Restoring Democracy from Below: Study of Ethnic Activism in Poland
Dept. of Sociological Theory, Philosophy of Law, and Social Science Methodology University of Barcelona Barcelona, Spain
Civil society actors from Eastern and Central-Eastern Europe have been deprived of the opportunity to legally voice their demands in the public sphere for long decades of communist rule. The fall of the Iron Curtain resulted in an institutional change whose profound consequences were experienced immediately by the society as a whole and the non-governmental sector in particular. Among the civil society actors that instantly begun to set up organizations and establish wide networks with similar associations abroad were ethnic and national minorities.
In this paper I focus on the political mobilization of minorities' organizations in Poland. My objectives are twofold. First and on the descriptive level, I aim at exploring the patterns of minority associations' activism in a situation of political opportunity that emerged as a consequence of the process of Poland's adaptation to the norms on minority rights protection. Specifically, I will exploit the nature, type and tactics that are embedded in protest events, the frequencies of distinct minorities' demands, cleavages between state and minority actors on ethnic issues, and the scope and direction of minority actors' claims. Secondly, and moving now to the explanatory level, I will investigate the possible reasons why certain ethnic groups were more conspicuous than others, and test the hypothesis that participation in transnational networks has an impact on minorities' activism in the domestic arena. Moreover, I will study ethnic actors' discourse examining whether they use the opportunity to frame their demands in the language of minority rights defined in the confines of supranational institutions. This would allow me to look at European dynamics from a bottom-up perspective that focuses on the interaction between civil society organizations and supranational institutions. My investigation will thus contribute to the literature on democracy and the deliberation process, stressing the role of dialogue between state, supranational institutions and society, here represented by lobbying minority associations.