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Vlad Marginas

GEM-DIAMOND doctoral fellow

ESR 6 – The 'resistance’ social movement: towards a re-politicisation of the European public sphere

Historian and European affairs generalist. Horizon Europe Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions GEM-DIAMOND Doctoral Fellow, Researcher and joint PhD student at UBB (Cluj), UNIGE (Geneva) & ULB (Brussels).

Host Institutions

The "resistance" social movement: toward a repoliticization of the European public sphere

Supervisors

  • Sergiu Miscoiu
  • Sandro Cattacin
  • Ramona Coman

Research abstract

This doctoral thesis focuses on the mounting tensions within various religious social movements active in the European public sphere. The individual case studies and the relevant actors will be collectively included in GEM-DIAMOND’s Work Package #2 (WP2). WP2 will map and analyse the legal, political, societal and technocratic actor networks active within its Member States driving dissensus in the European Union, in which this individual research provides a sociological perspective. These actors are not limited to Europe's physical boundaries and the movements themselves have either singular, collective or leaderless leadership structures, have frequently unclear ultimate goals and utilize both conventional and unconventional political methods. The nebulous composition of these various groups makes them difficult to categorise and compartmentalise. All share eclectic characteristics. Various religious institutions, NGOs, alternative activist communities and agitators mesh together to form a cohesive, transnational force. The narrow focus of the individual research will focus on anti-gender movements in predominantly-Orthodox countries in South-Eastern Europe and will analyse their impacts within wider transnational social movements. The links between religious ultraconservative anti-gender movements in Romania, Bulgaria and Greece (as Member States), which are coupled with a fourth, Serbia, which has EU-candidate status. The research also focuses on European, American and Russian norm entrepreneurship, EU conditionality, conservative aggiornamento and transnational dimensions of conflicts over public morality, within the wider dynamics of the global culture wars. The research will argue that interpretations of ‘gender ideology’ and right-wing populism are two faces of the same coin and pleads for a more complex understanding of the way in which distinct projects can converge on specific setting, producing dissensus as a general outcome.

Keywords: dissensus; anti-gender; populism; European Union; Euroscepticism; identity politics; norm entrepreneurship; transnationalisation.

Research Question(s)

• How have LGBTQ+ rights, as a politically divisive topic, contributed to the development of dissensus in social movements in predominantly Orthodox South-Eastern European states?
• What are the specificities and commonalities with global anti-gender campaigns?
• Is there a transnational dissensus coalition fuelled by anti-gender movements active in the public sphere? And if so, what are its processes of coagulation and dissemination?

Research Hypothesis(es)

Political social currents generally associated with dissensus, namely any form of extremism (be it reactionary, fascist, alt-right, communist, or ecofascist, to name just a few) are reinforcing each other, through transnational networks. Whether by happenstance or coordinated, these dissensus actors form a loose coalition of illiberal forces that coalesce into a broader political movement that is supportive of an authoritarian model of politics. A reinforcing hypothesis posits that extra-European illiberal factors (mainly from the USA and Russia, though not exclusively) are feeding into these anti-democratic currents and are directly stoking tensions by eroding trust in European institutions, at a local, national and transnational level.

Personal Methods-Specific Bibliography (So Far)

Ashe, S. D., Busher, J., Macklin, G. & Winter, A. (Eds.) (2021). Researching the far-right: Theory, method and pratice. Routledge.
Kuhar, R. & Paternotte, D. (2017). Anti-gender campaigns in Europe: Mobilizing against equality. Rowman & Littlefield.
Slootmaeckers, K. (2023). Coming in: Sexual politics and EU accession in Serbia. Manchester University Press.
Stoeckl, K. & Uzlaner, D. (2022). The moralist international: Russia in the global culture wars. Fordham University Press.
I am a graduate of two universities in a pre-Brexit United Kingdom. I obtained my Bachelor of Arts in History (with Honours and a First Class degree) at Canterbury Christ Church University in 2012. My individual study focused on Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu's state visit to the United Kingdom in 1978. Afterwards, based on solid advice from my professors, I was accepted and subsequently obtained my Master of Arts degree in Modern History (with Merit) in 2014 at the University of Kent, labelled 'The UK's European University.' My thesis narratively explored the political history of British Euroscepticism since 1945. During my studies, my main interests covered modern European and transatlantic historical issues, with an inclination towards (but not exclusive to) diplomatic and political history.

After graduation, I considered pursuing an academic career. However, mainly due to the lack of funding opportunities, I relocated to London and worked as a copywriter and analyst in the technology sector. After becoming disillusioned with the fever of the incoming Brexit referendum, I decamped and moved to Brussels to be closer to the European institutions, the many other international companies, NGOs, and to be in the thick of it in the Eurobubble. I worked as an independent consultant, a technology data analyst, and most importantly for me, as a political advisor in the European Parliament (for an MEP in the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats political group) during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. I contributed to committee meetings in our Brussels office, wrote reports, letters, and opinion pieces for MEP, drafted briefs and speeches, and witnessed firsthand the highly complex European legislative process. I gained insider knowledge of the European institutions and focused on honing my political skills, which were crucial in obtaining compromises and consensus after informal, party, and technical negotiations.

Notably, I witnessed the strict enforcement of the cordon sanitaire established by the four mainstream political groups (EPP, S&D, Renew, and Greens-EFA) in dealing with what had been marked as 'troublemakers and extremists' found in the ECR and especially in ID. The mainstream political actors most often worked collegially and achieved their aims through consensus after hammering out their differences, while the invariably dissenting members from nationalistic, extremist, or anti-European political wings were forced into a legislative wilderness. We were not allowed to take into account any amendments, recitals, or draft proposals from these 'actors of dissensus' and this directive was strictly enforced. And while there were frequent voicings about the lack of flexibility and pragmatism, the overall philosophy was that we could not be tolerant of intolerance, in the most obvious political display of the paradox of tolerance.

Conversely, during organised social events in-or-around the European institutions, the political actors and their staff mingled indiscriminately. This I found fascinating, the ability to separate the issues from the person in a limited capacity, and the fact that we were all together in the same place truly made us all feel we were in it together, no matter which direction each of us tried to steer our own solo political vessels. I realised the dissensus actors were oftentimes adept at embracing different personas based on whether or not the national spotlight was shining on them at that very instance. The theatrics deployed in the plenary made many of them unrecognisable from their private selves. That personal political pressure, which is unique to the individual, could make the difference between dissent and consensus, or belligerence and amenability.

From a technical standpoint, I have also participated in a Data Science bootcamp in Brussels, at an organisation called DigitYser, which worked closely with start-ups and tech companies in and around Brussels. During my training, I learned numerous programming languages, the concepts of data sorting, data analysis, data science, general artificial intelligence concepts, machine learning techniques and deep learning principles. After completing the six-month bootcamp, I was offered to opportunity to stay on at the organisation and I worked as a junior data scientist (type 2), participating in various projects with private companies that were data-nascent or data-curious.

Taking into account my experiences in London, Brussels and Strasbourg, coupled with my experience in the data science commercial world, where the learning curve was steep and mistakes were strongly condemned, I am deeply stimulated by the opportunity to map and dissect the sociopolitical trends of these individual actors of dissensus in a thorough study that would analyse and clearly establish challenges to liberal democratic norms.
Marginas, Vlad. 'A Political Perspective on British Euroscepticism since 1945' [Postgraduate dissertation, University of Kent, Canterbury], in the University of Kent Library collection (September 2014).

Marginas, Vlad. 'President Ceasescu's State Visit to the United Kingdom, June 1978' [Undergraduate individual study, Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury], in the Canterbury Christ Church University Library collection (June 2012).