Externally Funded Projects

The Liberal Script in Ukraine's contested border regions

Project Coordinators: Prof. Dr. Gwendolyn Sasse and Dr. Sabine v. Löwis (ZOiS), Prof. Dr. Christian Volk (FU Berlin)

This project is part of the Cluster of Excellence “Contestations of the Liberal Script (SCRIPTS)” coordinated by the Freie Universität Berlin. It was conceived in the Cluster’s Research Unit “Borders”. 

Project Description

The aim of this study, located between geography, political science and anthropology, is to analyse different challenges to the liberal script in border regions, in particular with regard to sovereignty, mobility and individual vs. group rights. The case of Ukraine offers an interesting within-case variation on the claims and practices surrounding borders. It thereby speaks to a broader comparative and transregional context. First, the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine are among the most blatant contemporary challenges to the liberal script as enshrined in international law. Second, Ukraine’s western regions bordering the EU are characterized by the tension between mobility and controlled access as well as the contestation of competing notions of the nation-state and the political regimes they underpin (e.g. on both sides of the Ukrainian- Hungarian border). And third, Ukraine’s border with Transnistria – a de facto state let in between Moldova and Ukraine – highlights the practical and security implications of a contested border on neighbouring states. The feasibility of the qualitative data collection has been tested in the pilot study Ukraine‘s contested border regions with funding by the Research Unit Borders in 2019. The new data will be of interest to European policy-makers and opens up possibilities for engaging the wider public by bringing to life a range of border experiences. The project extends the international network of SCRIPTS in Eastern Europe.

Methods and Data Collection

The novelty of the project lies in the in-depth and comparative analysis of different border regions and contestations at once. Four border regions have been selected for this study, including two border regions with a highly uncertain territorial and legal status: the Ukrainian-Russian border, the Ukrainian-Moldovan border, the Ukrainian-Hungarian border, and the Ukrainian-Polish border.

Research Questions

  • The central research questions of the project are:
  • Why and how is the liberal border script, as enshrined in national politics, international law and EU norms and regulations, contested in Ukraine’s border regions?
  • What are the driving factors and who are the actors behind these contestations?
  • What are the effects of different types of contestation on the perceptions, practices and identities of those living in the contested regions?
  • How is the liberal script maintained or redefined as a result of these challenges?

Determinants of Mobilisation at Home and Abroad: Analysing the Micro-Foundations of Out-Migration & Mass Protest (MOBILISE)

On application of Prof. Dr. Olga Onuch (University of Manchester), Prof. Dr. Jacquelien van Stekelenburg (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Dr. Sorana Toma (ENSAE-CREST, Université Paris Saclay) and Prof. Dr. Gwendolyn Sasse, ZOiS is one of the participating institutions in the project „Determinants of Mobilisation at Home and Abroad: Analysing the Micro-Foundations of Out-Migration & Mass Protest (MOBILISE)“.

Project description

The MOBILISE project asks: When there is discontent, why do some people protest while others cross borders? Connecting theoretical expectations from the migration and protest literatures, we examine: a) whether similar factors drive the choice to migrate and/or protest at the individual level; b) how the political, social and economics context affects this mobilisation; c) whether these choices are independent of each other or mutually reinforcing/ undermining.

MOBILISE employs a multi-method (nationally representative face-to-face panel surveys, online migrant surveys, protest participant surveys, focus groups, life-history interviews, social media analysis) and a multi-sited research design. It covers Ukraine, Poland, Morocco and Brazil, which have recently witnessed large-scale emigration and protests. It follows migrants from these countries to Germany, the UK and Spain.

The project offers four key innovations:

  • it combines protest and migration;
  • it captures all the relevant groups for a comparative study (protesters, migrants, migrant protesters and people who have not engaged in migration or protest);
  • it tracks individuals over time by employing a panel survey;
  • it includes the use of social media data providing real time information on the role of networks and political remittances.

These features allow the project to generate an unprecedented amount of empirical data on the issues at stake, to make a major contribution to theory development in both migration and protest studies, and to offer key insights to policy makers that are of central importance for political and economic stability.

Project website


The Proliferation of Memory Laws and the Return of the Nation

Dr. Félix Krawatzek has made a successful application to the Daimler and Benz Foundation Scholarship Programme. The postdoctoral award has a value of 40,000 euros and will be used for his ZOiS research project "The Proliferation of Memory Laws and the Return of the Nation".

Project description

Part of the ZOiS research project The Proliferation of Memory Laws and the Return of the Nation will focus on Russia. In Russia, active use is made of memory laws to control the national historical narrative and strengthen national identity. They thus constitute a legal framework which determines what can be said in public about historical events. However, laws such as these exist not only in authoritarian regimes, but also in democracies. The project seeks to understand the political dynamics behind the juridification of memory and its wider societal implications. As part of this project, a database is being compiled on memory laws and a survey conducted in Russia.