Reclaiming the Public Sphere: Right to Education and Right to City Protests in Croatia

Tuesday, October 19, 2010
1219 International Affairs Building, 420 West 118th Street

Please join the Harriman Institute for a talk by Karin Doolan (Institute for Social Research, Zagreb)

The Right to Education and Right to the City protests which have taken place in Croatia over the last two years have used a human rights discourse to reclaim education and space as public goods. The focus of the Right to Education student protests, which began in the spring of 2009, was the rejection of tuition fees at all levels of tertiary education in Croatia on two main grounds: tuition fees as a barrier to higher education participation for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and as a mechanism which reinforces a neo-liberal understanding of education as a private good. The student manifesto framed the protest as a reaction against the ‘commercialisation of Croatian society’, a phrase which can be used to capture a shared feature of the two protests: the Right to the City protests expressed concern that citizens were losing public space to individuals and interest groups who were turning what once used to be a common good into a privatized and commercialised space. A key question that arises from the two protests is whose interests are being served in Croatia’s current economic constellation. The talk will draw on excerpts from the protests’ manifestos and discuss their discursive framing, it will address the innovative and creative form of the two protests and finally suggest that these protests illustrate an important social moment in contemporary Croatia, where a radical public critique of the dominant political and economic order has finally become possible. 

Karin Doolan was a Visiting Scholar at the Harriman Institute in the spring term of 2009/2010, following receipt of her PhD in sociology of education from the University of Cambridge. Since 2004 she has worked at the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb as a researcher and consultant on projects with a prominent social justice agenda. She has also contributed as a policy analyst to developmental projects both in Croatia and the UK; her most recent international engagement was a project on family policy for the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit in London in 2008. She has a particular interest in theorisations of social reproduction across different political and economic contexts, theorisations of social justice, as well as the ways in which educational institutions can be organised to contribute to it.