‘We need to leave our academic bubble if we want to prevent people descending into the spiral of populist thinking.’

  • 2021-09-01
  • Miriam Hoffmeyer

Psychologist Hannah Nussmann has been a research associate at Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts since 2019 where she is conducting research into ‘Psychology and psychological violence in the GDR’. During her master’s degree course at the University of Wuppertal, in 2018 she undertook a five-month research stay at the University Putra Malaysia.

I found the EU Ideas Lab exciting for several reasons. The format was something new to me: You do not simply discuss theory after lectures but go straight into practice and try to apply the knowledge creatively. That was really enjoyable! I wish my studies could have included an event like this, where people collaborate to find new practical applications for what they have learned. Our discussion was approached from many perspectives because the Lab participants came from very different disciplines. This enabled us to discern larger correlations despite the shortage of time.

Right-wing populism isn’t my field of research, but I’m personally interested in the topic.After all it is not just relevant to German society, but worldwide. In Malaysia – a multicultural country with many ethnic minorities – I observed how politicians use populist rhetoric against certain population groups to divert attention from economic problems. This mechanism operates everywhere. The discussion regarding right-wing populism is very theoretical in Germany – yet we need to leave our academic bubble if we want to prevent people descending into the spiral of populist thinking.

Our working group’s workshop on ‘Institutions of civil society under pressure – churches and trade unions’ developed the idea of an EU funding programme for trade union projects to create new art and cultural spaces, particularly in structurally weak regions. Because that’s precisely where a lack of services that occurs which could encourage people to leave their own microcosm in the first place, to engage with other people and then hopefully work together to solve problems. Now we’ll develop this idea further so we can present it at the EU alumni meeting in Berlin in 2022. I was by the way amazed at how many great ideas came out of the four workshops!

Continue reading on the Alumniportal Deutschland


‘We’re reclaiming our country’, is a battle cry of modern right-wing populism in Europe. What would happen if right-wing populists were to form a government? And what can democratic civil society do to oppose that? DAAD alumni from Germany, Austria and Hungary addressed these issues in an online EU Ideas Lab.


Last year we asked DAAD scholarship holders about their thoughts on Europe. What are their wishes, what are their fears?

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