Meet the Cluster Community: Lisa Mende

1. Why are you studying inequality?

Ultimately, for a very normative reason: I believe that democratic societies must minimize inequality as much as possible. But in order to do so, we first need to understand the different dimensions of inequality, find out why they exist, and in a final step explore what tools we can use to reduce inequality. The focus of my work is primarily on ethnic inequality. However, I am increasingly realizing how different dimensions of inequality are interconnected and that ethnic inequality needs to be explored together with social inequality.

2. What are you working on?

I am studying administrative inequality. More specifically, the process of applying for German citizenship in Germany. Depending on the county in which a person applies for German citizenship, the likelihood of being allowed to keep one's previous citizenship varies. In our project, we want to understand and explain in more detail why this is so. In a first step, however, I and our project team will try to define exactly what administrative inequality actually entails, and how citizenship application is legally regulated.

3. How did you end up here?

I always wanted to understand social phenomena in detail. Science provides the best tools and conditions for this. However, in a second step I would like to use the understanding I may have gained to improve political, social and administrative activity. In my opinion, in addition to the research process itself science also includes an obligation to transfer and to teach.

4. Recent highlight?

Actually, there have been quite a few highlights since I started my doctorate. However, two experiences were of particular importance to me: In early December, I completed my second master's degree in political and administrative science and received a lot of constructive criticism for my further scientific work. My second highlight was a writing workshop, where I got to know many other doctoral students at the University of Konstanz in a relaxed atmosphere and fundamentally improve my own style of working.

5. Dream research project?

The project I am currently working on is actually quite close to my dream project! Of course, there are always more aspects that you'd like to take into account, beyond what I'm already doing. During my PhD, for example, I would like to include the perspective of people applying for German citizenship even more. Furthermore, the lion's share of research in the field of citizenship is being done on Western countries. My dream project would therefore consider citizenship legislation and implementation in the Middle East and North Africa. Perhaps the two could also be combined to gain a transnational perspective. 

Lisa Mende is a PhD student at the Cluster of Excellence "The Politics of Inequality" at the University of Konstanz. She is a researcher in the cluster project "Administrative Inequality: The Case of Foreign Nationals in Germany". Her research interests include citizenship, (local) immigrant integration, ethnic and social inequalities and street-level bureaucracy.