The research group Citizenship, Equality & Diversity or CED, focuses on issues of inequality and equality in relation to (a neglect of) the diversity characterising contemporary (mainly Western post-industrial) societies. It does so mainly within a political science frame, but also connects to other disciplines in the social sciences and humanities more broadly speaking, and even cooperated with the medical field for a couple of years.
The research of the group members is driven by a concern to detect, analyse and understand mechanisms and causes of inequality based on social group denominators and by the question of how to define and promote the equality of such social groups in contemporary society. This central topic brings the different research projects together and is also the common ground for new research conducted by the group. In this respect, CED stands for an explicit value it puts forward. CED conducts social science research attempting to grasp the working of society in order to contribute to its improvement. It is ‘social’ in the true sense of the term. This said, CED is well aware of the fact that different and even conflicting understandings of both equality and inequality circulate. Therefore, CED research handles these concepts carefully, not fixing them at the outset. It rather defines them in relation to the context in which they are used and leaves openings for discussing their understanding.
The concept of diversity is important in the research on inequality and equality. Diversity is taken as a starting point in two respects. First, the group’s research aims to reach beyond gender so as to also include other grounds of inequality. Secondly, the group’s research is based on the understanding of gender as being more than a socio-demographic variable that can be reduced to a female and a male sex. The spectrum is larger and groups of women or men are not homogeneous in themselves. Within CED, issues of inequality and equality are studied with respect to the socio-demographic diversity characterising society, unpacking the notion of the citizen (or denizen), and how the lack of recognition of diversity or a specific understanding of diversity (re)produces inequality. Research focuses on both one and more aspects of diversity and how this relates to axes and processes of inequality, whereby attention is increasingly paid to issues of intersectionality. While the research initially concentrated on issues of gender, the focus has been broadened to other mechanisms of discrimination and exclusion, including sexuality, trans (both often taken together under the label LGBTQI), race/ethnicity and disability.
A last central concept in the work of the research group is that of citizenship. Rather than referring to citizenship studies, the concept of citizenship is meant to embed social groups in CED research in a polity, the state, its institutions, practices and policies. Policies play an important role in matters of (in)equality. Citizenship refers to the political and policy dimension in issues of diversity and (in)equality, and the way in which politics and policies (re)produce equality and inequality. In this respect, CED research tends to focus on institutions rather than on actors, and even research on actors is often conducted from the point of view of how institutions shape their scope of action. Finally, citizenship also refers to the embeddedness of the research group in the discipline of political science in the first place, notwithstanding its open mind towards other disciplines and a multidisciplinary approach.
Over the last years the research within CED tackled the following topics:
- The promotion of diversity and equality in and through processes and stages of political representation, with a focus on mechanisms related to the process of representative democracy and the way in which symbolic representation shapes the contours of descriptive and substantive representation.
- Equality and diversity in and through public policies and the underlying processes, with a particular focus on gender and disability mainstreaming, EU external policies, reconciliation policies, and gender quotas.
- Dynamics, processes and the expression of different types of violence and their precursors in relation to power imbalances between and among social groups, but also concepts of democracy and equality.
- Approaches to study intersectionality and to design policies moving from policies for distinct target groups to an intersectional approach.
All of the former translates into research with a clear social mission. Political science, much as the other social sciences, has evolved over the course of last decades. The emphasis on strong research designs and methodologically sound research partly shifted the focus to what could be described as a technocratic approach. Political scientists turned into excellent scholars when it comes to the craftsmanship of setting up and doing research. While technically being of an excellent nature, social science research should, CED group members think, not lose sight of the fact that social sciences are about and for society. Research conducted within CED puts this concern centre stage.