Protests in Berlin (photo by the author)

I came to Germany in 2017. Before it, I had spent two years studying for my master’s degree in Sweden. When I was not in Europe, I was based in Taiwan, working for a professor who has been a well-known environmental activist. This is how I have built my interest in social movement and autonomous initiatives. And why did I choose the refugee social movement as the topic of my dissertation? I guess there are two reasons. First of all, refugees – or any other kind of migration – will always be part of many societies. Therefore, by doing this research, I might contribute to the debates and discussions practically and theoretically. Second of all, everyone can be rendered a refugee. As a Taiwanese, I always harbor the fear of becoming a refugee due to China’s ambition of expansion and invasion. So this dissertation is like my own perspective to reflect upon how people can get deeper supports or power if they are forced to leave their homes one day. 

The topic of my dissertation is “How hegemony develops with refugee-friendly groups as potential organic intellectuals”. I am conducting my research through the lens of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci’s concepts of hegemony and organic intellectuals. Basically, organic intellectuals are the leaders and organizers of a social group. Nevertheless, even as the “leaders”, they have to constantly go back to the people they lead, listening to and learning from them. By forming these dialectical, reciprocal, and thus organic links, the intellectuals can articulate the interests and positions of this group in a better or different way within the society. In this regard, we may say that organic intellectuals are also promoting a cultural project which implies an alternative worldview or a new way of living. This cultural project is open to everyone in society. In other words, if others believe that this novel worldview also speaks to their interests, they will join in. As such, these others consent to be led by the leading social group (which crafts the project); in this case, we may say that this leading group holds hegemony over the other social groups. The more people/groups in this project, the more hegemonic the leading group becomes. 

Drawing on this theoretical mindset, I explore how refugee-friendly groups’ worldviews can take hold in German society. Accordingly, I reflect upon whether they have the potential to be organic intellectuals. Lastly, based on these two pillars, I investigate the geographical meaning behind hegemony development.