From Maribor to Istanbul protests and social movements have shaken the political systems of Southeastern Europe in recent years. These heterogeneous movements represent part of a larger wave of social movements that have been characteristic of the Mediterranean region. Protests in SEE have tackled a range of issues and concerns including austerity, the privatisation of public space, the (non) provision and privatisation of welfare and public utilities, poverty, corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency, environmental concerns and authoritarian tendencies.
Virtually every country in the region has witnessed mass protests. While anti-austerity movements in Greece and the recent mass opposition to the development of Gezi Park in Istanbul and the subsequent attempts to violently contain protestors in Turkey have been the most prominent, no state has been left unaffected by new social movements. This year new forms of civic protest took shape in Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo.
Many protests have focused on particular tangible issues (such as the payment of parking in Maribor, ID number allocation for newborn babies in Bosnia Herzegovina or the development of Gezi Park in Istanbul) but demonstrations have frequently served as conduits for broader social and political discontent, as rallying points for citizens to demand fundamental political and social transformation of their societies.
Protests have contributed to the fall of government in Slovenia, the resignation of Bulgarian PM Borisov and the defeat of certain unpopular policies and practices such as the Romanian healthcare bill. Perhaps most significantly they are leading to the creation of dynamic political and social actors and the realignment of political space.
The Centre for Southeast European Studies, University of Graz, will host a three day conference on social movements and protests in Southeastern Europe in Graz on the 12-14th December 2013. The goal of the conference is shed light on these protests and emerging social movements and to discuss parallels with other such movements in the recent history of Southeastern Europe, such as the protests against the Milošević regime in the late 1990s, including Otpor, and put these protests into a comparative perspective. The conference will include activists, high-level policy makers, prominent analysts and academics, as well as up-and-coming young researchers. An edited collection of the best papers presented at the conference is planned for 2014. The conference will be organized by the Centre for South Eastern European Studies of the University of Graz.
The goal of the conference is to shed light on recent social movements in the Balkans. By exploring the protests in a regional and broader comparative perspective, the conference seeks to place the individual protests into a large context and highlight both connections between different social movements and to also identify similar and varying dynamics of protest and government responses. By focusing on social movements in post-Communist Southeastern Europe, as well as Greece and Turkey, the conference seeks to overcome a strong division in research on different regions within Southeastern Europe. This will include a discussion of the preconditions for protests, i.e. what are the social, political and economic contexts and texts of the protests including:
a) Reflections on normality and crisis of western-liberal political, ideological and economical modes of societal regulation in the region as well as reflections on authoritarian elements and the democratic character of the political systems in the region
b) What are the triggers of protests and why do some topics resonate widely with citizens and some other don’t? What are the demands, strategies and messages of the protests?
e) What political and social alternative fragments and models are encoded in demands of rebels and how do they correspond to current political systems? Who are the members of protest groups; what is their social, political and ideological background; how homogenous and heterogeneous are the protest groups?
f) What is the political regulation of the rebellion, i.e. what are concrete government responses and strategies as well as the ultimate conditions for their success? How much and what kind of rebellion challenges can get along with political systems in the region and how are the challenges being absorbed?
g) Are the new social movements “post-ethnic” and how do they overcome, ignore nationalism? How do recent protests compare with earlier phases of political mobilisation (i.e. in 1988-1991 and during the late 1990s)?
Call for Papers
If you would like to participate in the conference, submit a title and an abstract (300-500 words) for a paper on the topics identified above by 31 July 2013. Once your paper is selected, you will asked to submit a draft paper of 6,000-8,000 words by mid-November. The drafts will be circulated among conference participants. Accommodation and board as well as transport to and from Graz will be covered for participants (conditional on the submission of the draft paper by the deadline). Submit the abstract, title and a short CV to Beate Hainschek (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 31 July 2012. For informal inqueries on the conference contact Florian Bieber (email@example.com).
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