Social movements in Central and Eastern Europe
ISA-RC 47 regional conference University of Bucharest, 11-12 May 2015
The 2015 Conference on Social movements in Central and Eastern Europe is organized by the University of Bucharest and the ISA Research Committee 47 “Social classes and social movements”. The conference will provide a platform to share and develop perspectives on, and analyses of, current and recent social movements and protests in Central and Eastern Europe – including the ones that attain mainstream media headlines as well as those that discreetly transform politics or daily life.
25 years ago, citizens successfully mobilised for freedom and democracy in Central and Eastern Europe and social movements played a key role in dismantling the iron curtain and in establishing democratic regimes in these countries. A quarter century later, both the context and social movements look very different. Most CEE countries have turned to market economies and political democracy and many have joined the European Union. Institutional democracy is well grounded in Central and Eastern Europe but low participation rates in elections suggests a sort of discontent with liberal democracy. Currently, with the exception of the 2011-2012 protests in Russia, the “EuroMaidan revolution” in Ukraine and recent Hungarian protests, Eastern European social movements have not made global news headlines and are rarely considered by worldwide social movement scholars. A closer look at protests and civil society in the region provides another panorama. On one side, mobilizations oriented towards deep social transformation have echoed global movements (e.g. the Occupy movement in Bulgaria). On the other, social movements are focused on the environment, cultural change, daily life, alternatives within local contexts or citizens’ participation. Moreover, these social movements combine online and offline forms of participation, all major issues in democratic societies.
Protest, activism and a more active citizenship have often emerged from concerns in daily life. Some citizens have taken over the streets and occupied city squares or rural areas to oppose policies or infrastructure projects, often combining concrete claims with more general preoccupation for a more democratic society and a more transparent and less corrupt political arena. More recently, initiatives for critical consumption have emerged, connecting consumption choices with the support of local farmers as well as environmental, health and political concerns. Similarly, rural movements have found new impetus in various countries.
We also hope that this conference will advance theories of social movements by highlighting the micro-level mechanisms that drive recruitment, mobilization, decision-making, the construction of friends and foes, and other dimensions of strategies and meanings, in order to develop a more dynamic and contingent view of political processes. We hope to observe a variety of players engaging one another in various arenas (Jasper, 2014), as well as gathering analytical and empirical elements to bridge the gaps between micro and macro perspectives on social movements and social change.
Following ISA, RC47’s mission to develop a sociology of social movements as a general sociology and the combination of fieldwork data with analytical perspective on social movements and major social challenges, this conference particularly welcomes contributions that show how the study of social movements contributes to a better understanding of both specific social actors and society as a whole.
ISA-47 aims at promoting teaching and research on social movement studies, as well as networking among social movement scholars both in Rumania and among the Central and Eastern European region. We insist on promoting research agenda, approaches and perspectives rooted in fieldwork in Rumanian and CEE and taking into account local, national and regional challenges faced by social scientists scholars and citizens of that region. Social scientists are called to identify the movements that will eventually shape the future of Central and Eastern Europe and of Europe as a whole. The conference will pay attention to both progressive and conservative movements, as the latter tend to become particularly vibrant and powerful in some CEE countries and raise some important challenges to democracy. Contributions may also underline commonalities and differences among movements and mobilizations in different CEE countries, in a specific sub-region and/or with their counterparts in Western Europe or the rest of the world. A specific panel will be dedicated to analytical overviews of civil society or social movements in a particular country, a set of countries or CEE as a whole. Finally, we also welcome panel and paper proposals on theoretical contributions, notably on cultural approaches of social movements and personal subjectivity; the outcomes of social movements (both political outcomes and cultural change) as well as theoretical contributions with original insights on social movement studies, Central and Eastern Europe studies or general sociology.
Our keynote speakers include James M. Jasper (City University of New York & ISA-47) & Michel Wieviorka (Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris & ISA-47)