National minorities - proactive players for social cohesion?
The Citizenship & Ethics Cluster seeks to improve our understanding of social cohesion through the lens of citizenship acts and ethical behaviour. The specific focus is on minorities as actors.
Social exchange in a broad communicative sense is at the centre of this Cluster’s research - social exchange exemplified in citizenship acts and ethical behaviour - and social cohesion seen as dialogical and inter-subjective.
The Citizenship & Ethics Cluster will investigate two leading themes and a number of sub-themes in minority research.
The first leading theme, “minority contribution to society self-creation” will evolve around the participation of national minorities in civic affairs and seek to improve our understanding of national minorities as full members of society, i.e. active citizens contributing to social cohesion.
Although citizenship rights for members of national minorities remain an unresolved legal issue in some European states, citizenship is not only a question of de jure rights; it is also a question of de facto participation and contribution.
One hypothesis of this area of Cluster research is that minority participation is portrayed one-sided in minority research by emphasizing the non-participation aspect rather than identifying the positive contributions that minority acts of citizenship have offered in Europe and throughout European history.
While often considered “guests”, national minorities in European countries have nevertheless begun to develop strong tools of active citizenship often through volunteering, innovation and by building bridges between cultures. Such acts of citizenship will form the core of the Cluster’s research with a view to inform the current discourse on citizenship.
The second leading theme, “ethical communication in the social cohesion of diverse societies” will address the ethical aspects of social exchange. Narrow concepts of ethics, such as tolerance are generally hailed to overcome the tensions that inherently exist in diverse societies. However, experts argue that it takes pro-action to overcome tension as toleration is passive.
One hypothesis of this area of Cluster research is that the application of narrow concepts prevents societies from reconciling diversity in the processes of social cohesion. Citizenship acts of minorities are often proactive and have ethical intentions. While social cohesion in diverse societies ultimately requires the participation of all members of society in public goods, the proactive citizenship acts of minorities are not always taken into consideration.
Connecting research on citizenship and social cohesion
The Citizenship and Ethics Cluster will connect research on citizenship as ‘Bürgerschaft’ with research on social cohesion as ethical communication in divided societies.
On the one hand, citizenship research has not progressed much beyond rights and responsibilities leaving little discussion for ethical action. On the other hand, social cohesion research has focused mainly on outcome and neglected the means of fostering dialogical social cohesion through inter-subjectivity.
The coupling of research on citizenship and ethics has the specific purpose, therefore, of getting concepts of action and deeds linked in an effort to theorize a dialogical type concept of social cohesion in culturally and ethnically divided societies.