Thursday, 17 February 2011


Dr Katie Sian (photo above) is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Ethnicity & Racial Studies, University of Leeds. Research into ethnicity and racism is an interdisciplinary field which does not fall neatly into the orbit of one particular department or school. This centre comprises a network of over fifty active research individuals from across the University including Sociology and Social Policy, English, Law, Geography, Politics, Adult and Continuing Education, French, European Studies, Healthcare Studies, Dentistry, Primary Care, Theology and Jewish Studies. The Centre is primarily a vehicle for building interdisciplinary and regional collaboration in this field in order to develop research interests and ideas, generate joint research activities and projects and attract research funds and graduate students. It brings researchers with shared interests together, and enables and facilitates regular contact through seminars, postgraduate forums, workshops and bulletins.

Katie has arranged to interview me this morning at the Welcome Centre in connection with a pen-European project called Tolerace (can you see what they did there?). She's been to see Chino Cabon at The Race Equality Centre before our meeting and she's going to interview Suleman Nagdi and others at the Federation of Muslim Organisations after seeing me. The nature of the project is described below.
The semantics of tolerance and (anti-)racism in Europe: Public bodies and civil society in comparative perspective
Tolerace starts from the assumption that public policies in Europe do not adequately take into account racism, resulting in precarious anti-racist measures. The project proposes a comparative analysis that explores how the different meanings of racism/anti-racism and tolerance/intolerance have been historically embedded in wider ideas and discourses on citizenship and identity in different European contexts (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Denmark and UK). We defend that a historically informed approach is required to question widespread views of racism as a matter of beliefs or attitudes arising from specific (extremist) ideologies and that fail to challenged discriminatory social structures. The project focuses on two key life spheres with a strong level of regulation concerning the processes of social integration  and where denunciations and public issues often emerge: employment and education.
Who Tolerace addresses
National policy-makers from public institutions focusing specifically on integration and anti-discrimination practices.
Mediation agents networking on local and regional levels: local public servants, NGOs, anti-racis activists, religious organisations, immigrant grassroots organisations.
European policy-makers and policy practitioners, particularly those working on justice and citizenship, education and culture, employment and social affairs.
European monitoring bodies: the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) and the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).

The media: journalists specialised on issues concerning racism and discrimination, religious and cultural diversity and immigration policies.

European added value

The Tolerace project aims at:

Developing an interdisciplinary and comparative approach for the understanding of contemporary racism/anti-racism that it is grounded in the specific cases under study and that takes into account the relevance of racism within the historical formation of the European national states.

Exploring the extent to which the idea of tolerance/intolerance in European public political cultures is related to anti-racism/racism.

Adding relevant knowledge both to public bodies and grassroots organisations committed to anti-racism.

Elaborating proposals regarding anti-racism policies within a multiple discrimination approach, jointly with public bodies and civil society representatives working at local and regional level.
Thematic research fields

Academic narratives, public discourse3s and polices on racism/anti-racism and tolerance/intolerance. The analysis of the different meanings of these concepts and political processes within the academic production (e.g. history, sociology, political theory, anthropology and social psychology), and its interrelations to current public discourses and polices in the national and wider European context under study.

Local policy responses, discrimination and employment. The empirical study of cases regarding employment, to analyse the role and effectiveness of local mediation agents (e.g. city council, grassroots organisations) and to examine how the localisation of (anti-)racist measures is shaping conception of racism and related discriminations.

Difference and integration in education. The analysis of official policies and school responses to situation of complex cultural diversity (particularly, linguistic and religious). The empirical study of cases will be used to understand how questions of tolerance, integration and (anti-)racism are deployed in everyday discourses and practices.

Public issues and denunciations. To examine the role of the media in the construction of racism as a public issues and thus as a key social and political problem. This will be achieved through the analysis of the framing of cases in each national/regional context.

Expected results

A toolkit for the analysis of racism and related discrimination and institutional response, with a specific emphasis on education and employment. A web-based resource aimed at promoting and informing the development of anti-racist policies, illustrated with examples from the Tolerace case studies.

An online database with the most representative mass-media coverage of the cases selected for the study of public issues and denunciations in each European context.

Scientific publications in national and international social sciences journals, and in different languages, making available the main findings to wider academic audiences.

Policy briefs that will emphasise the key policy messages that emerge from both the analysis of public bodies and empirical case studies.

Participatory workshops, to promote discussions between state-endorsed institutions and civil society representatives and academics. These policy dialogues will focus both on provisional research findings and on measures being proposed by public policies regarding racism and related discriminations.

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