Queen's University

Dr. Zsuzsa Csergő

Associate Professor, Department of Political Studies
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I am an Associate Professor and Department Head in the Department of Political Studies at Queen's University. I specialize in the study of nationalism in contemporary European politics, with particular expertise on Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). I am also President of the Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN), which is the leading international scholarly association in the field of nationalism and ethnicity studies, and is headquartered at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University, New York. I earned my PhD in Political Science (2000), and MA in Russian and East European Studies (1992), from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Before joining the Queen's faculty, I was Assistant Professor of Political Science and Coordinator of the Women's Leadership Program in U.S. and International Politics at the George Washington University. 

I have held a number of prestigious fellowships and awards, including: a Distinguished Alumni award from the George Washington University’s Department of Political Science in 2013 (as the first person selected for this recognition, which was established to mark the Department’s 100th anniversary); the Fernand Braudel Senior Fellowship from the European University Institute in Florence, Italy in 2006; the 2005 Sherman Emerging Scholar Award from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington; as well as research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Institute for the Study of World Politics, the American Council of Learned Societies/Social Science Research Council, the George Hoffman Foundation, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. I was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna, Austria (2010-11), the Institute for Minority Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, Hungary (May 2016), and the Political Science Department of Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania (March 2016). I am a General Editor of the European Yearbook of Minority Issues and serve on the international editorial boards of several major peer-reviewed journals, such as Ethnopolitics, Problems of Post-Communism, and Intersections.

My research centers on questions of nationalism and democratization in post-Cold War Europe. Nationalism and problems of democratization are among the core issues of scholarship and teaching in political science, with increasing relevance to policy-makers. Nationalism is a powerful political ideology, shaping state and regime formation, and generating deeply-held sentiments and attitudes with profound impact on practices of inclusion and exclusion. Democratization also creates ongoing dilemmas for scholars, although few political ideologies and systems have received as much attention in political science as democracy.  Within this broad area of research, my most significant contributions have been to the literature on (a) nationalism and state-minority conflict over language rights and territorial self-government claims; (b) kin-state politics (trans-sovereign nationalism); and (c) minority political agency. My scholarship relies on extensive comparative research, involving field research in multiple settings. 

I am the author of Talk of the Nation: Language and Conflict in Romania and Slovakia (Cornell University Press, 2007). I have published articles in major journals such as Perspectives on Politics; Publius; Foreign Policy; Nations and Nationalism; Europe-Asia Studies; Problems of Post-Communism; East European Politics and Societies, as well as chapters in edited volumes published by major university and academic presses (e.g., Mabry et al, Divided Nations and European Integration; Wolchik and Curry, Central and East European Politics: From Communism to Democracy). I have recently co-edited two special issues about the impact of Europeanization on minority mobilization and inclusion. One is titled Europeanization and Minority Political Action in Central and Eastern Europe and was published in Problems of Post-Communism (volume 64 no.5, 2017) and subsequently also as a book by Routledge in August 2018. The other, Europeanization and Changes in Minority Inclusion in Central and Eastern Europe, came out in Intersections: East European Journal of Society and Politics (volume 3 no.5, 2017).

I am currently writing a comparative book about the sources of democratic minority political agency in the EU framework, focusing on six large ethno-linguistic minorities in Central and Eastern Europe. Entitled Resilient Minorities and Sustainable Democracy in Multiethnic Societies: Lessons from Hungarians, Poles, and Russians in Central and Eastern Europe, this book develops an empirically-derived theory about the sources of democratic minority political agency.  A core component of this theory is the ability of minority populations to maintain a form of “institutional capital” that includes a combination of intermediary institutions (civil society and associated organizations) that allow for both the cultural bonding necessary for ethnicity to exist (or ethnic boundary-making) and the inter-ethnic bridging necessary for social solidarity and political integration.

I am also engaged in a comparative project that explores the way newcomers affect established democratic balances in contemporary democracies.  Entitled The Politics of Complex Diversity in Contested Cities, this project is funded by a SSHRC Insight grant for which I am the Principal Investigator and Keith Banting and John McGarry are co-applicants. Our research focuses on how contestation unfolds in four major historically divided cities: Montreal, Belfast, Brussels, and Vilnius.  Immigration, refugee flows, and migration present challenges to established democracies. In historically contested societies, earlier conflicts have tended to produce a hierarchy of status between traditional ethnic communities.  Ethnic newcomers have the potential to unsettle the hierarchy.

Additionally, I am an Academic Coordinator in the Jean Monnet Network Grant entitled Between Europe and Russia: Domains of Diversity and Contestation (jointly-hosted by McGill University and the University of Montreal), which brings together 25 scholars from 11 universities and six countries. 

You can find me on Twitter @zsuzsacsergo

Most Recent Project

Resilient Minorities in Interstate Relations: Hungarians, Poles, and Russians in Central and Eastern Europe

The decade of the 1990s in Europe was characterized by optimism about the power of Europeanization to transform nationalism. Those hopes have not materialized. Nationalism has remained a “low-hanging fruit” for political mobilization in new and old democracies alike. Governments across the continent have performed poorly on social integration.  As an expression of disappointments, “old school” nationalism has flared up in societies across Europe, following a familiar script: blaming internal and external “others” for economic and social issues.  Governments use majoritarian nationalism to regain or construct legitimacy. If majoritarian nationalism is here to stay, however, so is minority resistance to it.  Old and new ethno-cultural minority populations around the world find ways to resist majoritarian ideologies, and many develop their own versions of minority nationalism. There is an urgent need for the scholarly community to find useful answers to the question of how minority mobilization under such conditions can be channelled into peacefully sustainable forms of democratic contestation.  This is the question addressed in the book.

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Other Projects

  • Europeanization and Minority Political Agency: Lessons from Central and Eastern Europe

    Cover: Europeanization and Minority Political Agency, by Queen's researcher and professor Dr. Zsuzsa CsergőIt is widely acknowledged that “Europeanization,” conceived as both the enlargement of the European Union (EU) and the diffusion of European norms and practices, has had a profound influence on the politics involving ethnic minorities across post-communist Europe. A significant body of literature has emerged about this impact, focusing on the emergence of European documents of minority protection after 1990; and the activities of European organizations and actors that pressured dominant state elites to adopt more minority-friendly policies in the framework of the institutional changes adopted during European accession.

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  • The Politics of Complex Diversity in Contested Cities

    This comparative project is funded by a SSHRC Insight grant for which I am the Principal Investigator and Keith Banting and John McGarry are co-applicants.

    This project examines change in ethnic competition in historically contested cities, where established status hierarchies are challenged by ethnic newcomers--including new immigrants and "older" but increasingly mobilized ethno-cultural minorities. Such challenges are an increasing reality in many contemporary democracies, mainly the result of immigration and migration brought about by globalization, and other processes like European integration. Numerous events (neighborhood tensions, riots) in recent years have highlighted the potential for growing conflict over ethno-cultural hierarchies in cities. Understanding the processes behind them is critically important for the future of peace and democracy.

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  • Europeanization and Minority Inclusion in Central and Eastern Europe

    Cover: Minority Inclusion in Central and Eastern Europe: Changes and Continuities in the European Framework, by Queen's researcher and professor Dr. Zsuzsa CsergőThe question of how governments deal with ethnic diversity is fundamental to the future of peace and democracy in Europe. The way this question is articulated and addressed has changed significantly, as European governments and social actors respond to problems of regional security, domestic political contestation, and economic well-being. 

    Although Europeanization reaches all aspects of life in EU member and aspiring member states, the governance of ethnic diversity has evolved in diverse directions across the continent, rather than gradually converging toward common standards.

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  • Kin-state activism in Hungary, Romania, and Russia: the politics of ethnic demography

    This chapter, co-authored with James M. Goldgeier, appeared in Mabry et al, Divided Nations and European Integration.

    Cover of Divided Nations and European IntegratiIn all cases, politics plays the leading role in kin-state projects. The emergence of democracy in the formerly communist world meant that elites had to develop successful strategies for gaining and holding power in countries that were defining their futures as independent. They could emphasize state sovereignty or cultural pluralism, promote centralization or decentralization.

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  • Talk of the Nation: Language and Conflict in Romania and Slovakia

    Cover: Talk of the Nation Language and Conflict in Romania and Slovakia, by Queen's researcher and professor Dr. Zsuzsa Csergo How can democratization, coupled with transnational integration, resolve conflicts over cultural difference in places that are marked by legacies of nationalist competition? This book explores that question through a comparative study of contestations over language use in the heart of the post-Communist region.

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  • Nationalist Strategies and European Integration

    Title page for Nationalist Strategies and European Integration, by Queen's University researcherDr. Zsuzsa CsergőContrary to conventional wisdom, nationalism remains alive and well across an increasingly integrated Europe. While most nationalisms are not violent, the desire for greater national voice by both states and groups continues to exist in both the East and the West.

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