A host of recent social-psychological research repeatedly confirms a strong connection between inclusiveness of individuals' identities to their support to inclusiveness of society as a whole (Bodenhausen, 2010). It is not enough to promote equality and encourage social inclusion; an adequate climate needs to be created for such policies to be successfully implemented. Merely informing people about the need to overcome burdening ethnic and religious divisions is usually not effective in changing their attitudes and behavior; a deeper intervention needs to address the way they see themselves: not unidimensionaly, as a member of one group, but more inclusively, with a liberty to identify with more groups. Policies targeting youth (see for example, National or Regional Strategies for Youth from all four countries) all proclaim group equality, inclusiveness and civic activism but rarely address identity issues. In order to enhance regional and within country cohesion, a more inclusive religious and ethnic identities as well as alternative identities (European, regional, gender, sub-cultural) besides ethnic and religious need to be cultivated. One important route for it is to define conditions that foster complex social identity (SIC), as research demonstrate that people with more complex social identities show higher inter-group tolerance, are more ready to volunteer and be socially active and also more likely to endorse social policies relevant to out-groups.
This project is intended to gather information that would serve as milestones for tailoring programs and policies that address disparities through promoting a more complex way adolescents in the Western Balkans view themselves. The present study will build on the results of previous research regarding the complexity and structure of social identity and its correlates. By investigating these issues in the specific context of the Western Balkans we will try to discover and understand the ways we can affect social identity complexity and promote its beneficial effects. The focus of our study will be on young people as we believe that they represent one of this region’s most important resources for driving social change. These generations did not have an active role in the wars and conflicts that happened during the nineties in this region and it is possible that they are more willing to leave the past behind and initiate and ensure development of this region in the future.
We developed a complex research design intended to deeply explore antecedents and consequences of SIC. We plan to interview a total of 800 young people from four countries, both with majority and minority status, conduct eight focus groups, eight case studies and provide online test to gather additional data.
Project is supported within the framework of the Regional Research Promotion Programme in the Western Balkans (RRPP), which is run by the University of Fribourg upon a mandate of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, SDC, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
Lead institution: Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade, Serbia
Project Coordinator: Nebojša Petrović i Iris Žeželj
Faculty of Philosophy, University of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Sarajevo School of Science and Technology, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Individual researchers from Macedonia
Duration: 18 months
Value: CHF 195,796