischen Funktion von Affekten im Zeichen des Populismus und einer „Krise“ der Demokratie. 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. In Policing the Sex Industry: Protection, Paternalism and Politics, T. Sanders & M. Laing (Eds.). Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge, pp. 109–125.


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


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