New at Leuphana: Prof. Dr. Andrea Kretschmann - Serious Games

2021-03-16 The sociologist and criminologist examines, for instance, how the police prepare for protest rallies and thus inevitably structure their own view of real demonstrations. Her research focuses on the sociology of culture as well as political sociology and the sociology of law and crime, understood in terms of cultural theory.

[Translate to Englisch:] Andrea Kretschmann ©Andrea Kretschmann
Andrea Kretschmann is Professor of Cultural Sociology at Leuphana University Lüneburg and an associate researcher at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin.

Houses with shuttered windows, dirty shop signs and grey concrete: all this looks like a small shopping street somewhere in a British industrial town. Except that nobody lives there and never has. This street serves solely as a training ground for the police. Andrea Kretschmann, professor of cultural sociology, has done research on the policing of protest in several European countries and studied these artificial cities. Often hundreds of police officers simulate demonstrations there: Some of the training participants play demonstrators while others remain as police officers. There are self-made banners; speeches are held and slogans are shouted, stones made of cold foam or wood are thrown and cars are set on fire. Molotov cocktails also fly at many of these police trainings: "In Northern Ireland, police officers wanted to show me how emotional these moments are and how they feel. I put on one of those protective suits. It was very complex and hard to do without help. Then I was pelted with Molotov cocktails and felt the heat of the fire on my leg," the researcher describes. With the help of ethnography, i.e. participant observation and interviews, she investigates the reality-creating effect of these "serious games": "The simulation games have an effect on real behaviour. The sensuality of the simulations makes the experiences particularly memorable," the researcher explains.

The way demonstrations are imagined is influential: In most of the countries examined, the exercises were reminiscent for long stretches of civil-war-like conditions. The exercise demonstrations are usually designed as left-liberal to left-radical protests: "There are indications that real demonstrations are linked by association with such representations. Therefore, the question to what extent sections of reality are selectively or perhaps also distortedly represented is relevant," says Andrea Kretschmann.

This format of police training has only existed for a few decades: "Until the 1960s, there were really only two scenarios for demonstrations: The police let protests proceed or they broke them up." Consequences were serious injuries on the part of the demonstrators or even deaths. As a result, public pressure grew on the police to develop other forms of policing: "The police is an unwieldy institution that does not renew itself very much. The reason lies also in its task of preserving what already exists." Today, societies wanted to know earlier what could be dangerous in the future. This understanding leads to stronger preventive work by the police, also with regard to demonstrations: "Until the 1970s, the police reacted mainly when a crime had happened. Today, they try to intervene before it happens," explains Andrea Kretschmann. At the same time, the perception of security and insecurity has changed and the threshold for police intervention has been lowered: "Today, many social problems are framed as security problems. Begging, for example, used to be a primarily social problem, but today it is increasingly perceived as a security problem. I intend to reflect academically on what form of statehood is emerging in light of this."

Andrea Kretschmann's research focuses on how society deals with social and political problems and conflicts. Cultural-sociological questions that always also pursue a sociological-theoretical interest, such as simulation as a form of theatrical play, serve as a bracket. For instance, she continues to do research on the legal emergence of laypersons. In existing research, there is a bias towards seeing law as emerging primarily from the actions of legal experts. A cultural-sociological view of law would reveal that laypersons have a much stronger influence on law than has been assumed up to now. In addition to the everyday use of law by laypersons, the political use of legal forms is particularly interesting in this regard: "For about 30 years, there has been a boom in strategic lawsuits, but we also increasingly see a symbolic use of law, such as in the Monsanto Tribunal," says Andrea Kretschmann. A special case, she says, was the imagining of one's own law by the Reichsbürger, who even conduct court cases or draw new national borders on this basis. This reveals something about the legitimacy of modern law itself, as well as about the transformation of law by these actors.

Andrea Kretschmann studied sociology and criminology at the University of Hamburg and Middlesex University London. She habilitated in sociology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and received her doctorate at Bielefeld University (Faculty of Sociology). Visiting professorships, positions as research associate, or research stays have taken her, among others, to the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin, the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris, the International Research Centre for Cultural Studies (IFK) at Linz University of the Arts in Vienna, the Centre de recherches sociologiques sur le droit et les institutions pénales (CESDIP) in Versailles, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS) in Vienna and the Institute for the Sociology of Law & Crime in Vienna. Andrea Kretschmann is Professor of Cultural Sociology at Leuphana University Lüneburg and an associate researcher at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin.


  • Prof. Dr. Andrea Kretschmann