International Conference

Trust and Distrust in Governance: Exploring the Impact of Social and Political Dynamics

International Conference organised by the EU-funded EnTrust project

September 28-29, 2023 – University of Siena, Italy

Find the updated conference programme here.

Trust in governance is considered a pivotal element for democracy. In light of multiple and interrelated crises of recent years an increase of distrust in governance came to the fore and became a highly debated issue, both within the public and the academic field. At the same time, however, scepticism and distrust themselves are productive elements within the democratic arena, as it is a key role of democratic citizens or social movements to critically scrutinise the actions and decisions of governmental actors. This indicates a complex interrelation between trust and distrust, the factors that are responsible for these interrelations, and the ways how trust and distrust need to be evaluated. All these issues contribute to puzzling questions that still await clarification.

The processes of the construction of dis/trust take place on different levels (such as the local, national, European) and involve the individual citizens, collective actors such as social movements and political parties, political institutions, and public spheres. To unfold the dynamics of dis/trust and their consequences for democracy it is therefore indispensable to consider a variety of factors. These include socio-economic, political, cultural, and psychological aspects on the individual level, but also reciprocal relations and practices between citizens and various governance actors, political contestations and public debates on the collective level. Likewise, the heterogenous historical legacies or cultural contexts of (European) nations and regions need to be taken into account.

The conference takes up the overarching topic of trust and distrust in democratic governments and institutions and aspires to explore it in all its various dimensions and aspects.

We invite you to register as an observer to the conference. Please send an email to by September 15, 2023.


September 28, Thursday

08:30 – 09:00 | Registration

09:00 – 09:30 | Welcome / Opening Remarks

09:30 – 11:00 | Paper Presentations: Parallel Session (1 & 2)

Session One: The Realm of Bureaucracy, Local Institutions and the Creation of Dis/Trust

Session Two: The European Union as a Source and Target of Trust and Distrust

11:00 – 11:30 | Coffee Break

11:30 – 13:00 | Paper Presentations: Parallel Session (3 & 4)

Session Three: Science, Expert Knowledge, and the Complex Landscape of Trust

Session Four: Regulatory Agencies and Processes of Trust

13:00 – 14:00 | Lunch

14:00 – 15:30 | Paper Presentations: Parallel Session (5 & 6)

Session Five: Trust and Distrust in the Context of Migration and Refugees

Session Six: Perspectives on Childhood and Adolescence

15:30 – 16:00 | Coffee Break

16:00 – 17:30 | Paper Presentations: Parallel Session (7 & 8)

Session Seven: Trust in Transition: Lifespan Dynamics

Session Eight: Navigating Trust and Distrust in the Era of the COVID-19 Pandemic

17:30 – 18:30 | Keynote by Pippa Norris (Harvard University): “Trust in Government Worldwide: The Role of Information Environments and Cognitive Skills” (Virtual Presentation)

19:30 | Joint Dinner

September 29, Friday

09:00 – 10:00 | Keynote by Tereza Capelos (University of Birmingham): “Hot Emotionality and the Fracture of Trust in the Era of Grievance Politics”

10:00 – 10.30 | Coffee Break

10:30 – 12:30 | Paper Presentations: Parallel Session (9 & 10)

Session Nine: Protest, Political Contestation, and the Formation of Dis/Trust

Session Ten: Trust under Siege: Populism and Authoritarian Tendencies

12:30 – 13:30 | Lunch

13:30 – 14:30 | Keynote by Martin Hartmann (University of Lucerne): “The Conflictual Potential of Trust. Introducing a New Perspective”

14:30 – 16:00 | Paper Presentations: Parallel Session (11 & 12)

Session Eleven: The Role of Media and Social Networks in Dis/Trust Contestations

Session Twelve: Public Deliberations, Participatory Citizenship and Institutional Trust

16:00 | Closing Colloquy: Project Presentations, Posters and Coffee Chats

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