Central to the scope of research within this cluster are the themes of equality, inclusion, and social justice; while there are certain inherent tensions within such an intellectual framework that one necessarily has to grapple with, this also presents an excellent opportunity for advancing new research agendas and contributing new knowledge to policy-making in the field.
Addressing such themes in the context of national minorities is necessarily an interdisciplinary and cross-cutting endeavour. To give a few examples, studying the causes of inequality (whether comparing inequalities between minorities and majorities, among different minorities, or within minority groups themselves); researching the intersecting and competing manifestations of social inequalities; or seeking to understand patterns and effects of social exclusion on minority communities, all require multidisciplinary approaches, which in turns presupposes collaborative efforts and networking.
Oftentimes national minorities find themselves in a vulnerable position, be it as an effect of socio-economic underdevelopment, social or geographic peripherality, or a combination of these and other factors. In this context, the Roma minority is perhaps the most (but by no means the only) affected ethnic group; consequently, the Cluster seeks to contribute to the academic debates on this topic.
The policy relevance for research focusing on issues relating to equality and inclusion cannot be overstated. In the context of the retreat of the welfare state – especially pronounced in the former socialist states – there is a need to understand the socio-economic impact on national minority groups, whether in terms of their participation to public life, access to educational or healthcare services, or their loss of identity. The rise in the number of racially motivated incidents and hate speech targeting Roma populations, as well the sometimes-extreme marginalisation of this group speak volumes to the need for research-based improvements of anti-discrimination policies and inclusion strategies.