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Selected Research Projects

CURRENT

Neo-authoritarianisms in Europe and the liberal democratic response (AUTHLIB)

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TEAM
Manuela Caiani (PI, SNS Coordinator); Hans Joerg Trenz (SNS member); Ivan Tranfic, Batuhan Eren and Nicolò Pennucci (external research fellows).

PARTNERS
Central European University (CEU) Hungary; University of Oxford (UOXF) UK; Paris Institute of Political Studies (SCIENCES PO) France ; Charles University (CUNI) Czechia; SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities (SWPS) Poland; German Marshall Fund (TF) Belgium ; University of Vienna (UNIVIE) Austria.


START YEAR 2022 
END YEAR 2025
 

AUTHLIB is a multidisciplinary project that aims to explore the varieties of neo-authoritarian, illiberal ideologies in Europe, their social, psychological and historical causes, their organisational background and their political implications. The study aims to capture the dynamics of ideological change in the European Union as a whole, but it will particularly focus on Poland, France, Italy, Hungary, Czechia, the United Kingdom and Austria. We will map ideological configurations by analysing textual data and social media, and by organising surveys of citizens and experts. The mapping of ideological structures will be complemented by a study of emotional triggers and rhetorical strategies pursued by illiberal actors. The contemporary ideological configurations of illiberalism will be embedded within their historical-cultural context, and the study of ideas and preferences will be supplemented by investigation of illiberalism in power, and the co-operation of illiberal political actors. In order to identify the mechanisms behind the support of illiberalism, and the susceptibility of citizens towards changing their attitudes, we will conduct laboratory and online panel-based survey experiments. Finally, in order to observe how ideological and emotional stimuli work in co-operative settings, we will set up deliberative fora, involving both ordinary citizens, ideological opponents, and individuals responsible for educating future generations and operating the intricate procedures of liberal democracy. The task of the SNS in particular will be the exploration and mapping of the co-operation of illiberal organisations, namely the transnationalization and diffusion of their frames, networks and strategies. With the help of social network analysis based on online links between issues and actors; interviews with activists and experts, we will explore and map the spread of such new initiatives and their impact on the illiberal intellectual agenda. We will also identify the role played by external forces, such as the Russian government and radicalised U.S. think tanks, in ideational production and in providing resources for the spread of ideas. The social media analysis conducted within WP3 will provide additional information as it will uncover the role of bots (highly automated accounts). This WP will draw on social movement studies, and research on political parties (and movement-parties) to address the dynamics of internationalisation, paying special attention to the political opportunities provided by the European integration FUNDING European Commission (HORIZON-CL2-2021-DEMOCRACY-01-01)

GOLDSTEIN – Debunking Political Uses of Denialisms and Conspiracy Theories in EU

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TEAM

Manuela Caiani (SNS); external research fellows: Ela Drazkiewic (Institute for Sociology, Slovak Academy of Sciences), Nikolaos Saridakis (Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Greece), Pal Susanszky (Centre for Social Sciences, Budapest) 

START YEAR 2022

END YEAR 2025 
 

In recent years the political uses of new denialisms and conspiracy theories have played a crucial role in the European Union at least in two spheres considered of the utmost importance by the European Commission: the fight against climate change and the overcoming of the Covid-19 epidemic. In both cases, in almost all European countries, especially right-wing nationalist Eurosceptic populist parties have systematically used these logical and political forms, also linked to new forms of antisemitism, in a strategic way in order to mobilize their followers and enlarge their consent. Beginning with new important studies on these burning issues and adopting an interdisciplinary approach founded in political science and political philosophy, this Jean Monnet Module proposal aims to develop, to share and to disseminate a still missing unitarian conceptual and analytical framework that can offer a more comprehensive critical explanation of these phenomena. FUNDING Jean Monnet Programme/Module (2022-25)

INEQUALITIES – Social sustainability and gender inequalities: culture, politics and economy

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TEAM

Manuela Caiani (PI, SNS Coordinator)

PARTNERS
Simona Forti (SNS); Anna Loretoni, Maria Rosa De Giacomo, Marco Frey, Calogero Oddo (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna)

START YEAR 2022

END YEAR 2024 
 

This project explores with a mixed method approach gender inequalities (their perception and definition by the participants) in three different but interrelated fields (cultural, political and economic), rarely taken into consideration simultaneously by scientific research: in particular in academia, business companies and political participation & mobilization. The focus will be on some crucial (deviant or paradigmatic) Italian cases to be compared with other local case studies in Europe. The issue of inequality or rather of ‘inequalities’ is a subject of investigation of scientific, socio-political, empirical and normative importance in contemporary democracies. As a multidimensional phenomenon, in its definitions, causes and consequences, this project will look at inequality through the ‘intersectional’ lens of gender inequalities – not only in relation to income, but also to access to services and opportunities – in a word to the broader theme of social sustainability. The economic and financial crisis of 2008 and the Covid-19 health emergency further increased the inequalities already on the rise in Western democracies and exacerbated the gender gap related to nursing and reproductive work. The crucial question becomes: how much inequality can democracy sustain? Gender inequalities in particular occupy a growing space of interest in academic research and policy debate due to the spiraling effects they can have on society at large. In this project, through some Italian and European case studies, we will look at the state of the art, causes and consequences (perceptions and definition by the agents) of gender inequalities in three different but interrelated fields (cultural, political and economic): in particular Universities, Companies and (places of) Political Participation (conventional and unconventional, i.e. protest). Although existing studies have focused on how to measure inequalities in their multidimensionality, difficulties persist mainly linked to the availability of data, comparability of them, interconnections among different types of inequalities, as well as statistical problems (such as those, in surveys, related to the so called ‘endogeneity’, and causality). In this project, adopting a mixed methods approach that combines quantitative and qualitative data and analysis, we will investigate in details: i. University and gender inequality; ii. Companies and gender gap – new technologies; and iii. Gender inequality and political participation (including voting, women’s participation in political representation roles, but also in grassroots mobilization and social movements). Good practices and policy-oriented recommendations represent the main outcome of the project. FUNDING MIUR – Ministero dell’Università e della Ricerca (DM n. 289/2021).

PAST

PIE – Popular Music as a Medium for the Mainstreaming of Populist Ideologies in Europe

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TEAM
Manuela Caiani and Enrico Padoan

PARTNERS

University of Oldenburg (Mario Dunkel; project coordinator; Anna Schwank); University of Music and Performing Arts, Graz (André Doehring; Kai Ginkel); Budapest University of Technology and Economics (Emilia Barna; Ágnes Patakfalvi-Czirják); University of Groningen (Melanie Schiller).

START YEAR 2019 
END YEAR 2022
 

In recent years, a new form of political popular music has emerged: mainstream sounds with populist messages have gained widespread popularity beyond the confines of extremist circles. This recent phenomenon of commercially successful and widely received popular music promoting populist agendas has been instrumental in the growing success of populism in Europe. Therefore, this project identifies the negligence of music in the study of populist movements by examining popular music as one central element of the cultures of populism. It explores the ways in which popular music functions as a medium for the mainstreaming of populist ideologies in Hungary, Austria, Italy, Germany, and Sweden from a comparative perspective. These countries have been identified as they (1) have seen a strong increase of populist parties and movements over the last few years, (2) played a major role in shaping the immigration policies of the EU during the so-called refugee crisis, and (3) shown strong interactions between populism and popular music. Different empirical approaches such as musicological group analysis, sociological reception analysis via focus interviews and comparative transnational contextualization are used. Songs shall be identified which are widely popular and have been released between 2015 and 2018 in the mentioned countries. Also, this project will provide a theoretical framework for enabling future cultural educators to develop methods for critical awareness of populist cultures in education programs. Funding: Volkswagen Foundation (Volkswagenstiftung n. of project Ref.: 94 754-1, PI University of Oldenburg)

Narratives on Europe from Below

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TEAM
Manuela Caiani (Project Coordinator) and Benedetta Carlotti

PARTNERS

Centre for European Strategies, Scuola Normale Superiore University – Faculty of Political and Social Sciences – Florence (Italy), University of Ljubljana – Faculty of Social Sciences – Center of International Relations – Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Jan Nowak-Jezioranski College of Eastern Europe (KEW), Wojnowice (Poland).

START YEAR 2021 
END YEAR 2022
 

The project aims at tackling illiberal narratives and Euroscepticism from below in four countries in Europe: North Macedonia, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. While the support for joining the EU is traditionally high in North Macedonia (around 70%), the past several years have witnessed an increase of right-wing nationalist discursive and physical outbursts, including a violent attack on parliament in April 2017. On the other hand, the three other member states host a high number of Eurosceptic and illiberal voices that need to be neutralized using counter narratives that are progressive and European. The research component will engage the four partners in desktop research to map the key hotspots on right-wing extremism in their respective countries. Based on the results, the four partners will focus on maximum 5 communities per country where additional focus groups and in-depth interviews will be conducted in order to better understand the state-of-the art in terms of illiberal/Eurosceptic sentiments and actions in the country. At the very end of the research, 5 policy briefs will be published, containing main findings and recommendations in order to advice multiple stakeholders, but primarily CSOs, on how to better counter illiberal Eurosceptic narratives. The action component aims towards ensuring space in the discourse for debate on the topic. Based on the research findings, the partners will organize 2 debates in all the respective EU countries and 3 debates in North Macedonia to disseminate the results and engage multiple stakeholders (primarily grassroots) and exchange knowledge and experience in countering illiberal/Eurosceptic narratives. The main outcome is to create environment for mutual experience sharing through establishment of national and international networks for tackling illiberal Eurosceptic narratives. FUNDING Co-funded by the Europe for Citizens Programme of the European Union

Populism in power:
Consequences on Policies, Politics, Polity

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TEAM

Manuela Caiani and Tiago Carvalho

PARTNERS

Paolo Graziano (University of Padua), Mattia Zulianello (University of Birmingham)

START YEAR 2018 
END YEAR 2020
 

The research project will focus on the consequences of populism, a topic still partly neglected in populist research, but increasingly important since populist parties are assuming more stable (and governmental) positions all across Europe. The consequences of populism when in power (i.e. the impact of populists’ success) can be studied on several domains, including: the party system and institutions’ changes, the impact on civil society and media, as well as various policy outcomes. This is what we will also do in this project, inserting the Italian case (a ‘unique’ case in Europe having two populist parties in government) in a comparative European perspective. The project with adopt a methodological triangulation strategy, using qualitative and quantitative data collection techniques and methods (including original surveys, individual and meso-organizational interviews, formalized content analysis of documents, as well as QCA). FUNDING Various partners (OCIS – Easy Care, Internal SNS Fund for Annual Research – 2018/2019)

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