Marianne Maeckelbergh - PaDC

PaDC: Property and Democratic Citizenship

Description of the PI

Marianne MaeckelberghMarianne Maeckelbergh is Professor of Political Anthropology at Ghent University and Professor of Global Sociology at Leiden University. Her research explores how people's everyday political practices inform and transform the way we understand democracy. Her pervious work focused on how emerging forms of self-determination within global social movements challenged core assumptions underlying classic notions of democracy. She has also worked on responses to economic crises, digital citizenship, and independent media infrastructures.

She obtained her PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Sussex, UK in 2008 after obtaining her MA in Social Anthropology of Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. In February 2008, she became Assistant Professor in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at Leiden University. From 2014-2016 she was visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley on a Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship. And for short periods of time in 2017 and 2018 she was also  visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge and Universitat Pompeu Fabra. In 2015 she received the NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) Aspasia grant through which she expanded her multi-sited ethnographic research on political engagement and democratic citizenship as Associate Professor, and later, Full Professor at Leiden University.

Currently, she is the Principle Investigator on the “Property and Democratic Citizenship” project funded by the European Research Council which uses conflicts over property to explore how various property regimes impact people's experiences of citizenship across five democratic countries (Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, and the US). Her other research interests include anthropological approaches to personhood, agency, urban transformation, media and digital technology.

She is the author of The Will of the Many: How the Alterglobalisation Movement is Changing the Face of Democracy (Pluto Press, 2009) and co-producer of the film series.

Description of the project

PaDCThe Property and Democractic Citizenship project explores the impact of property regimes on experiences of citizenship across five democratic countries: Greece, The Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Property rights are a foundational element of democracy, but the right to private property exists in tension with values of equality and a right to shelter. An investigation of property is urgent given the recent normalisation of economic models that have resulted in millions of evictions every year. Through an ethnographic study of conflicts over property this research provides a comparative analysis of the benefits and limitations of contemporary property regimes for democratic citizenship. A property regime is defined as the combination of moral discourses about real landed property with the regulatory policies and market mechanisms that shape the use, sale and purchase of property. The selected countries represent a diverse set of property regimes, but all five are experiencing a housing and eviction crisis that has created new forms of disadvantage, exacerbated inequalities of race, gender, age and income, and led to social unrest. This research critically examines the concept of property through  a qualitative approach centred on moments of conflict resulting from the use, sale or purchase of specific properties to answer: how do property regimes shape people's experience of citizenship and what can this tell us about the role of property in contemporary models of democratic governance?

This research provides the opportunity to rethink the role of property within democracy based on extensive empirical data about how moral assumptions combine with particular ways of regulating and marketing property to exacerbate, alleviate or create inequalities within contemporary experiences of democratic citizenship.

The full research team is as follows:

Principal Investigator:

  • Marianne Maeckelbergh (US case study);


four PhD researchers:

  • Aleksandra Hall (UK case study),
  • Marta Ill-Raga (Spain case study),
  • Theodoros Karyotis (Greek case study),
  • Seppe Malfait (Netherlands case study);


two postdoctoral researchers:

  • Carlos Delclós (Comparative research, based at the Autonomous University of Barcelona) 
  • Christina Sakali (cross-case comparative research).



Publications: orcid