Publication details

‘A Milestone in the History of Slovakia’ : Two Narratives about the 2015 Referendum on Family in Slovakia



Year of publication 2022
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Sociologický časopis
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Web článek - open access
Keywords narrative; genre; culture; meaning-making; referendum
Attached files
Description This paper examines a discursive controversy that arose in Slovakia after a conservative civic association initiated a referendum to protect ‘traditional families’ against the supposed encroachment of LGBTI rights. The 2015 referendum represents a tipping point in the formation of a new Slovak conservative political front. In this article, meaning making among actors civically engaged in the referendum is brought to light by re-constructing the deep cultural structures in which they are immersed. Drawing upon the strong programme in cultural sociology, I analyse the master narratives woven through the discourse of the referendum organisers and boycotters. These narratives are re-constructed from 20 semi-structured interviews with the engaged actors and a corpus of 82 written documents, such as blogs, speeches, and declarations concerning the referendum. The analysis employs the methods of thick description and the structural analysis of narrative genres. It shows that, first, the referendum controversy presents a clash between a narrative of social decline and a narrative of social progress. The narratives serve as moral regulators by deploying emotionally loaded images of nostalgia for ‘traditional families’ and a utopia of unconditional progress. Second, although both narratives interpret the referendum as a milestone in the history of Slovakia, they do so in different genres with specific implications for action. Using the example of the decision by referendum opponents to withdraw from the prereferendum debates, I demonstrate how narrative genres as implicit and deep cultural structures have the power to orient action and shape the contours of controversy.
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