Prof. Conor O’Dwyer used his 2012 Rothman Faculty Summer Fellowship to fund research on his current project, “Culture Clash: Internationalization, Europeanization, and Gay Rights in Postcommunist Europe.” This project explores the effect of European integration on the politics of gay rights in postcommunist Europe. It builds on fieldwork Prof. O’Dwyer conducted between 2007 and 2011 in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, and Hungary. Through his fieldwork, Prof. O’Dwyer gathered interviews with activists, observers, participants, and government officials involved in gay rights activism throughout East Central Europe since the fall of communism.
Prof. O’Dwyer examines how the fall of communist governments and the subsequent accession of postcommunist countries into the European Union have affected gay rights movements in these countries. Although there has been significant international pressure to expand rights to LGBT groups as East European countries applied for EU membership, his work does not show this as a direct cause of the growth of gay rights activism. Instead, Prof. O’Dwyer traces how international pressure provoked political backlash against LGBT groups, who responded to this backlash by increasing their organization and consolidating their strengths. As such, Prof. O’Dwyer describes accession to the EU as a catalyst rather than a cause of change.
This is an important study of a broad democratic movement that demonstrates how human rights are interpreted in different cultural and social contexts and how these interpretations shift as cultures and societies are increasingly exposed to globalizing, transnational forces. Through the support of the Rothman Fellowship, Prof. O’Dwyer was able to make significant progress on his manuscript and ancillary articles. In conjunction with an appointment as a 2012-2013 Visiting Scholar at the Harvard University Center for European Studies, Prof. O’Dwyer has presented significant portions of his research to the international scholarly community in the US and abroad.
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