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Freedom of opinion and expression through the narratives on the state of emergency: anthropological study of Slovenian (anti)democratic consciousness during the Covid-19 epidemics


ARIS Code: J6-3128

Project duration: 1. 10. 2021–30. 9. 2024

Project leaderBarbara Gornik, PhD

Participating institute at ZRS KoperInstitute for Social Studies

The project stems from the observation that in the context of state of emergency during the Covid-19 epidemies, many of the key indicators of a developing authoritarian government were found in Slovenia, including attacks on the independent judiciary and media, curtailment of civil liberties and freedom of the press, imposition of administrative burdens on non-governmental organizations, disregard for both other branches of government, actions against independent civil organizations, enforcement of obedience to a central authority at the expense of personal freedoms, etc.

The project entails a comparative examination of freedom of opinion and expression in the context of state of emergency during the covid-19 epidemics as perceived by citizens, civil society, journalists and politicians and policymakers. The analysis will provide an answer to the question of how these different socio-political levels interact with each other and how transnational human rights ideas – in our case freedom of opinion and expression – manifest and materialize as a part of the media, civic, political, and grassroots consciousness.

The overall objective of the project is to examine conceptualizations of freedom of opinion and expression as they emerge through narratives of state of emergency by conducting systematic anthropological socio-legal research over a three-year period. The overall aim of the project is threefold, namely:

  • To collect the narratives on the state of emergency and examine values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours manifested within these narratives at media, political, civil society and grassroots levels.
  • To examine the diversity of understandings and practises of freedom of opinion and expression as they emerge through the narratives on state of emergency at media, political, civil society and grassroots levels
  • To examine, through the processes that take place within the dynamics between media, politics, civil society and grassroots, which are the main determinants and facilitators of (anti-)democratic consciousness

More specifically, the project will examine the content of narratives on state of emergency at different societal levels to describe what is said about the state of emergency in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and why. The analysis will involve reflection on the causes and construction processes of the narratives, as well as their political, ideological and ethical dimensions. With this aim, we will try to grasp narratives at the level of existence, that is, to examine their mode of being, to pay attention to how narratives come into being and why they appear in a certain form, what are the rationalities that form the basis of narratives in a broader sense, to explain not only what they include and why, but also what they exclude and why they are not different than they are.

Based on the narratives on state of emergency we will seek to extract conceptualizations of freedom of opinion and expression from people’s values, concerns, practises, and behaviours, and examine how these shape and determine the ways in which freedom of opinion and expression is enacted, contested, and transformed at different levels of society. We will also examine how authoritarianism accommodates the idea of human rights in its practice and what social and cultural factors facilitate (anti)democratic consciousness. Once we acquire the knowledge of who and what facilitates (anti-)democratic consciousness, by which aims and means, we are better equipped to find solutions to the current challenges and to provide an adequate response at the policy level.