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Strengthening Democratic Practices in Fighting the Politics of Fear

The consortium (researchers involved in the FIERCE project at the first meeting of the project consortium in Thessaloníki, Greece)

Publish Date: 13.10.2022

Category: Interdisciplinary research, Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 5 Gender equality, 10 Reduced inequalities, 16 Peace, justice and strong institutions (Indicators)

With the new academic year, the Sociology Department at the University of Ljubljana's Faculty of Arts is participating in the international consortium project FIERCE (Feminist Movements Revitalizing Democracy in Europe), which is funded by the European Commission under Horizon Europe. The basic goal of this research project is to analyse and re-stimulate the productive relationship between the feminist movement, civil society and political decision-makers within the context of increasing social inequality, political dissatisfaction and growing radical populist movements fighting against policies that seek to enhance equality. The results of the project will be important in terms of promoting democratic practices and an inclusive society, and identifying and understanding problems that give rise to politics of fear, intolerance and social exclusion in contemporary societies.

The FIERCE project includes eleven partners. The consortium is coordinated by the Greek research institute Vilabs, and, in addition to the University of Ljubljana, includes the Aalborg University (Denmark), Scuola Normale Superiore (Italy), Complutense University of Madrid (Spain), Koç University (Turkey), Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece), Smart Venice (Italy), European Alternatives (France), the Peace Institute (Slovenia) and University of Gdansk (Poland).

vmesna slika

 Rok Smrdelj in Roman Kuhar, researchers working on the FIERCE project

"This project has both research and action dimensions," explains Prof. Roman Kuhar from the Faculty of Arts, who is heading the project at the University of Ljubljana. "The first part of the project is based on a detailed analysis of anti-feminist and similar discourses, which will serve as the basis for further research steps, where we'll be dealing with more structural issues and problems that allow and strengthen contemporary populist politics. The action part of research focuses on developing practical tools to revitalise the alliances among the feminist movement, civil society and political decision-makers. I myself have dealt a lot with anti-gender movements over the years (Source 1, Source 2), and I'm glad that these studies were among the bases for preparing this project. The fact that, in the call, the project ranked first in terms of quality among all the other "sister projects" -  with which we will also collaborate - confirms our conviction that we are addressing important social issues that affect each of us and will continue to do so in the future."

The project includes eight case studies (France, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Turkey, Denmark, Poland, Spain) presenting various national contexts in the political, geographical and social senses. Nonetheless, the research is not caught in the trap of methodological nationalism, which is common in the social sciences, because all the research steps also contain a transnational dimension. This means that the results of the local or national studies will be analysed through the lens of international connections, because one of the project’s goals is to understand how populist politics, their strategies and discourses, are transferred from one national context to another, and how transnational exchanges strengthen these politics.

"In the project, which focuses on five thematic areas (the labour market, health, reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ and migration), we'll use various methodological approaches, from political ethnography to critical framework analysis and social network analysis. I see my greatest contribution in connection with the last of these, because my doctoral dissertation focused precisely on the role of Twitter in the construction of the refugee crisis in Slovenia," explains Rok Smrdelj, a researcher on the project. "I look forward to working in a stimulating international circle of researchers where I can contribute my knowledge to the analysis of social networks, which appear to be a key tool used by the protagonists of the politics of fear."

The research project will last three years, until September 2025. In the project, which focuses on the period from 2010 to 2021, the University of Ljubljana is leading the first work package, which deals with the analysis of actors, strategies and discourses of contemporary movements fighting against equality policies. 

 Financira EU_eng

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