Supervisor: Prof Adam Fagan
Koen Slootmaeckers holds a BSc and MSc degree in Sociology from the Ghent University (Belgium). Currently, Koen is a postgraduate research student at the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London (United Kingdom). His doctoral research deals with the EU enlargement process and sexual minorities in candidate countries. More specifically, it looks more closely at the EU accession of Serbia and how this process affects LGBT politics and activism. Koen received the Queen Mary Westfield Trust Research Studentship for this research project.
Koen’s primary research interest is the ‘(international) political sociology of the Other’, a topic which he approaches from different perspectives, including European studies, nationalism and conflict studies, neo-colonialism, gender and sexuality studies, with a specific interest for topics dealing with masculinities and LGBT issues.
His work has been widely published, including a (co-)edited volume ‘EU Enlargement and Gay Politics’ (Palgrave 2016; with Heleen Touquet and Peter Vermeersch), and articles in, amongst others, Sociologos, Politics, Contemporary Southeastern Europe, Journal of Homosexuality, and Europe-Asia Studies
Research Topic: From ‘Strategic Accession’ to ‘Strategic Europeanisation’? The Promotion of and Resistance to LGBT Equality in Serbia’s European Integration Process
In recent years, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights have become increasingly salient within the EU Enlargement process as a litmus test for Europeanness, yet the promotion of such norms has provided a fulcrum for political contestation. Based on this observation, this thesis asks how do the EU and a candidate country manage and resolve LGBT-related normative tensions which have been created as part of the overarching political integration process? By taking into account the international symbolism of LGBT norms, it is suggested to move away from a classical approach to Europeanisation in which the impact of the EU on a third country is examined, towards a more dynamic conceptualisation of the EU enlargement process in which norms are inherently contested, and a resolution to normative struggles are required to advance political integration. Indeed, drawing on the critical scholarship on Normative Power Europe, this thesis rejects a uni-directional (top-down) understanding of EU enlargement in which the EU transplants its rules and norms to candidate countries, whilst proposing a complex multi-dimensional conceptualising in which different hegemonic struggles and normative tensions come together in a multi-layered normative struggle with its own tensions.
How these tensions are managed and resolved is empirically studied in the context of the European integration process of Serbia (2001– 2015). Using process tracing, which draws on 89 semi-structured interviews, document analysis and participant observation, this thesis analyses the promotion of and resistance to LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination legislation and the organisation of LGBT Pride Parades in Belgrade. Overall, the thesis contends that that the symbolic nature of LGBT rights in European politics has created an opportunity for Serbia to engage in, what is labelled as, a process of tactical Europeanisation; a process in which Serbia employs double speak, internationally recognising and showing adherence to the LGBT norms propagated by the EU, whilst domestically promoting an opposite Orthodox national identity.