Six questions to... Maria Uttenthal

Maria Uttenthal has grappled with the legitimacy crisis of the EU already as a student in London. In her PhD project, she realised that the concept of trust is key in understanding legitimacy.

In our series "Six questions to...", we introduce the PhD students at the Jacques Delors Centre and their research projects and thoughts on the European Union. Maria Uttenthal has started her PhD project at the Berlin Graduate School for Global and Transregional Studies in September 2019 and holds a stipend by the Jacques Delors Centre..

1. What is the main focus of your research?

I focus on the concept of trust and trust formation in Europe. Trust, both in its social and political sense, is very useful to possess, but just as complex to create. In my opinion, that makes for a very interesting PhD topic, and I am working on a conceptual analysis of trust, before moving to an empirical study of how political trust among EU citizens arises over time.

2. How did you end up working on the EU?

As a Danish student, my interest in politics quickly meant that I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the highly influential EU. Recently, I have focused mostly on public opinion and the EU from a citizens’ perspective, which has ultimately led to my current work with trust attitudes. 

3. In your opinion, what is the most important issue the EU needs to solve?

I have always been interested in the legitimacy crisis, and I see it as an issue that has remained highly relevant across time. During the first year of my PhD, I decided that in order to understand issues of legitimacy, I had to first understand the related concept of trust.

4. What is your favourite place in Berlin to relax after an intense work day?

I am usually found either at my favourite dance studio, or at my local bar. It’s all about balance. 

5. What is the research question you would really like to answer one day?

During my PhD project, I will be exploring questions related to the formation of trust attitudes over time and within individuals in the EU. In the future, I would love to explore the same questions in an experimental setting. 

6. How would you explain the EU to an alien?

The EU is a political system that aims to bring stability and prosperity to its member states. Based on a common set of fundamental values, it should make Europe a powerful global actor on the one hand, and enable internal trade and migration on the other.