Current research projects
Social Politics in European Bordelands. A Comparative and Transnational Study, 1870s-1990s (SOCIOBORD) - ERC Advanced Research Grant, under the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
Professor Downs’s current research seeks to reframe the history of welfare and social care in modern Europe by restoring to view the contribution of local actors - primarily families and associations - to shaping welfare systems in three borderland regions of northwestern, eastern, and southeastern Europe. By adopting what she calls a "triadic" approach, which understands families, associations and states as co-constructors of social welfare, and focusing on borderland regions, where the reach of central states often fluctuated, Professor Downs and her team are examining a wide range of local welfare structures, based on national, but also non-national forms of identity and solidarity, such as occupation, religion, gender, neighborhood, etc. By focusing on these overlapping, and at times competing structures of social provision, Professor Downs and her team will explore the interplays between inclusion and exclusion that have long shaped European welfare provision. “Rather than treating borderlands as peripheries, we approach them as laboratories for the development of social protection, thanks to the dense variety of actors competing for influence over their putative objects of assistance and for access to material resources,” said Professor Downs, “for we are convinced that the long-range historical study (1870s - 1990s) of local actors' ideas and practices around social welfare in European borderlands has much to tell us about the development of welfare across Europe in general”.