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Featured Projects

Political Participation among Refugees in Austria and the Czech Republic: Biographical Perspectives (PARAC)

Our research project, Political Participation among Refugees[1] in Austria and the Czech Republic: Biographical Perspectives (PARAC), centers on people that are or were undergoing an asylum procedure in Austria and the Czech Republic. The asylum procedure creates specific constraints on political participation when people are deprived of voting rights both in the country of origin and in the country of destination. At the same time, it may stimulate new ways of being politically active. We consider the different opportunities and constraints for refugees´ political participation in these two different contexts, which differ with respect to their history of asylum provision, receptiveness towards refugees as well as their popularity among asylum seekers.

In this research, we also interrogate the very concept of political participation elaborated mainly in the context of Western liberal democracies, and we seek to develop criteria and a working definition grounded in refugees´ actual experiences. We explore their prior and/or ongoing involvement in politics in the country of origin as well as in their country of destination, acknowledging that seeking asylum is itself a political act. Looking at what we might call the “participatory habitus” prior to migration may or may not reveal a relationship to post-migration practices; indeed, the lines between “before” and “after” or “here” and “there” may be quite blurred. The potential of biographical research lies in uncovering potential ruptures in the lifelong narrative and its re-construction, so the narrative becomes coherent again.

We focus on the reflexive project of the political self – how a change in living conditions and an uncertain future with regard to the place of settlement influence habits of political participation, such as voting and being voted for, following political debates, and expressing one´s position towards the up-to-date political representation in the country/region a person lives in. Such a perspective on refugees´ life conditions may present an important discursive shift, from victimization to social agency.

The main source of data will be Biographical Interviews with people who have applied for asylum or have already obtained some form of international protection in Austria or the Czech Republic and who were or are politically active in a broad sense of expressing their interest in public life in the country of origin or the country of refuge, or eventually in other localities.

Moreover, in order to explore the broader context of refugees’ reception and political participation, we will conduct semi-structured interviews with representatives of the local administration and NGOs involved in the process of settlement of refugees in both South Moravia and Carinthia. We will also study statistics, policy documents as well as research studies and other available materials (media, public debates etc.).

Team: Bernadette Nadya Jaworsky, Kateřina Sidiropulu Janků, Radka Klvaňová


Inclivity in Urban Public Space

This research proposal addresses the issue of incivility in urban public space of Czech cities. It employs the analysis of incivility in order to overcome the theoretical rift between the interactionist approach of Erving Goffman on the one hand and the present debates in critical geography on the other. The term „incivility“ includes such conduct which is inconsistent with the formal and informal norms of conduct in public space. The proposal uses a number of research methods to follow the changing definitions of incivility in Czech cities after 1989, when the term „public space“ first entered Czech legal system. It proposes to study the changing legal definitions of incivility as well as definitions of acceptability documented in the media. In particular, it focuses on the role of marginalised groups as perceived perpetrators of incivil conduct and on the conflicts over public space. It also studies the changing meaning of incivility in the newly arising privatised spaces. Lastly, it addresses the historical changes in the role of women in public space.

Team: Pavel Pospěch


Constructing Sexuality and Gender in Czechoslovak Sexological Discourses (SEXOCOM)

Sexology enjoyed a special status under communism compared to other disciplines studying people and their relationships. While it was not banned by the Party and some branches even flourished, the object of its study provided for certain marginalization. The proposed research focuses on two sets of questions: the first exploring the institutionalization and practical impact of Czechoslovak sexology in the communist period (1948-89) and its influence on shaping gendered understandings of individuals and interpersonal relations, the second analyzing the broader political, academic and intellectual environment (i.e. criminology, medicine, pedagogy) Czechoslovak sexology was embedded in. The socio-historical analyses of sexology have predominantly focused on the discipline’s impact in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Less is known about the development of sexology during the 20th century and next to nothing about its workings and influence in communist societies. This project attempts to fill this gap and will be guided by the following questions: • Was there any specificity of sexology under communism, compared to the Western world? And if so, what was its nature? • How was Czechoslovak sexology influenced by Western sexological schools, and how did it manifest in Czechoslovak sexological texts and practices? • What kinds of sexual practices and gender identities did Czechoslovak sexology deem normal and what forms were diagnosed as pathological? • How Czechoslovak sexology affected other academic disciplines and how was it affected by them? • What was the role of broader political environment (i.e. communist party documents and sex-educational policies and interventions)? These issues have remained unexplored, to the detriment of understanding the specificities of discursive constructions of gender and sexuality in the Eastern European context. This research will illuminate the overlooked intersection of scientific discourse, communism, and gender.

Team: Kateřina Lišková


[1] By the term “refugee,” we mean both people who have been waiting for a decision about their asylum application as well as those who have already obtained some form of international protection.