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Roles, Identities and Hybrids: Roles, Identities and Hybrids. Multiple Institutional Cultures in Southeast Europe within the Context of European Unification

2003-2006
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The goal of this collective research project is to explore the zone of intersection, interaction, and hybridization between institutional roles and collective identities. These intersections are of special social importance for the countries in Southeast Europe during the on-going process of European Enlargement. `Identities` and `roles` are considered as two different yet interrelated patterns of individual and group behaviour, operating simultaneously. The analysis of the various and specific types of their `hybridization` will shed light on the difficult implementation of democratic institutions in Southeast Europe – a region where the import/adoption of institutional models co-exists and interacts with centuries-old identities, new identity-formations, and identity-challenging processes. Elucidation of the differences and diversity in this process is relevant to the current social and political agenda of European integration. The project will develop a greater awareness of the compatibility of the various institutional cultures in Europe and will facilitate their openness to practical negotiations during the unification process.

The main hypothesis of the project involves the possibility of exploring the intersections of roles and identities in the institutional cultures in SEE by means of interdisciplinary analysis focused on the dialectical link between cultural images of institutions and institutional practices. Images and practices are seen as `bridges` and `zones of interaction` between roles and identities. Cultural images are a prerequisite for perceiving, adopting, and performing institutional roles in practical contexts; at the same time, they link roles to group and individual identities. In the context of institutional practices, social actors internalize, problematize, contextualize, and transform these images of institutions and institutional roles. This practical adoption and `intimization` is both a professional and a biographical act. The dialectics gives rise to two mirroring questions:  `How are the patterns of institutional behaviour influenced and transformed by identity-formation processes?` and  `How are identities and acts of identification reshaped by role behaviour in an institutional context?`

These questions are being addressed by 26 interrelated and interdisciplinary case- studies focusing on the Southeast European countries in two main thematic research directions: `Cultural images of institutions, professions, and conventional social roles` and `Practising institutional culture. Role behaviour and identity-formation processes inside institutions`.

Corresponding to the two research lines, there are two main sets of methodological approaches applied: `Discourse analysis of texts and discursive products` and `Sociological and anthropological fieldwork on practices in institutional contexts`.

The expected result of the project will be an innovative and elaborate picture of the institutional cultures of Southeast European countries in a period of transition. It will help to explain some region-specific cultural micro-mechanisms of adaptation to institutional behaviour and some of the causes of the recurrent crises in the operation of the democratic institutions in this part of Europe. These results will contribute to the discussion on the compatibility of the institutional cultures of Southeastern Europe with those of the other countries in the future European `commonwealth of commonwealths`.

On a theoretical level, a detailed model of the interference between structures of group belonging and role competencies will be developed. This model is designed to pave the way to further analogies and inferences – both in time (opening up the field of historical research) and in space (developing by analogy various hypotheses about countries and regions beyond Southeast Europe).

By engaging young academics in an interdisciplinary and international research community and by facilitating their contacts in international scholarly networks, the project seeks to have an indirect but highly beneficial effect on teaching standards and scholarly capacity among young scholars in Southeast Europe.

This is a three-year research project, carried out by two interdisciplinary teams, corresponding to the above mentioned research directions. The CAS Academic Advisory Council, consisting of internationally renowned scholars (see CAS website, Bodies), selects the fellows for each annual enrollment – 8 researchers (4 + 4) for a 9-month period. The total number of researchers for the entire period of three years will come out at 24, plus one project convenor and one team leader.

The `Roles, Identities, and Hybrids` project is supported by a grant of the Volkswagen Foundation, Germany.

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