Coordination resulting from the partnership with the Federal University of Minas Gerais: Leonardo Avritzer



What is democracy? Where does the idea come from? How can it be justified and on what grounds? What are the boundaries? What transformations have occurred in the last century and what innovations mark the growth, in number and quality, of democratic regimes of the new millennium? Does the growth of formal democracies on the planet correspond to the intensification and consolidation of the democratic spirit? To what extent do the different democracies in the world show resilience in the face of the crises they are going through? Are we in a specific crisis stage of both democracy and its central institutions (parties, different levels of public administration, supranational institutions such as the European Union or Mercosur, city networks, among others), or are we facing a paradigmatic transformation? These and other queries at the backbone of the democratic theory constitute the starting point of the Doctoral Programme in "Democracy in the 21st Century".

This doctorate is an advanced interdisciplinary training programme which will promote a comprehensive and integrated perspective on the major challenges for democracies today. Focussing on the contemporary debate from the 21st century, the course offers an introduction to the acritical analysis of democratic theory and develops various emerging topics of great importance to the current international debate, such as political ecology, technopolitics, eurocentrism and antiracism, populist rhetoric, the relation between democracy and science, the experience of the communitarian and participatory democracy and the democracy dynamics at a regional and international level.

Benefiting from the extensive research experience of CES-Associated Lab, of the University of Coimbra's Faculty of Economy (FEUC) and of the partnership with the Doctoral Programme in Political Sciences of Minas Gerais Federal University (BR), this doctoral programme "Democracy in the 21st Century" critically debates on the North-South and South-South perspectives and frames the development of the advanced studies of the political phenomena within the European, African, Latin-American and Asian areas.

The doctoral programme "Democracy in the 21st Century" started in 2007/2008. It is a third cycle programme, in compliance with the organization formats proposed by Bologna Declaration and accredited by the Assessment and Accreditation Agency for Higher Education (A3ES).


The doctoral programme aims at contributing to an advanced training with a interdisciplinary and trans-scalar nature on the contemporary Democracy. Its objectives include:
1. Providing a systematic and critical understanding of Democracy, its suppositions, concepts and practices concerning the different local, regional and national contexts;
2. Promoting an in-depth discussion about issues, such as political ecology, technopolitics, populism, multiculturalism, integration/inclusion, political and civic participation and governance, among others;
3. Fostering an advanced research that puts the Political Science perspectives in dialogue with the Sociology perspectives, and leads to the production of high quality original results that deserve to be nationally and internationally disseminated, whose operationalization will encourage social and cultural progress within the Social Sciences;
4. Giving the students the opportunity of benefitting from the teaching-learning-research- action articulation;
5. Providing a space for the discussion and production of doctoral theses conducting an in-depth, critical and transdisciplinary analysis of political-sociological phenomena, with special focus on a comparative approach.
6. Provide students with spaces for debate and learning about research methodologies and ethics, including participatory monitoring and evaluation modalities of the themes and phenomena studied and analyzed throughout the doctoral course.


The doctoral programme articulates four main lines of research:

- Diversity and Citizenship
This line of research aims at comparing different approaches on citizenship and at deepening issues on cultural inclusion, interculturality, racial equality, and the struggle for recognition of cultural, religious and sexual orientation minorities. It focuses mainly on topics such as feminism, integration/inclusion politics, the struggle for racial equality and other related issues.

- Compared Democracies
This line of research aims at analysing practices pointing to the enrichment and innovation of democracy through different forms of citizen involvement in the territorial and budgetary planning and in the public policies decision-making process. Special focus is given to local and regional innovation, such as the Participatory Budget and knowledge democratization practices, namely the Health Councils and others related to the various people’s knowledges with specific action scopes of science and technology. Particular attention is also given to the re-constitutionalisation processes identified in many countries, for example, in countries in Africa and Latin-America, where civil-society based consultation processes have been activated, in a comparative approach. One of the topics that this Seminar covers and whose relevance is burgeoning is the one on technopolitics.it focus on the analysis of the rapidly changing relationships between technological transformations, new instruments, social networks and the modification of the ways of doing politics and organizing public policies, both from the top-down and bottom-up points of view.

- Participation, networks and social movements
This line of research aims at analysing emerging social movements and their interconnection networks, from a comprehensive understanding of the concept of "political" and the "politicisation" work. The discussion lies in the possibility of turning what appears to be non-political into political. This transformation implies approaching topics and experiences which have remained unseen to the majority of the civil society and to the State, as well as creating new power relations through actions and confrontations of great public exposure. The doctoral students’ research work in this area should focus on the comparison of these initiatives with other movements identified in previous periods and in diverse backgrounds. Special emphasis will be given to topics, such as political ecology and artistic movements committed to the struggle for the Right to the City.

- Global Governance
This line of research aims at identifying the global governance mechanisms and dynamics, questioning the place and density of the democracy within those processes and critically analysing its impact on democratic practices at a regional, national and local level. It also aims at exploring the connection between democracy, peace and conflict.

"The PhD DemoXXI gave me the opportunity to expand my knowledge (from feminism to participatory democracy, passing through ecology and anti-racism) and provided the necessary frameworks to study the state of current democracies. CES is the ideal place to critically analyse societies, democracy and power."

Marco Meloni, all but dissertation (Italy)

"CES is a pole of concentration of critical and diverse thinking. As an activist, CES provided me an intellectually stimulant environment to develop my ideas, discuss them and learn with academic-activists, students, researchers and professors from across the world."

Jonas Van Vossole, PhD (Belgium)