Chern-Simons theory and cohomological invariants of representation varieties
We prove a general local rigidity theorem for pull-backs of homogeneous forms on reductive symmetric spaces under representations of discrete groups. One application of the theorem is that the volume of a closed manifold locally modelled on a reductive homogeneous space $G/H$ is constant under deformation of the $G/H$-structure. The proof elaborates on an argument given by Labourie for closed anti-de Sitter $3$-manifolds. The core of the work is a reinterpretation of old results of Cartan, Chevalley and Borel, showing that the algebra of $G$-invariant forms on $G/H$ is generated by ``Chern-Weil forms'' and ``Chern-Simons forms''.