Aspects of Democracy

A research-based podcast on democracy and the aspects needed to make it work

Welcome to the podcast series Aspects of Democracy where we talk about potential key aspects of sustainable democracy. Researchers with experience from democracy research discuss aspects like equity, accountability and public participation - do we need these aspects and how can they help strengthen democracy?

The podcast series is brought to you by the political science unit at Linköping University and hosted by Helena Iacobaeus, PhD student in political science. For questions or suggestions on topics, please send a e-mail to

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Artwork for the podcast Aspects of Democracy.

The public servant – red tape technocrat or guardian of democracy?

Who are the public servants, and what impact does their work have in our lives? Are they perhaps devoted and just servants of the people - guardians of democracy – or are they rather dishonest and arbitrary?

Based on earlier research and on her own research on street-level bureaucracy, PhD student Helena Iacobaeus argues that reality is more complex than these two extremes, but that there are things we can do to promote good sides of public institutions and create incentives for public servants as guardians of democracy.

Tune in to listen to the summer episode of Aspects of Democracy! After that, the next episode will be released on September 1st. Have a nice summer!
The host Helena Iacobaeus is looking into the camera with headphones on her head.

The public library – a treasure trove of democracy

Are literature and culture important to democracy? Is the public library a book storage or a democratic living room - or is it perhaps a flexible resource as well as a room?

In this episode of Aspects of Democracy, I meet Johanna Vernqvist, associate professor in comparative literature, and we talk about the role of libraries and reading, partly based on her fascinating research at the library of Löfstad Castle and the women in and behind the book collection.

Tune in to hear about poetry, empowerment and age-old leatherbound books!
Episode guest Johanna Vernqvist is standing reading a book.
Anna Nilsen

A stroll at the Agora – local political arenas of today

All year round, democracy is repeatedly and discreetly upheld in local council meetings. But what happens if these meetings disappear as a physical place? Fredrik Garcia, PhD student in political science, is writing a thesis on city council meetings and shares results on effects that COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing had on local decision-making.

This episode touches on big topics such as the birth of democracy and gender differences in floor time in politics, but also mentions the little things such as the upside and woe of starting a PhD with earlier work life experiences.

Read the article mentioned in the episode on council meetings during the pandemic.

Tune in to hear about the local political arena – or what the ancient Greek might call the Agora – of today!
Picture of episode guest Fredrik Garcia.

A sustainable planet for sustainable democracy: Who votes for future citizens?

Podcast anniversary! We celebrate by looking forward into the future. What we decide today and how we live our lives will also affect coming generations. Veronica Brodén Gyberg, associate professor at Linköping university, talks about sustainability and about her research on preconditions for just climate adaptation. The end of the cross-disciplinary project on just transition in Sweden mentioned in the episode was marked by a roundtable, panel and arts exhibition.

The exhibition was created together with citizens of the studied places. Another example of Veronica’s engagement in cross-disciplinary work is the research project on sustainable management of Amazon forest which is a collaboration between natural and social scientists to explore win-win solutions for resource utilization and climate mitigation.

Join us to hear her reflect on the world we create for future generations!
Episode guest Veronica Brodén Gyberg smiling and looking into the camera.

Freedom of speech and academic freedom

In this episode of Aspects of Democracy, Professor Claudia Tazreiter reflects on a fundamental right in modern democracy – freedom of speech. How can we safeguard this right and are there limits where freedom of speech might conflict with other rights? Based on her work in the Scholars at Risk network, an international network for protection of threatened scholars and promotion of academic freedom, she also talks about the importance of freedom to study, research, and teach without facing threats and oppression.

Claudia’s research focuses on the impacts of forced and irregular migration on human rights culture, the role of civil society in social change, and gender in migration. She is also currently Swedish representative in the European Advocacy Committee. Tune in to hear her reflect on a key aspect of democracy!
Episode guest Claudia Tazreiter is standing outside and looking into the camera.


What is the meaning of citizenship and is this kind of “nation-state membership” still relevant in a global world? Dr. Mariana S. Gustafsson, assistant professor in political science joins the podcast to talk about citizenship as a concept and about the individual citizen’s voice, choice and engagement in relation to the state.

The poem Helena is spontaneously mistranslating in the episode is Nils Ferlin’s “Si världen är förklarad”. Join us to hear Mariana’s reflections on citizenship!
Picture of episode guest Mariana Gustafsson.


Today’s episode focuses on trust. What makes us trust each other, and how can the level of trust in society affect democracy? Are there differences between age groups or between cities and rural areas in this aspect?

Based on his research, Dr Richard Öhrvall, assistant professor at the Centre for Local Government Studies at LiU, talks about trust between people in local communities but also about the importance of stable and fair institutions that can form a base for trust among the population. Ring in 2024 with our New Year’s episode!
Picture of episode guest Richard Öhrvall.

Resilience in turbulent times

How can democratic states cope with and recover from hardship like pandemics, unrest, and war? In this episode of Aspects of Democracy, Professor Irina Kolupaieva joins us to reflect on resilience in times of crisis. With examples from her own research on digital resilience and democratization through public administration, she talks about how to work for resilient institutions and solutions in unstable times.

Irina is a Professor from Kharkiv National University of Radioelectronics in Ukraine and, currently, guest researcher in Economics at Linköping University. Join us to hear her reflect on the importance of resilience!
Portrait picture of episode guest Irina Kolupaieva.

The educated citizen

Today we address the classic issue of education – what do you need to know in order to be an active citizen? Andreas Fejes, professor of adult education, talks about the importance of educated citizens, both at an individual level and for a lively democracy in general.

With examples from research in folk high schools, municipal adult education and study associations, he connects education to the ability of citizenship acts and claiming of rights. Tune in to hear about his views on education as a key aspect of democracy!
Episodeguest Andreas Fejes is smiles at the camera.

The role of the elected representative

What is the role of the politician and who are suitable to fill that role? Except for voting, what more can we do as citizens to ensure that we get able, skilled, and compassionate politicians?

In this episode of Aspects of Democracy, Daniel Bladh, PhD student in education and adult learning, talks about elected representatives based on his research on political party schooling and learning in politics.

The thesis mentioned in the episode - Didactical choices in the political party democracy – was presented on September 29th and can be found here.

Portrait picture of episode guest Daniel Bladh.

The voice of the minorities – minority rights in majority decision-making

Today’s episode brings up minority rights and minority voices in majority governance. What can minority rights mean and how have they been addressed in modern history and current research? Are they important to safeguard, and what happens if we don’t? To illustrate the relation and potential conflicts between majority rule and minority rights, associate professor Khalid Khayati takes us on a journey through state formation, diasporic living conditions, French philosophy, Canadian multiculturalism, the Arab spring, and budding democratisation movements.

Khalid wrote his thesis on the diasporic communities and transnational relations among Kurds in Sweden and France and is currently carrying out research on Middle Eastern politics and democratisation movements in the Middle East and northern Africa. Tune in to hear him reflect on minority rights as a key aspect of democracy!
Portrait of episode guest Khalid Khayati.

Equity in public service provision

In this episode of Aspects of Democracy, we welcome back Dr Philippa Barnes, political scientist and policy analyst in foreign affairs, to talk about the concept of equity in public service provision. What does equity mean and why is it important for us as citizens? Based on earlier research, she also reflects on why it is a valuable aspect of a trust-worthy and sustainable democracy.

Tune in to hear more!

Read the literature review that is mentioned in the episode.
The literature review that is mentioned in the episode.

Digital inclusion

This podcast episode brings up digital inclusion of citizens as a key aspect of modern democracy. In more and more digitalised states, where public services turn to e-services, citizens need new skills and access to be able take part of public information and public services.

Our guest, PhD student Ahmed Kaharevic, is currently writing a thesis on digital inclusion and participation. Today, he is going to talk about digital inclusion research in general, but also about his own field studies in marginalized Swedish suburbs where he and his colleagues focus on voices that are seldom heard in the debate on digital inclusion.
Episodeguest Ahmed Kaharevic is standing outside and smiles at the camera.

Accountability and transparency in public institutions

How do we know what to expect from the government? If we don’t know, how does that influence our views on the legitimacy of democracy and affect our behaviour towards others? In this episode of Aspects of Democracy, Professor Elin Wihlborg talks about the importance of accountability and transparency in governance.

Elin is professor in political science with a broad background from welfare and democracy research in local and national contexts, as well as in international networks. She is currently researching fundamental values of digital society. Tune in to hear her thoughts on two key aspects of democracy!
Guest Elin Wihlborg is standing at her desk and looking happy into the camnera.

Public participation in democratic processes

In this first episode of the podcast series Aspects of Democracy, we are joined by Dr Philippa Barnes when we talk about public participation and what it can mean for sustainable democracy.

Phillippa has done field research on civic society in a conflict area, worked as a senior lecturer in political science and is currently a policy analyst in foreign affairs. In her PhD, she focused on Palestinian political leadership during the liberation, peace and state-building processes.

Join us to hear her reflect on the values and challenges of public participation in democratic processes!

Profile picture of the guest Philippa Barnes which participates in the podcast Aspects of Democracy.

Trailer: Introducing Aspects of Democracy

Welcome to the new podcast series Aspects of Democracy where we talk about potential key aspects of sustainable democracy. Researchers with experience from democracy research discuss aspects like equity, accountability and public participation - do we need these aspects  and how can they help strengthen democracy?

The podcast series is brought to you by the political science unit at Linköping University and hosted by Helena Iacobaeus, PhD student in political science.

The first episode of Aspects of Democracy will be released April 1 st and don't forget to follow us on Apple Podcaster, Spotify and Google Podcaster so you don't miss any new episodes.
The host Helena Iacobaeus sitting in a studio talking into the mic.

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