Governing Difference. A challenge for New Democracies in Central and South Eastern European Countries.

Funding institution: Vienna University
Duration: February 2007 – July 2009
Coordinated by: Sieglinde Rosenberger, Birgit Sauer, Elisabeth Holzleithner, Jürgen Wallner
Researchers: Maja Sticker, Sanin Hasibović, Manja Nickel

The project “Governing Difference” examines the governance of religious, cultural and ethnic differences at the intersection with gender. We assume that issues of culture constitute important frames and resources in nation-building processes as well as in the political efforts to become a member of the European Union.

Four countries in different relationships with the European Union will be investigated and compared: Slovenia, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. These countries differ in several features, as for instance in the role of majority/minority religion and ethnicity and their distinct influences on policy-making. However, the countries have in common a period of transition they passed through on their way to democracy, economic liberalization and national independence.

The transition paths have been shaped by the ethnic, cultural and religious composition of the countries, which have led to vigorous, sometimes violent conflicts. We have chosen societal contested core issues focusing on the interaction of gender, culture, ethnicity, and religion: Inter alia early/forced marriage, honor-related violence and the wearing of headscarves in the public sphere. The issues have provoked heated debates in various European countries on violence against women, on cultural patterns, the role of tradition, patriarchy and migration.

The overall aim of the project is to find out how intersecting differences between gender, culture, ethnicity and religion are structured and structure societal and political organizations. We aim to establish how public discourse on the core issues is structuring the political regulation and the governance processes of the issues. Moreover we want to know whether the countries’ legal systems have implemented special provisions dealing with socially contested practices.