The Second Call

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Specification of the Grant/Fellowship Applications: 15 March 2010 Call

Research Area I: Historical, Cultural, and Discursive Representations of Equality and Difference

EDDA’s first research area – Historical, Cultural, and Discursive Representations of Equality and Difference – focuses on the genealogies and trajectories of levelling and pluralising discourses. Icelandic conceptions, metaphors, images of equality, differences and national identities, as well as their international/transnational theoretical and political contexts, will be analyzed in order to gain a deeper understanding of their underlying motivations. Special emphasis will be given to how the crisis sheds light on the limitations of recent equality models and calls for actual and potential reconfigurations. Such an approach includes questions of what kinds of notions of difference have been conducive to the demands of the so-called neoliberal economy. Demands for equality and articulations of differences have traditionally had a questioning or subversive force, opening up possibilities for a plurality of perspectives and paving the way for new meanings. Another theme deals with how notions of gender have permeated different discourses in politics, human, social, natural sciences and biotechnologies. How have body and nature been gendered, and how does gender figure in pre- and post-crisis popular, corporate, and political cultures? A further focus is on the implications for cultural criticism and redefinition of politics in times of crisis and societal reconstruction. Finally, questions will be raised as to which norms of justice can be used to understand contemporary debates that touch upon cultural assimilation/integration/exclusion of immigrants and minority groups. Do we have egalitarian obligations towards past and/or future generations, and if so, on what conception(s) of equality are these obligations based?

Core Themes:

1) History and tradition: Analysis of models of equality and conceptions of difference in Icelandic culture and society, past and present. Socio-political implications of attempts to define and redefine social, gender, and cultural identities.

2) Transnational challenges: Analysis of gender, differences and equality in discourses of social justice and power that address the tension-ridden relationship between national identities and transnational socialization processes, such as Europeanization, from historical and contemporary perspectives. How do new representations of multiculturalism, and growing emphasis on the active participation of different groups in society, transform ideas about social justice?

3) Deconstruction and reconstruction in human, social and natural sciences: Studies of repressive and of emancipatory elements in gendered conceptions in different academic disciplines. Cultural representations of nature and the body in sciences and technologies. How do deconstructive and reconstructive discourses illuminate the past and open new venues for the future, and how does that lead to productive scholarship that is relevant in times of crisis?

4) Crisis and post-crisis narratives: How is language used to produce and reproduce, instrumentally, political realities? Special attention will be devoted to moral categories in the political sphere, such as lies, truth-regimes, corruption, and abuse of government power, and to gendered representations of power and the state of “hegemonic masculinity” in an Icelandic “reconstruction” setting.

5) Justice and equality: How are societies to ensure justice for their citizens in the contemporary pluralistic state, where many conceptions of a well ordered society compete? Is equality between generations important? And if so, how should such an intergenerational justice – ranging from equality of chances between generations to environmental issues, and from possible “duties towards the dead” to “obligation towards future generations” – be conceived?

Research Area II: The Social State, Political Reform and Civil Society

EDDA‟s second research area – The Social State, Political Reform and Civil Society – examines factors that impact socio-economic conditions and the utilization of natural and human resources, such as those producing more complex inequalities (gender, age, class, ethnicity, etc.). A key topic addresses the imbalances between social and economic diversity as well as their interrelationship with sustainable economies, the social state and entitlements. Another theme explores economic crises, with a special reference to that in Iceland, from the perspective of political and constitutional reform. To what degree do profound economic changes stimulate or retard political change and what social forces play leading roles in such processes? The subject will be explored through an examination of the role of such entities as political parties/movements, business and labour interests, and/or social movements. A third topic deals with the academia in contemporary society and its critical, passive and “specialist” functions. It also deals with the interrelationship between institutions of higher learning, the government, and the private sector. Finally, the focus is on civil society and political action, with emphasis on manifestations of social protests, their ideological content and the social make-up of participants from domestic and transnational perspectives.

Core Themes:

1) The social state and the welfare system: The role and future prospects of the social state and the welfare system following the global economic crisis. The research pays specific attention to the impact of finance/economic crises on various social groups, gender, equality and diversity discourses, the labour market, and immigration/emigration. While Iceland will be used as a reference point, transnational and comparative perspectives are encouraged.

2) The socio-economic crisis, political and constitutional reforms: How do crises, such as that experienced in Iceland, promote or stymie political and constitutional reforms? The research includes questions that deal with the convening of constituent assemblies, the role of national referenda in democratic societies, and the locking and unlocking of ties between party political interests and private economic interests. These issues will be explored from transnational, comparative and European perspectives.

3) The role of academia: The role of the University and intellectuals in pre-crash and post-reconstruction narratives in Iceland and abroad. The focus is on how academics serve ruling ideologies, resist them or register passivity through silences. This theme ties in with questions of societal and individual factors, facilitating or constraining critical interventions, of public representations of academics and their societal position vis-à-vis the state. It also engages problems associated with the moral authority of academics, their standing in society, and the exercise of self-introspection and self-criticism.

4) Civil society and political action: What kind of possibilities and obstacles do domestic and transnational protest movements represent – whether they take the form of anti-government resistance (like the so-called “pot and pan revolution” in Iceland) or environmental degradation contestation (such as controversies over hydropower projects in Iceland)? What is the social make-up of such movements? In what way do they represent popular protest and political interests? What kinds of compromises are being made within these movements? What is the role of performativity – and the way identity is passed or brought to life through discourse such as authoritative speech – and of cultural symbols (including representations of the “spectacle”) in protest movements.

Research Area III: “Reconstruction” Discourses after Systemic Breakdowns: Security, Justice, Memory and Geopolitics

EDDA‟s third research area – “Reconstruction” Discourses after Systemic Breakdowns: Security, Justice, Memory and Geopolitics – deals with questions of how post-crash/post-traumatic discourses are constructed through various practices of categorization and definition. First, how has the economic collapse in Iceland and its widespread societal effects blurred the lines between “developed” and “developing” countries? While identifying itself with “First World” discourses, Iceland is, simultaneously, going through what has traditionally been classified as “Third World” experiences due to its dependence on an IMF bailout. A redefined security agenda – through the post-Cold War stripping of the security concept of its exclusively military connotations and of incorporating into it factors, such as human security, societal security, financial security, pandemics, climate change, civil conflict, financial security, and environmental concerns – has not only renewed attention on transnational power politics in various “rebuilding” and “reconstruction” settings but also created new venues for looking critically at established “First World”/”Third World” inequalities, differences, interactions, and identity formations. Second, Iceland is – like other countries with a “troubled national past” – engaged in a societal reckoning through retributive justice and truth-seeking. The “struggle for memory” has already begun, entailing conflicting historical narratives, truths, and cultural representations. The process of redefining national identities also ties in with Iceland‟s current critical engagement with Europe and the European Union as a political, cultural, and social project as well as a geographic entity. Finally, in contemporary geopolitics, a transnational jockeying has begun – with the participation of Iceland – to carve out a role in the (re)-territorialization of the “North”, with a focus on the Arctic as a natural-resource base and as a potentially contested political terrain. It raises questions of how to define and “claim” the “North” in terms of “cultural heritage” and mythmaking, gendered images, sovereign demands, economic interests, international regimes, and securitization/desecuritization discourses.

Core Themes:

1) “Reconstruction”/“(re-)state-building” discourses in Iceland and other countries with a troubled or violent past: A comparative approach can draw on concepts and conceptions, such as transnational politics; securitization; military/civil cooperation or divide; civil society; gender, equality/inequality; the role of international organizations and dependency; neo-colonialism/post-colonialism; democratization; development, peacekeeping and peace-building; post-conflict reconstruction; and human rights.

2) The politics of memory and transnational justice: Using post-crash Iceland as a reference point, the focus will be on competing memory discourses to account for the construction of “truth regimes” as part of attempts to establish “post-traumatic” and foundational cultural and political myths/narratives. Another topic will be the role of trials, investigative/truth commissions and “truth reports” as societal mechanisms to “come to terms with the past” and to address the question of culpability. It involves moral categories, such as the role of perpetrators, victims and bystanders; the notion of “societal healing” or “national reconciliation”; transnational historical and cultural comparisons between Iceland and other nations having experienced a “troubled past”; and questions of selectivity when it comes to retributive and restorative justice.

3) The idea of contemporary Europe and Iceland’s relationship with the European Union: Special attention will be devoted to Icelandic European identities, whether political, cultural, social, or security-related. In practical terms, it involves Iceland‟s EU application and its potential place in Europe and within the EU‟s foreign and security policy agenda. This includes, among other things, research on EU projects in the fields of peacekeeping, development, and post-conflict reconstruction from ideological, gendered, economic, and cultural angles.

4) Political, cultural, and territorial discourses in the “North”: A focus will be on two areas: (a) Northern identity politics and historical cultural myth-making and narratives, involving, for example, masculine, racist, and imperial frontier narratives; (b) the geopolitics of the Arctic and Iceland‟s status and role in this “region-to-be” from political, historical, military/security, legal, environmental, and gendered perspectives. Factors located in this analytical framework include geopolitics, governance, climate change and the environment, cooperative/confrontational discourses, “indigenous people” and legal sovereign claims.