Connections on non-Abelian gerbes and their holonomy

Urs Schreiber and Konrad Waldorf

We introduce an axiomatic framework for the parallel transport of connections on gerbes. It incorporates parallel transport along curves and along surfaces, and is formulated in terms of gluing axioms and smoothness conditions. The smoothness conditions are imposed with respect to a strict Lie 2-group, which plays the role of a band, or structure 2-group. Upon choosing certain examples of Lie 2-groups, our axiomatic framework reproduces in a systematical way several known concepts of gerbes with connection: non-abelian differential cocycles, Breen-Messing gerbes, abelian and non-abelian bundle gerbes. These relationships convey a well-defined notion of surface holonomy from our axiomatic framework to each of these concrete models. Till now, holonomy was only known for abelian gerbes; our approach reproduces that known concept and extends it to non-abelian gerbes. Several new features of surface holonomy are exposed under its extension to non-abelian gerbes; for example, it carries an action of the mapping class group of the surface.

Keywords: Parallel transport, surface holonomy, path 2-groupoid, gerbes, 2-bundles, 2-groups, non-abelian differential cohomology, non-abelian bundle gerbes

2010 MSC: Primary 53C08, Secondary 55R65, 18D05

Theory and Applications of Categories, Vol. 28, 2013, No. 17, pp 476-540.

Published 2013-07-17.

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