Osipov discusses ‘non-territorial autonomy’ as an analytical category

Alexander Osipov - ECMI Justice & Governance clusterThere may be space for non-territorial autonomy (NTA) as an analytical category, suggests Dr. Alexander Osipov in a critical review of the concept this morning.

Dr. Alexander Osipov, European Centre for Minority Issues, is about to present his paper Can ‘non-territorial autonomy’ serve as a category of analysis? Between ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ approaches. The occasion is the 41st Joint Session of Workshops in Mainz that is convened by the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR). Dr. Osipov’s paper is presented in the Workshop No.21, Non-Territorial Autonomy, Multiple Cultures and Politics of Stateless Nations at the Johannes Gutenberg Universität.

Read also: ECMI co-organizes ECPR workshop on European minority empowerment

Excerpt of the abstract

The following is an excerpt of the abstract of the paper; Can ‘non-territorial autonomy’ serve as a category of analysis? Between ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ approaches.

NTA serves as a category of practice in politics, public administration and civil activism.

As an applied analytical category, NTA has acquired a variety of meanings; from a label on minority related activities and institutions (a ‘thin’ approach) to a clear structural feature or competence of an organization (a ‘thick’ approach).

The main problem with employing NTA as an analytical category stems from the dominant essentialist and group-centric approach.

Almost all interpretations of NTA implicitly or explicitly rest on uncritical and often unreflective reification of notions such as ‘group’, ‘community’, and ‘culture’ and assume that a group is a self-evident social actor and an internally cohesive social unit.

This significantly limits the analytic perspective and obstructs important research agendas. If the uncritical assumptions are withdrawn and ethnic groups are regarded as merely a way of framing certain activities, most respective interpretative schemes collapse.

Considering NTA as a category of analysis that is not based on a ‘groupist’ approach, is the author’s suggestion. Insofar, there is space for NTA as an analytical category.

Facts: The Justice & Governance Cluster @ ECMI

Dr. Alexander Osipov is a Senior Research Associate at the European Centre for Minority Issues. He is also heading up one of the Centre’s research clusters; the Justice & Governance Cluster.

The Justice & Governance Cluster seeks to invest in research and subsequent dissemination of information and knowledge on the ways norms concerning minority protection are set up, translated into practice and interpreted in the course of this translation.

The Cluster opts for the topics which still have significant gaps and deficiencies in the research already done. The projects selected must combine academic novelty with practical significance.

The backbone theoretical issues addressed are:

  • Relationships between different ways to conceptualize diversity
  • Limits of applicability for minority protection
  • Relationships between discourses and human behavior in terms of making and implementing decisions
  • Symbolic policies versus instrumental policies
  • Symbolic production – generation of meanings and values.

Contemporary minority rights context

At the same time as issues of norm diffusion and convergence have come to the fore at the macro level with the EU taking a greater role in Europe’s normative regime, aspects of legitimacy and responsibility of protection schemes come to the fore as these are interpreted at the local and regional levels.

Public administration capacity is ever more topical. This comes with the change in attention from standard setting to operationalization of minority rights. Governance requires translation of standards through policy design, programme development, knowledge transfer and capacity building as well as monitoring through indicators, targets and benchmarking.

Analytical categories

Minority protection and related notions are categories of practice employed for adjusting nation-building to cultural heterogeneity and vice versa. Taken as categories of analysis they are highly problematic and have a limited applicability.

Despite recent achievements in minority protection standard setting, institutional development still rests on a combination of loose ideas open to different interpretations. Correspondingly, the ways they are translated into practice vary significantly. Moreover, ideas under the headline of minority protection can be abused and misused in some circumstances.

This is the complexity that inspires the work of the Justice & Governance Cluster.

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