Zsuzsanna Szelényi: “My work focuses on how we can recognise the level of polarization that goes beyond the pluralist democratic debate and how to avoid the polarisation gap.”

Meet our next Richard von Weizsäcker Fellows

More than 70 decision-makers and opinion leaders from all over the world have spent a residency at the Robert Bosch Academy. The institution of the Robert Bosch Stiftung is looking forward to welcoming more fellows in the upcoming months.


Residencies at the Robert Bosch Academy facilitate confidential exchange and solution-oriented cooperation among the fellows on issues of global relevance. They are provided with the intellectual and physical space to think and exchange with other fellows, German and European experts, and with the public in order to stimulate novel perspectives and new solutions for their research topics.

Europe: its institutions and challenges

As a fellow, Zsuzsanna Szelényi will work on how to counter democratic backsliding, one of the key problems of the European Union, as she sees it. “There is toxic polarization behind all of the current destructive forces in Europe, which can easily paralyze entire societies and indeed all of the continent”, she argues. The Hungarian politician and expert in foreign policy fears that without facing this challenge, Europe cannot provide security, stability and well-being to its citizens.

Bolstering Europe’s collective character is at the heart of Natalie Nougayrède’s project. Her challenge, as she puts it, is: “How to build a new pan-European digital media initiative to open up minds and help citizens to better understand and engage with complex realities across our diverse continent.” At the Robert Bosch Academy, she says that she has the opportunity “to convene people, brainstorm, and rally support for a diversity-designed, citizen-centric media initiative that would help to break out of national silos and other dividing lines.”

Europe is at the crux of Lilia Shevtsova’s endeavours, too. A Russian political scientist and journalist, she wants to enrich the Russian intellectual community’s knowledge of Russia as an actor on the continent. German domestic debates and foreign policy will be at the core of her research. “Current geopolitical challenges and among them Russia versus the West” will be central to her project, she says, as will ”misperceptions and fallacies that influence Russia and the West.”

Geopolitics and the crumbling of the liberal international system

Similarly, Galip Dalay will gain access to German and European policy makers, as well as Germany’s intellectual community, in order to come to grips with their approaches to radicalism and refugees in the greater Middle East. He assumes that there is a “link between a rise of populism and of identity politics in the West and the collapse or lack of a regional order in the Middle East”. “The high-quality, international and intellectual policy network of the Robert Bosch Academy”, he says, will greatly benefit his fellowship.

Stability is also a concern of Pierre Hazan, a Senior Transitional Justice Adviser with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva: “I will be working on how divided societies deal with their difficult past.” A particular emphasis will be on state-society relations, which often are the root cause for tensions and conflicts, he argues.

Changing Economy and Society

Dennis Shirley, Professor of Education at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, will work on how new technologies influence schools, workplaces and society. “I will be interviewing Germans from a wide variety of leadership positions on the impact of technological change on schools and society”, he says. “The research findings will be written to inform the public and policy makers about the far-reaching transformation of work and how it should minimize its problems and maximize benefits.”

The reduction of barriers is the subject of British-Canadian journalist and author Douglas Saunders. “I will study the locations and neighbourhoods, in a variety of cities and economies”, he says, “where economic development and social mobility are blocked by economic, cultural or material obstacles – the specific places where the pathway to a middle-class economy is interrupted. And I will examine some of the policies, actions and initiatives that have succeeded in removing such obstacles to growth and progress.”

Pankaj Mishra, an essayist and novelist, expects the Robert Bosch Academy to be a congenial place for writing and intellectual stimulation: “I am going to be working on a short global history of masculinity – as a political and physical ideal that has shaped the life of modern societies”, he says.

Learning in Germany

The German approach to international cultural exchange will be the focus of JP Singh, Director of the Institute for International Cultural Relations at the University Edinburgh. “I will be working on a book on the importance of international cultural relations in these times of cultural anxiety and politics”, he explains.

Daniel Hamilton, Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation Professor at Johns Hopkins SAIS, explains his project on transatlantic relations as having three main aspects: “One is the impact of the digital revolution on diplomacy and statecraft. The second issue is how each side of the Atlantic is interacting with China, and whether there are prospects for shared approaches. The third issue is whether and how Europe can step up its security responsibilities in ways that can strengthen rather than weaken transatlantic bonds.” “German perspectives are central to each of these issues”, he argues.

In the upcoming months, the Robert Bosch Academy also welcomes Joy Mboya, Executive Director of The GoDown Arts Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, and Hu Shuli, founder and publisher of Caixin Media.

Find out more in recent articles of the fellows and on public events of the Robert Bosch Academy.