Navigating the intersection between art and the political


October 2015

On the collision of tradition and modernity in Turkey – Bliss, 2007

Bliss, with the original title “Mutluluk”, is a Turkish movie which was first released in 2007, yet I came across only recently.  At first I was reluctant to watch it, thinking that the way it was shot would be too old-fashioned to retain my attention but ultimately I am glad I gave it a chance because it deals eloquently with an uneasy subject – “honour killings” in the Muslim world. However, the issue of “honour killings” or instances when individuals are murdered usually by members of their family because they have done something that is considered shameful in their community is not confined to Islamic countries, as it has spread across the world. Indeed, the media often recount such stories with a rather grim tone, as if to highlight their simultaneous absurdity and inevitability. In fact, the problem has become significant enough in the UK to make the creation of a National Memorial day of victims of hour killings possible.  However, instances of honour killings have also been recorded in Ireland, Germany, Bulgaria and Europe as a whole. In relation to this, the European project “Prevention of violence against women and girls in patriarchal families” provides an interesting read. So, in consideration of the above, the storyline of the film is not as unfamiliar to a European audience as it most likely once used to be.

Despite, the heavy focus on tradition and religious morality, the movie has a light-hearted rhythm to it which makes it flow like a poem. Still, it does begin ominously, swiftly switching between silent and peaceful opening scenes, with the image of a hill reflected in water, to reveal a distressing sequence of shots of a young woman, Meryem,  lying on the ground lifelessly, because she has been assaulted. The viewer is invited to worry about this young woman, as she is locked in the darkness of a subterranean barn, awaiting her trial for having allegedly “sinned”. What unfolds is a narrative that assumes that the viewer is to some extent familiar with the idea that a woman can be held responsible for becoming a victim of violence and that she could potentially be blamed for dishonouring her family. Soon we find out that her distant cousin, Cemal, will be returning from the army and that he will become instrumental in her execution. In accordance with the wishes of the elders of the village he must take her to Istanbul in order to murder her in cold blood and save the family honour.

                       “fate is as fluid as water and that we can                            determine the direction in which we swim”

However, young blood is rarely cold and their journey becomes one filled with clashes between the traditional values of rural Turkey and the rather Westernised modern urban environment of Istanbul. Along the way, they meet several individuals, each potentially a metaphor for a different path in life. Slowly, it becomes more apparent that the goal of the film is to bring about a realisation that human life is precious and that forgiveness can lead to a more fulfilling state of mind than revenge. Also, I think that this movie is now, with the rise of Islamophobia in Europe, more relevant than ever, because it gives the individuals involved in this story a human face, showing the internal dilemmas they must overcome in order to defy old customs. The authenticity of the acting also makes it easier to relate to the characters and empathise with them. There is a particularly scene, which I found almost heart-breaking, when Meryem obediently follows Cemal, climbing a steep flight of stairs, part of a tall bridge arching over a highway. As they climb, she is unaware that he is planning to force her to jump to her death, but there is a silent yet explosive built up of tension. This interplay between moments of tranquillity and times when we wonder if she really will die, runs like a thread through the entire film and plays with the nerves of the viewer very successfully. A further element I found beautiful was the constant presence of water and the sea throughout the movie, as it seemed to follow after every violent scene, balancing the tension with a feeling of relief. It was also a reminder that our fate is as fluid as water and that we can determine the direction in which we swim.


Political Campaigning Lessons from the 1940s UK General Election

In many ways it was a simpler time for political communication and human interaction in general, involving fewer technological gadgets and more direct interaction. Perhaps the key to winning the next General Election in 2020 will land on the palm of those who successfully revisit the simplicity of the past and are able to distinguish sound strategy from noise.

The UK Labour party’s 1945 general election strategy makes for an interesting case study because it resulted in what one could describe as a significant victory causing a rift in decades of Conservative government rule. Indeed, the party’s strategic ingenuity combined to a great extent the with Conservatives’ weaknesses, propelled Labour to victory, as it won its “first parliamentary majority”. This particular political campaign is also worth re-visiting because it occurred during a period when marketing ideas had not yet seeped into the mind set of politicians and communications specialists, before the so-called technologically driven “transformation” of politics , as described by the political communications scholar John Street, had fully occurred yet.

Following the devastating effects of the Second World War for the economy and British society, there was an unprecedented demand for change among the electorate, especially the working classes, which the Labour party successfully channelled for its into its political message. The following analysis will focus on four main strategic elements of the electoral campaign, the focus on change, policy, public opinion and the media and it will discuss to what extent the Labour party handled them successfully. The argument underlying the current discussion is that while many of the communication channels in existence today, such as TV and social media had not yet entered the mass consumer market at the time, politicians could still reach voters through more traditional mediums such as radio and print. Perhaps, through a return to the basics some patterns of best practice could emerge and prove beneficial for modern political campaigners.

Focusing on Change rather than Continuity

The Labour campaign largely consisted of focusing on the past failings of the Conservative government, when it wrongly attempted to appease Germany and the party also emphasised the worsening of living conditions in Britain during the war period. Their key to success was convincing the electorate that “in reality, electors who did not want to see the return of a Conservative government had no choice but to vote ‘straight left’, which the Labour politicians seem to have done successfully. There were of course pitfalls to a campaign which incorporated a focus on the war, because leading the allies to victory was precisely what was the underlying factor in the perception of Churchill as a strong leader. Yet, despite the high personal rating and popularity of the incumbent Conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill in comparison with the Labour leader Clement Attlee, a series of ill-conceived, negative campaign public appearances resulted in a decrease in popularity for the Conservative leader. A moment considered as decisive for the success of the Labour campaign was Churchill’s “Gestapo” speech which, rather unwisely, made references to Nazi Germany in order to accuse the Labour leader of being dictatorial. Unsurprisingly, the British public did not react well to this example of negative campaigning by the Conservatives and thus Labour benefited. 

Focus on specific policy issues and the socialist ideology

The exact extent to which specific policies played a role in the winning of votes for Labour is open to debate, as historians tend to exaggerate the degree to which the members of the general public were radicalised by the war, and in this way defining the process of voter support as bottom-up rather than top-down, thus downplaying the significance of campaign strategy. Yet the emphasis on issues such as the recommendations of the Beveridge Report, which “advocated family allowances, a free health service and full employment, and…abolishing poverty” were certainly tactical steps upon which the Labour manifesto was built and suggest that it adopted a “policy-related information campaign” approach. Furthermore, the ideological divide between the Conservatives and Labour helped the latter win many voters, in particular those who identified themselves as working class or lower middle class. This is confirmed by Fielding, who states that “Forty-three per cent of Labour supporters stated they voted for the party because it best represented working class interests”. Thus it seems that Labour’s tactical move to remain close to its core electorate and to promote specific policies that reflected Socialist ideals was a choice that impacted its victory greatly.


Responsiveness to Opinion Polling and Tactical Voting

Interestingly, the general election of 1945 proved to attracted a lot of opinion polling, used to establish the mood of the electorate such as the “Gallup” international public opinion polls, and “Mass-Observation” surveys. Social research was greatly important, because it allowed parties to have a more realistic undertanding of the dominant mood of the public and thus craft their strategy accordingly. The responsiveness of the Labour party to public opinion may not seem significant in comparison with the sensitivity of today’s political parties, but it was nonetheless greater than the awareness displayed by the Conservative party. This was a strategic advantage and is reflected in the party’s emphasis that Labour should be the natural choice of “the People” and that “the choice is between Labour and Conservative and that all other alternatives are illusory’”. This, in combination with the first-past-the-post electoral system in Britain, created a lot of “tactical voting”. Convincing swing or undecided members of the electorate that they should vote Labour even if they sympathised with the Liberals or other smaller parties was very important in order to secure electoral victory. 

Transforming public cynicism

One of the most important problems for the Labour party during the 1945 election was dealing with the cynicism towards politics in general which was prevalent among the public and especially the armed forces. As many as 40% of service personnel did not vote in the 1945 general election. Their disenchantment with politics is a theme that wouldn’t be out of place in the modern political context in Britain. Furthermore, ideas that spread at the time such as the claim that all politicians are the same and the notion that they are not legitimate representatives of the common people wouldn’t be out of place in modern society. One of the most challenging tasks was to somehow turn the negative attitudes of the public around and mobilise the electorate. Part of the communications strategy of the Labour party was also the use of pro- Labour media outlets for “message framing”, and defining the electoral battle in terms of the “Will of the People” and promoting the Left political agenda. Salient examples of this were the political news produced by newspapers such as the “Daily Telegraph… Daily Worker” and “The Herald editorial, entitled “The People Win”, which aimed to equate the Labour party with the people. A further strategic element was to use celebrities such as John B. Priestley, a novelist, playwright and broadcasters as public supporters of the party’s agenda. The extent to which politicians had direct influence over the radio or newspaper appearances of such celebrities is difficult to estimate but the effect, which such supporters had on popular opinion of the party were widely positive on this occasion. Indeed, Labour was moderately successful in mobilising the public, by securing a vote in unprecedented numbers: it won 47-8% of votes cast, or 36% of the total electorate.

To conclude, it appears that the Labour election strategy contained passive and active tactical elements whose direct effect on the electorate and translation into parliamentary seats is open to debate. If we adopt a short term definition of success, implying that a campaign is successful if the party secures a parliamentary majority then the Labour strategy was certainly successful. Even viewed from a more long-term perspective the campaign was successful as it allowed politicians to implement important policy changes involving the nationalisation of business sectors and the creation of the Welfare state, which have resulted in lasting consequences for British society, influencing the process and outcome of governance. When taking into account campaign messages in the run up to the British 2015 general elections, some of the ideas, including the importance of the NHS and greater social security continued to have a strategic significance. Yet whatever the cardinal mistakes of the Labour party in 2015 were (and there is wide-ranging debate on the factors that caused their defeat) one thing seems clear – they should have probably relied more on simpler, straight-forward channels of communication to reach and inspire the electorate. Whether the party will successfully recover after the painful loss remains to be seen.

Networked Journalism and its effect on traditional flows of information

The past decade has brought about a continuous conversation spinning around the crisis of traditional print journalism in the wake of rapid technological advancements in communications. Most working in journalism have been worrying what will become of the sector and whether it is possible to be gradually replaced by tech-savvy youngsters producing content for flashy websites with monosyllabic names. Others, such as Megan Garber, a Journalist for the Atlantic, have suggested that “we are going forward to the past” because the non-hierarchical, often bottom-up nature of communication via the internet resembles the oral communication traditions we used to practice prior to the age of printing. Perhaps this point is a little bit out there, in terms of the actual conserns of journalists and the public, but it does remind us that more complex dimensions of the debate are usually left out. Still, there are some benefits brought to journalists by increasing technological interconnectedness, which are difficult to dismiss. For instance, nowadays, journalists are closer to the experiences and opinions of their readership than ever before, having the possibility to contact eyewitnesses at the epicentre of events, or monitor the location and interests of their readership in a matter of seconds.

The term “Networked Journalism” was developed in its current form by Professor Charlie Beckett in 2008. In a book he published at the time, “SuperMedia, Saving Journalism so it can save the world” he described the phenomenon as consisting of “amateur and professional [becoming] complementary and increasingly interchangeable parts of [the journalistic] process” (page 72). Indeed, in the period between 2008 and 2015, the very nature of news production has been transformed by similar currents of change. Unlike the relatively dormant version of traditional media output, such as paper newspapers and magazines, digital news is no longer fixed, but is “living, evolving, limitless, relentless”. In other words, the production of news has become a continuous process, not necessarily leading to a final result. Let us proceed by outlining some of the principal ways in which Networked Journalism has transformed the current media landscape. These are, by influencing the relationship between journalists and citizens and by affecting the authenticity and reliability of news. The main line of argument will be, that Networked Journalism does matter, because its impact on the journalistic profession as a whole has been positive to a great extent, and that it has the potential to solve some of the problems of traditional journalism.

The first way in which Networked Journalism has impacted on the journalistic profession is that it has paved the way for more efficient communication between individuals in society and journalist. For instance, if a journalist needs to speak to eyewitnesses or people who have been at the epicentre a story, he or she is covering; it is much easier to contact them now than before the existence of the internet. Also, contact can be initiated in the reverse order, with the citizen sending material to news organisations, as enabled by platforms such as the BBC’s Have Your Say. Better connectivity between audiences and journalists, provides a greater pool of fresh ideas and helps combat “churnalism”, a term used by the award-winning investigative journalist Nick Davies in his book “Flat Earth News”  to critique the lack of originality in newspaper journalism in Britain, as many stories are re-published after minor alterations, due to the constrains of tight deadlines. Furthermore, on more specialized topics readers often know more than journalists themselves, which means that their involvement in the composition of news material can improve its quality. Further examples of the interactivity brought about by the internet are blogs and comment sections in online newspaper platforms which allow readers to participate in the debate, by expressing their opinion underneath articles. All of the above, point in the direction of a revitalised dialogue and cooperation between professionals and amateurs that has the potential to circumvent the traditional constrains of time and distance, which were faced by journalists in the past.

Secondly, due to this better connectivity between journalists and citizens or audiences, the breath of news analysis is much wider. Furthermore, with the added element of local voices, the authenticity of their articles increases, as they offer a greater palette and nuances of opinion. I would argue that in general, this allows for more interesting and in-depth journalism, because through group work, ethnocentric biases are diluted. For example, if readers are presented with a cold narrative of the drug war in Mexico, without any pictures or interviews with locals, they are less likely to feel empathy or receive a well-rounded account of the situation. Alternatively, if stories are combined with content generated by users, this adds to their authenticity and allows readers to draw parallels between their own life experiences and those of the locals who have been granted visibility. There are of course counter arguments, stating that the local voices that are heard or the pictures that are shown are still largely selective and that the authenticity of a piece depends mostly on the experience and ethical values of the professional journalists themselves. However, these assume that the professional journalist is the leading party in his collaborative project with the amateur, which is not always the case.

Thirdly, I would argue that Networked Journalism produces more reliable news because it usually requires a form of citizen-produced evidence that accompanies the text, such as photographs, opinion polls, interviews and more. This means that professionals, who aspire to practice Networked Journalism, cannot rely on desk research alone, when they produce an analytical piece, they must also seek active engagement with the outside world and include empirical evidence to back up their claims. Moreover, it becomes even more important to convince readers of the validity of one’s arguments when audiences are exposed to an over-saturated media environment. Networked Journalism, or networking, in this case, is primarily a tool through which journalists can unearth evidence through which to make their claims seem more reliable, or which they can use as a starting point for further research. This point is especially salient if we agree with Jarvis that journalism is a service the primary aim of which should be to achieve “an informed public”. Nevertheless, there are examples when sources provided by citizens or alternative news agencies are intentionally misleading or even photo – shopped. A good example is the case of the recent Ukrainian crisis, during which a lot of disinformation material and photo shopped photographs, were spread by Russian news agencies and were occasionally picked up by international media as genuine.

In an interview for Harvard’s Nieman Foundation, Thomas Pettitt argued that before the internet revolution there was a hierarchy of reliability, in which printed books were assumed to be most reliable, newspapers less so and the spoken word was at the bottom of the scale. However, it seems that these traditional norms of hierarchy have been broken down by Networked Journalism because it relies on a sharing of responsibility between journalists and the public. Indeed, if citizens are part of the news production process, there is greater transparency and they are more likely to trust the media. Thus, it seems that through involving a wider range of actors, Networked Journalism can significantly strengthen the perceived reliability of media outlets.

To conclude, it appears that Networked Journalism has significantly altered traditional patterns of news making in journalism. It has facilitated easier and more efficient communication between audiences and journalists, helping them achieve more authentic accounts of events despite time and distance constraints. Also, it has increased the perceived reliability of news, by encouraging journalists to include more interactive and multiplatform material as evidence supporting their analysis. Ultimately, Networked journalism matters, because it embodies the inevitable evolution of the journalistic profession, as it adapts to the digital age of information dissemination and consumption.

Lawmaking in the EU

The following diagram aims to show the path of EU legislation from conception to law in an accessible way.

Law making in the European Union

Please find the image here in higher resolution Law making in the European Union.



Art should have political, spiritual, and surprising elements. It should try to find new language of communicating in order to give awareness to the public… Art with this kind of complexity has many lives where many societies can take something different at different times.” Marina Abramovic, Interview Magazine

This is a blog which is very much centred on thirst for knowledge and curiosity with regard to the intersection points between politics, art, and the media and to some extent public relations. It originated from the idea that it might be insightful to focus on four countries in particular, the UK, Ireland, Bulgaria and Germany in order to map out their political and media systems and review them in the light of their art scenes. In particular, these four countries have been chosen in the context of the European Union (EU), but also in consideration with the broader history of the European continent as arguably they represent an interesting sample. On the one hand, they vary in their attitudes towards membership in the European Union, with the UK on one end of the spectrum, as one of the most Eurosceptic countries at the present moment, Ireland located in the middle (due to their reluctance in accepting the Lisbon Treaty) and Germany and Bulgaria quite firmly on the pro-EU side. There are of course further reasons why these countries have been chosen, ranging from practical elements, such as the bloggers’ ability to speak their local languages to more abstract considerations such as their varying experiences of the Cold War, and what implications these might have on their politics and art.

Nevertheless, there is still considerable scope for development as well as criticism. Certainly, many may disagree with some (or all) opinions expressed in the pages that will follow, and perhaps this is part of the alluring beauty of the internet. Moreover, all countries deserve to be mentioned and included in this conversation, as a lot can be gained by viewing their art and politics in unison. Indeed, this project is very multidisciplinary and therefore cannot have clear boundaries, which may at times become intimidating. Nevertheless, it has the potential to stimulate discussion and grow into an intellectual journey which makes it worthwhile. So, shall we begin?

[Currently under construction]

Reflections on Turkish Rule in Bulgaria

Time of Violence, originally known as “Vreme na nasilie”, was first released in 1988, at a time when the disintegration of the Communist political system in Bulgaria was drawing ever closer. What adds to its allure is  that it is based on the controversial novel “Time of Parting”, “Vreme Razdelno”, by Anton Donchev , a writer and historian born in the seaside city of Burgas, a city which looms large on the Bulgarian literary scene. What is widely considered controversial is that the film’s release coincided with the Bulgarian “Revival Process”, a time when many ethnic Turks living on Bulgarian territory were forced to change their names to sound more “Bulgarian” in order to be able to integrate more seamlessly into the status quo. Some argue that this particular timing casts the film as a propaganda tool due to the fact that it depicts the brutality of forced Islamisation of Bulgarians during the three centuries of Islamic rule, thus seeking a justification for the “Revival process”, creating a tit for tat schenario.

However, I disagree. I think this film is more than a propaganda tool, as it paints a picture of a time when people suffered in vain, as the film shows the peaceful coexistence between Turks and Bulgarians in a small village in the Rhodope mountains descending into uncomfortable hatred and violence. I would go as far as to say that the scenes left a lasting and emotional impression on me, possibly due to the fact that when I first saw it I was really young, maybe ten years old and the main characters seemed very realistic to me at the time. There was love, there was injustice and a strange sense of loyalty and pride weaved into the storyline which fuelled the action and created tension. The sort of tension between neighbours which can never be quite black and white. Moreover, the nuances and believability of the characters as well as the emphasis on the blurry nature of the border  between peace and violence make this film worth watching.

Thought-provoking exhibition by one of China’s most controversial artists at the heart of London

The 27th September, 2015, was the day when I finally got the opportunity to come face to face with the art of one of China’s most notorious artists, Ai Weiwei. It was bound to be politically provocative, shamelessly lighting up the cracks in the Chinese regime as well as criticising the West for courting the country, despite its reputation for “shady business” regarding free speech and human rights. Below are a few of the surprises this trip had to offer.


The trees in the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts were a part of Ai Weiwei’s exhibition as they had been been trasported from China to the UK (they are some well travelled plants)


Every piece of metal was hammered 200 times in otder to become straight. Try guessing how many

pieces there are…

Admittedly…the pieces of metal are not all the same size.



The qhite wall covered with names in the picture on the right is a harrowing representation of all the children who died in an Earth quake. Perhaps their names are printed on this long wall-panel, in black and white so that there is no space for denial.


DSC_0080On the left we can see disposable hand-crafted, marble crabs. Some of them were fixated on nothingness with their globular eyes. Here the emphasis is on the absurdity of having high value items treated as badly as disposable plastic toys. This piece made me question the meaning of value and whether the fact that some items are more cherished by society than others really makes them better in some way. Or is it just collective madness, which, when enforced on a grand scale becomes synonymous with normality?

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These two pieces, the colourful chinese pottery on the left and the vase branded by Coca Cola reminded me of the uneasy relationship beween tradition and Americanization/ Westernization of popular culture. In China, right now a similar process is occuring to the one which took (argiuably is still taking) place in post-communist countries once their oppressive regimes collapsed. I guess the big tradegy is that an intoxication with all things considered part of the life style which had been so out of reach – from munching on McDonalds burgers to wearing jeans, listening to rock and sipping on Coca Cola, did not in temselves constitute freedom. Although, ironically, they could, if the oppressed public invests sufficient meaning in them, symbols of democracy, which sure is one hell of an unintended concequence.


Admittedly, the quality of this photo on the left is bad and I apologise, but I can’t omit it from the collection. Largely due to a swing of luck (and no photographic skill) I managed to  capture the fourth image to complement Ai Weiwei’s sequence visible on the wall at the back. After “Destructive man” comes “Appreciative man”, snapping photos with his camera. Indeed, this could be extended to “Modern man”, who has become one with techonological divices, be it a camera or a phone.

DSC_0096 DSC_0098This installation was also quite chilling: a marble push chair in a garden of thorn-like grass. It was loosely connected to an incident when Ai Weiwei caught a government spy taking pictures of his child and discovered that tthe official had managed to capture hours of footage featuring him and his family secretly.

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The images above adorned the walls of one of the rooms of the exhibition. I thought they contained a covert critique of the West, as the compare the Twitter bird with CCTV cameras in a way exposing the absurdity of the lack of privacy in everyday life but at the same time highlighting that the two methods of exposure are not equally obtrusive.

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This last sequence is very powerful. According to the artist it portrays what he had to endure while he was under arrest, with two guards by his side at all times (in the shower, while sleeping, during meals). The psychological toll that such type of treatment has is not dissimilar to torture. Overall I did enjoy the exhibition, there were a lot of elements of surprise and some discomfort, which usually means that the message of the artist has been successfully transmitted through the variety of mediums he used.

For more information and reviews you can visit the TimeOut London website.

To end on a lighter note:

My favourite item from the gift shop was probably the Paintbrush Necklace, which is basically made from a cut up old paintbrush with a wire running through it. It looks better than it sounds and its weight was perfect – not too heavy (to be the cause of a head ache) and not too light (to be easily breakable). The only thing that was a little steep was its price at £50, not for the faint hearted, but it is an awesome idea nonetheless. Here’s a visual.

Book Review: Ethnic violence and the societal security dilemma by Paul Roe

paul roeI had high expectations when selecting this book, as the subject matter is ethnic conflicts in Eastern Europe, a sensitive topic, and the focus on society as the level of analysis, rather than the individual or the state, may provide an interesting perspective of events. The following book review will be structured as follows: first, I will explore the aims of the author, next I will discuss the structure of the book, and I will conclude with a discussion of the case studies involved and how convincing I found them.

In this book, Paul Roe, an Associate Professor at CEU, strives to make a theoretical contribution to the literature on societal security studies in two main ways. First, by introducing new categories within the societal security dilemma, so that, in cases of ethnic conflict, the right set of policies could be applied to prevent an violent escalation. Second, he tries to move away from the traditional state-centric and military-centric constraints of neo-realism. In doing so, he distances himself from Barry Buzan’s early sectorial approach, who first used the concept of “societal security”, referring to ”sustainable development of the traditional patterns of language, culture, religion and national identities, and customs of states” [42]. This is because despite Buzan adding five new sectors to his analysis, they remained connected to national security. In contrast, Roe makes society the referent object of security, which involves two additional steps: the broadening of the types of threats beyond military ones and a shift in the core value being under threat. While for states it is sovereignty, for society it is identity.

The structure of the book consists of two main parts a theoretical, and an empirical one. Roe begins his conceptual journey with an exploration of the security dilemma. He uses Barry Posen’s definition to represent the traditional view of the security dilemma : “what one does to enhance one’s own security causes reactions that, in the end, can make one less secure”.[8] The traditional, or essentially Realist view of the security dilemma is focused on the state as the referent object of security and is military – centric. While Paul Roe lists many scholars’ contributions to the subject, he argues that the current definitions of the security dilemma allow too many different conflicts to be placed in the same category, and that this often makes the term so conceptually-stretched, that it becomes inapplicable.

To deal with this issue, he introduces three further categories of security dilemmas: tight, regular and loose. A tight security dilemma is a “two (or more) actors with compatible security requirements misperceive the nature of their relationship and thus employ countermeasures based on an illusory incompatibility”. [16] This can be described as the classical security dilemma which is based on a Hobbesian fear or an expectation of the worst case scenario, even though the other party’s security interests might not contradict the existence of one’s own. After adapting this model to fit the societal security  conceptual framework, Roe applies it to the case study of the Magyar population in Transylvania.  The second type is the “regular” security dilemma which occurs when “security-seekers [have] incompatible  security requirements”[17]. This type, fits the predicament of the Serbs in Krajina quite well, as the contradiction in security requirements of both parties is real, not perceived, which means that a deepening of the conflict can only be avoided if one of them makes concessions, or both. The third type of security dilemma is “loose” in this case “actors are not necessarily only security-seekers but rather power-seekers”. [23] In this case Roe admits that it may be problematic comparing with the other two subtypes, as the essential component of “unintended consequences” [23] does not apply.

The empirical part of this book is equally divided between the conflicts in Krajina and Transylvania. The confidence and chronological detail with which both case studies are handled is impressive.  In fact, in each case the first chapter is devoted to the historical context of the conflict, which helps track the build-up of ethnic tensions in both regions over centuries and thus understand the inherent mistrust that these societies felt towards the other.

In the case of the Croamapts and Serbs, we have two Slavic peoples with similar languages, yet different religions and who have ended up on contrasting sides of the Habsburg and Ottoman empires. During the period of Royal Yugoslavia 1918-41, as well as later Federal  Yugoslavia 1945-90 they lived under one rule, yet the Serbs usually won the upper hand in controlling the centre of rule. This was an uncomfortable fact if it is true that “for a Roman Catholic people on the periphery of Europe, Serbian hegemony signified submission to an inferior, oriental culture” [81]. During the Yugoslav civil war 1941-45, Croatia was able to unleash its wrath for being suppressed. As a supporter of Germany, it gained independence from Yugoslavia. WW2 was a period during which the Croatian fascist – nationalists, the Utashe murdered around 700 000 Orthodox Serbs. In contrast, the time of Federal Yugoslavia was a period of relative peace. However, shortly after his Tito’s death, democratization began, and in 1990 the first elections in Croatia were won by Hrvatska Demokratska Zayednika, a party that claimed a desire for “Croatia for Croatians” and refused to give the Krajina Serbs the control over local education in Serb majority areas, they demanded.

In the case of Hungary and Romania both countries have different religions, languages and even different accounts of history. While, Romanians believed in “Daco-Roman Continuity Theory”, which meant that their origins could be traced back to the ancient Dacians, the Hungarians supported the “No Man’s Land Theory”. The Hungarians insisted that when they colonised Transylvania in the 10/11th centuries, it was deserted. While, it is unknown which variant is correct, the consequences of Hungarian settlement were evident : “Transylvania kept Magyar identity and the tradition of Hungarian national independence alive” (114) It didn’t take long, however, from the 19th century “Magyarisation”[116], which was a policy of replacing the Romanian language and culture in the area with Hungarian, to the beginning of the 20th century, when Transylvania was united with Romania. Ceausescu’s assimilatory policies were very unrelenting, he intentionally used “cultural and educational policies designed to weaken if not eradicate the national identity of the other”[131] In 1989, Ceausescu fell from power and the National Salvation Front assumed rule of the country. They promised the Transylvanian Magyars separate Hungarian schools, only to delay the implementation of this plan due to economic difficulties. This delay led to a series of protests which culminated in a violent conflict in the city of Tirgu Mures.

To conclude, I would say that this book is very well planned and the comparison of the Krajina and Transylvania cases is suitable, and their labelling as tight and regular societal security dilemmas is convincing. Perhaps, Roe didn’t discuss the conflicts in Bosnia or Kosovo, because arguably the conflict in Krajina triggered the separation of Croatia from Yugoslavia, which catalysed the full disintegration of the Yugoslav state. Overall, Roe achieves what he originally set out to do, which is to apply his new conceptual categories successfully.

Additional info: The book is quite easy to get a hold of in most university libraries in the UK and is also available on Amazon.

Is PR one of the best industries for women?

These days many are trying to “break into” the job market rather than “break free” [insert cheeky reference to Queen]. Often I have found myself participating in discussions about whether I believe that women have an equal chance to men of finding rewarding employment in the UK in this particular sector? It’s a difficult question to answer, mainly because there are so many unknown variables at play which may affect aspirations and the ability to seize opportunities. Ambition is one of them. Upbringing and the internal understanding and expectations of the women’s role in society is another. However, there are some external factors that are rather difficult to ignore when considering this topic.  For example, considering reports claiming that up to 40% of managers avoid hiring young women simply to get around maternity leave, as quoted in the Guardian recently, it appears that female graduates’ chances of getting their foot on the career ladder may nearly be halved that of men. This sort of attitude has also seeped into popular culture, with the self-made billionaire and star of the BBC’s Apprentice, Sir Alan Sugar even voicing his doubts about employing women of “child-bearing age”.

Yet it is clear that some industry sectors have a better track record of hiring women than others and this is worth keeping in mind. For instance, while the Technology sector is notorious for its gender imbalance, with only between 10-20% of engineers employed by tech companies being women, sectors such as Teaching, Communication and PR boast over 60% female make-up according to statistics commissioned by the House of Commons. The Holmes Report gives an even larger figure of 70% women employees in the sector, but alarmingly asks why only 30% of them reach top positions.

Nevertheless, while levels of employment among men and women seems to be evenly distributed in the PR sector, the question of whether women receive less pay is still open. While it is difficult to obtain official salary figures, some Recruitment agencies such as the works in London provide a very helpful insight through their annual salaries survey. Furthermore, an article in PR Week published in March this year highlights the fact that one in four women, reading the magazine, were reluctant to ask for a promotion and were more likely to set up their own agency. This comes in addition to the news that, according to a report published by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) male professionals are paid on average £8500 more than women purely because of their gender.

Nevertheless, there are some organisational mechanisms in place to promote gender equality in the PR industry and help talented women excel. One such networking organisation is “Women in PR” which was established to support senior women working in the PR industry. At first glance it provides everything an aspiring female professional could hope for: mentoring, networking and campaigning for equal pay for men and women. However, a closer look reveals that the PR mentoring project is only available to 15 mid-career, female communications professionals each year, which means that the rest and fresh graduates in particular, are excluded. A further element which tends to be confusing is the ambiguity regarding which accreditation an aspiring PR graduate should pursue, PRCA or CIPR? Upon seeking the opinion of several senior PR professionals I received very mixed responses, some even dismissed these formal qualifications altogether, arguing that the PR industry is so client-specific, that the skills one would obtain from these generic courses would have limited applicability. Still, isn’t it always a good idea to have professional accreditation of some sort, to prove one’s skills in the industry?

Thus, it appears that despite the numerous professional bodies offering information and further help to PR professionals, closing the gender pay gap is still a work in progress. It certainly is a more welcoming industry to female employees, in comparison with the grey-suit world of finance and the male-dominated tech industry. Nevertheless, I would argue that some further support and guidance for young graduates aiming to make a start in the industry would be beneficial to men and women alike.

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