Conditions of Acceptability in Socio-spatial and Digital Environments in Contemporary Europe

The Center for Advances Study Southeast Europe is conducting activities as part of a three-year project Cultures of Rejection in Europe (CuRe) in Croatia.

The aim of this project, which brings together 5 partners from Germany, Sweden, Austria Serbia and Croatia, is to better understand the shift in everyday life towards polarization and radicalization that has occurred due to the rise of right-wing movements and parties in Europe. The research starts from the premise that cultures of rejection emerge as the result of crises in Europe’s democracies, as well as the changes to national institutions and consequently civil society. Since rejection is a threat to all forms of social cohesion and peaceful coexistence, the project seeks to study the conditions that have led to rejection of, among else, immigration, political elites, media and certain values, such as equality of the sexes.

Specifically, the research focuses on the way economic and technological changes impact employees in logistics and sales, and in which way employees ascribe any particular meaning to these changes.

The researchers assess the situation along the 2015 migration route across Sweden, Germany, Austria, Croatia and Serbia, thoroughly examining work places, digital and socio-spatial environments. The socio-cultural research conducted will be complemented with elements of digital ethnography.

The study results should contribute to overcoming a series of major challenges Europe presently faces. The Center for Advanced Study Southeast Europe, as well as its parent institution, the University of Rijeka, cultivate a transdisciplinary approach to research, allowing for a flourishing of innovative methods and theories. The results will be presented as part of public events and international conferences in Rijeka and outside Croatia.

Research Environments

The workplace

Workplaces in the retail and logistics sectors make up the primary research environment for our investigation of cultures of rejection. Workplaces constitute exceptionally lively sites for the expression of social attitudes and daily routines. CuRe focuses on workers in the retail and logistics sectors, given the profound transformations entailed by processes of digitalisation, precarization, and labour casualization in these sectors. We collaborate closely with representatives of trade unions and members of shop-floor organizations to identify relevant workplaces, gain access to sites, and recruit respondents.

Digital environments

Research in digital environments proceeds from the fact that ‘online’ and ‘offline’ aspects of the social world have become “intermeshed in interwoven human practices and social worlds” (Kozinets 2015: 69).  The act of going online has been replaced by simply being online amidst an ecology of devices, software, and infrastructures. Everyday social interactions repeatedly cross the threshold between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ and blur traditional notions of space. Understanding contemporary cultures of rejection therefore demands analysis of digital spaces of communication and interaction.

Socio-spatial environments

Experiences of transformation and crisis take place in everyday social relations outside the workplace and can affect patterns of consumption, mobility, care work, leisure activities, or voluntary work. Therefore, we also investigate the emergence, negotiation and contestation of cultures of rejection in larger socio-spatial environments. Following the method of mental mapping (Gieseking 2013), participants identify spaces and places relevant to their economic, political and socio-cultural reproduction by drawing a geographical map, and from there we identify two environments for study in each of the five countries involved in the research process. Using a mixed-method approach that includes participatory observations and field notes, informal conversations, and on-site interviews, as well as document analyses and expert interviews, we conduct ethnographic research during field visits of one month each.

The initiator and coordinator of the project is the cultural theorist, Prof. Dr. Manuela Bojadžijev of Leuphana University in Lüneburg and Humboldt University in Berlin. The research project is funded by Volkswagen Stiftung with just under one million euros, from their program “Challenges for Europe,” which seeks answers to the important socio-political questions of further development in Europe. More information about the program is available at: Challenges for Europe