Research Alliance TraCe

The history of modern societies and inter­national relations is usually told as a gradual renunc­iation of violence. However, there can be no talk of over­coming organized violence. On the contrary, current trends point in the opposite direction: world­wide conflict has in­creased in inten­sity again; globalization and techno­logical change make new forms of warlike and terrorist violence possible. These develop­ments point to trans­formations that challenge existing norms and practices for containing political violence. The Research Center “Trans­formations of Political Violence” (TraCe) examines these develop­ments with the aim of identi­fying the con­sequences for domestic and inter­national peace and deve­loping strategies to contain political violence under changing conditions.

The Research Center “Trans­formations of Political Violence” is a cooperative project of the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF), the Goethe University Frankfurt, the Justus Liebig University Giessen, the Philipps University Marburg and the Technical University Darmstadt. The idea for this joint project arose in the context of the close co­operation between PRIF and Goethe University (Normative Orders, ConTrust) as well as in the close exchange between the partner institutions involved. The TraCe joint project is an inter­disciplinary research initiative funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (duration: April 2022 - March 2026).

With the establish­ment of the research center, the partici­pating partner insti­tutions intensify their existing cooperation and bundle their expertise in inter­disciplinary research on violence. By deve­loping a thematic profile and establishing per­manent series of events, they are creating a regional center of excellence for research, teaching and know­ledge transfer that is inter­nationally visible and syste­matically contributes to the contain­ment and prevention of political violence.

The center brings together disciplinary pers­pectives from political science, sociology, history and law, social anthro­pology, social psychology, cultural and linguistic studies, and computer science, as well as various methodo­logical approaches. It syste­matically examines the inter­play of different types and levels of political violence in three thematic research fields as well as in a field of synergies.

Research Field 1 – Forms: Change and Continuity of Political Violence

In research field 1, the frag­mented findings on the historical and con­temporary change of political violence as well as its causes and conse­quences are compiled and syste­matically evaluated. With a focus on the role of global trends (inter­nationalization, techno­logical advances and climate change) for (intra)state dynamics of violence, replication studies and empirical analyses are conducted.

Research Field 2 – Institutions: Prevention and Legitimation of Political Violence

Research field 2 is based on the thesis of the current process of de-institutio­nalization. The inter­national norms and regimes for the preven­tion of political violence that emerged in the 19th and 20th centuries are currently con­fronted with develop­ments such as the non-compliance with existing law and the emergence of new forms of political violence that defy existing insti­tutions. The ambi­valence of insti­tutions that not only contain but also justify the use of violence will be empirically examined. Further­more, the nor­mative question of how new forms of political violence can be captured by insti­tutional regulations is addressed.

Research Field 3 – Interpretations: Attributions of meaning to political violence

Like any social practice, violence is subject to contested and change-producing processes of inter­pretation. As attributions of meaning, inter­pretations of violent pheno­mena operate with individual as well as with inter­subjective normative evaluations and thus at the same time (re)construct categorial boundaries. The inter­pretation of violence is a pro­foundly political practice that can influence its renewed use or contain­ment. Research field 3 deals with the power and implications of these changing inter­pretations and justi­fications of political violence.

Research Field 4 – Synergies: Conceptual and Theoretical Innovations

Research field 4 addresses funda­mental concep­tual, theoretical, and methodo­logical issues. The findings of research fields 1-3 will be integrated by examining the inter­actions between the change of forms of political violence, its insti­tutional contain­ment, and its political inter­pretation. Against this back­ground, the change of concepts and language as well as the affectivity and materiality of political violence will be analyzed.


The TraCe website can be reached here: