Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

DRIVE: Social inclusion against polarisation

What are the main issues leading to polarisation and division? What is the role of social exclusion in these processes? How can we inform and design better policies to safeguard young people from falling prey to intolerance and polarisation? The DRIVE project, led by Leiden University in The Hague, seeks to address these questions by working with a consortium of nine partners from across North-Western Europe (two civil society organisations, a university hospital, and six universities).

2021 - 2023
Tahir Abbas
European Union's Horizon 2020 programme

Leiden University (NL) is coordinating this research consortium in partnership with Aarhus University (DK), Umeå University (SE), the University of Cambridge (UK), the University of Liverpool (UK), and the University of Oslo (NO), in combination with two civil society organisations, ConnectFutures (UK), Innlandet Hospital Trust (NO), and Fryshuset (SE).

Original research conducted in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and the United Kingdom over the course of 36 months will help determine outcomes to support European-wide policy solutions that concentrate on social inclusion in initiatives by bringing together the expertise, skills, and knowledge of researchers and practitioners involved in creating an understanding of the social issues relating to polarisation and building resilience against it.

Detailed overview

In recent years, research on extremist identity politics and political violence in Europe has focused on young men. This research has brought to the fore problems of identity, belonging, inter-generational change, alienation, marginalisation, inequality, masculinity, and a lack of education. These findings also point to the significance of matters of space and place that compound existing exclusionary discourses based on ethnicity, religious identity, socio-economic status, and political orientation. Not only do far-right movements and radical Islamists react to similar stimuli, but they also feed off each other’s rhetoric and activism.

Despite knowledge gleaned from existing studies, significant gaps remain in terms of understanding the interplay between local manifestations of polarisation. Notably, there are no studies that have investigated the synergies and reciprocity between different polarising views in a comparative European context. Concomitantly, there is no detailed understanding of the relationship between individual and structural factors that also takes into consideration the psychosocial circumstances affecting people who may already be vulnerable in a variety of ways. Social determinants of health in general and mental health in particular are well established in research but have rarely been applied to such research. There remains a fundamental lack of appreciation for the wider struggles for social inclusion that affect the experience in local areas. This is a central concern for all vulnerable people in matters of social conflict, where questions of personal and political identity combined with issues of intergenerational change affect the paths individuals take.

DRIVE tests four variables at the level of enabling factors that take into consideration the issues of social exclusion based on spatial formationidentity politicsintergenerational change, and reciprocal polarisation. The project will also serve to increase understanding of individual and public mental health issues (well-being and resilience) related to experiences of social exclusion as they contribute to various outcomes within North-Western European societies.

All of these concerns will help to determine a set of generalisable policy-relevant findings to be applied in the specific countries of the project. They will also be considered in terms of relevance across a wider European context.

DRIVE has three overarching objectives:

First, to understand how spatial formation, identity politics, intergenerational change, and cumulative polarisation function as enabling factors in processes in North-Western Europe.

Second, to identify and describe social inclusion issues at the structural level and to understand how they interact on the individual and group levels in terms of psychosocial and mental health.

Third, to determine a range of potential policy solutions to the complex and context-specific requirements of countering and preventing violence between groups that concentrate on social inclusion.

DRIVE begins on 1 January 2021 and ends 31 December 2023. For further details, contact Tahir Abbas on t.abbas@fgga.leidenuniv.nl.

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