Alexandra Schwell

Professor of Empirical Cultural Analysis at the Department of Cultural Analysis, Klagenfurt University

has been conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Poland, Germany, and Austria in various settings such as state bureaucracies, the police, squats, anarchist meeting points, with expellees, border guards, and football fans. Her research focuses on the anthropology of the political, the translation, travelling and “doing” of policies on a European scale, and the way (in)securities are perceived, practised, performatively staged, and institutionalized.

Currently, she is interested in the concept of urgency as a political and emotional mobilization tool. Her current research focuses on the social imaginary of a large-scale blackout scenario.

Between 2018 and 2022, Alexandra served as convenor of the EASA Anthropology of Security Network (
Since January 2021, she has been the co-editor-in-chief of “Ethnologia Europaea”, (with Laura Stark, U Jyväskylä).

Research: Invoking Urgency

I seek to understand how urgency functions as a tool of mobilization in general and explore its anti-democratic and emancipatory potentialities. I argue that the less a sense of urgency is directed at a legitimate good, the more likely it is to function as a self-referential practice with a twofold effect: a self-perpetuating cycle of fear and anxieties and an increasing distance from and rejection of ordinary politics, both of which lead to an erosion of trust in democratic structures and institutions. My current research explores how the concept of urgency informs government blackout disaster scenarios and public campaigns.

You can find Alexandra and her work here

Selected Publications 

(2023). Invoking urgency: emotional politics and two kinds of anti-elitism. In: Moritz Ege and Johannes Springer (eds.): The Cultural Politics of Anti-Elitism. London; New York: Routledge. 

(2021). Imaginaries of Sovereignty. Visualizing the Loss of Control. Jahrbuch Migration und Gesellschaft/Yearbook Migration and Society 2020/2021 “Beyond Borders”. Bielefeld: transcript: 123-138. 

(2019). “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad …?”: Populism and the Threatened Border in Austria. Cargo 1-2: 25-48.