Sociology Approaches: Empirical Research on Problems of Nationalism and Minorities

Course Description: 

Course Description

This course will examine the ways in which the modern European identities and regional cultures are formed and inter-communicated in the Eastern part of the European continent. The course work is based on a fresh survey data, a cross cultural comparative project carried out between 2009 and 2011 titled “Interplay of European, National and Regional Identities: nations between states along the new eastern borders of the European Union” (ENRI EAST) and financed by an EU grant.

While the definition of ‘nation’ is certainly problematic, this project use the term to refer to group identities that imply a strong claim for a sovereign state. Our empirical research focuses on the nations and states on both sides of the new Eastern border of the EU (“divided nations”). This includes the following states: Poland, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, and Germany, as well as their corresponding national groups living on either side of the borders (i.e. in their ‘mother country’ or in one or more of the neighboring countries). The issues of identity formation and the interplay of different identities are more salient in the complex conditions of broad social restructuring in Eastern Europe and thus offer far ranging opportunities to explore different mechanisms of identity formation that may not be so obvious, yet are of equal importance, in the context of other parts of Europe. Divided nations are the product of moving borders or moving people. By this criteria one can distinguish, for the purpose of our research „classic minorities”, “recent migrants”, and “historical migrants”

The project includes a detailed statistical survey of these groups and the selection of a number of them for an in-depth description and analysis. The study aims to compare and analyze such important features of the historic and social memory and the consciousness of these ethnic groups, as patterns of self-identification and feelings of belonging, shared values, common social, cultural and political habits and traditions. 

Based on different empirical sociological survey data and the available results we will approach different cases of identity formations, inter­ethnic relations and ethnic conflicts, the majority­minority relation, and ethnic based discrimination examining its roots and sociological consequences


Learning Outcomes: 

Learning Outcomes


By the end of the class, students will have acquired basic knowledge of cross-cultural comparative empirical sociological investigation and methodology. The students gain an insight into the different profiles for the specific research approach, the qualitative and quantitative empirical research methods. The course will teach how qualitative and quantitative data basis can be analyses and compared. Participants can learn how different research paradigms and researches can be integrated into a coherent scientific outcome. Learning outcomes are supported by the course’s requirements and assessed accordingly.


By the end of this course, students will be able to:


ü  Establish considerable knowledge about various forms of ethnic identities and inter-ethnic conflicts in border situation in Eastern Europe

ü  Make choices between quantitative and qualitative methods of empirical research

ü  Provide skills on cross national and intercultural comparative data analysis

ü  Interpret statistical data and tables

ü  Integrate theoretical concepts with empirical field experiences



Course Requirements


All the readings and research resources will be available in electronic format, and will be distributed among the students when semester starts

Class activity

All class members are responsible for acting as discussion facilitator for each weekly topic during the semester. Typically, presentations will take the form of a brief presentation based on some readings and empirical findings (5-10 minutes) integrated with critical questions for open discussion, which will constitute the remainder of the class time.

Midterm: takeaway homework

Each student will have to develop a short research proposal based on the provided empirical sources.

The proposal must be sent me by May 7th


Students of this class will have to write a paper, which should investigate a selected problem that is relevant and fit into the framework of the project. Topics can be selected from a list provided by the instructor after midterm. Deadline of the final papers is a week before the end of the semester.


Assessment (100% of the final grade).  Detailed description of the assignment specifying grading criteria – i.e. on what basis will be the grade/points for this assignment awarded.


  • Class participation – 20 %.
  • Short class presentations – 15 %
  • Midterm, takeaway homework - 15 %
  • Final exam, take-home end term paper – 50%
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