Although the world today is dominated by the norm of the nation-state, autonomy models have in fact become a common and crucial form of conflict resolution. Worldwide, there are currently more functioning autonomy arrangements than existing nation-states.
These arrangements differ from nation-states in several key aspects, as they can undermine modern power relations and provide an alternative form of social order. Many implemented autonomy arrangements challenge the given order for example by creating zones free of military and police forces and providing solidarity economies, by establishing consociational democracy mechanisms and alternative citizenship regimes based on the basic principle of equality among different identities, or by implementing direct democracy through local participative institutions.
With it research, DEMOS aims at empirically and theoretically enhancing knowledge on the various different models of autonomy and how they are implemented. Besides addressing the historical and cultural development of these autonomy arrangements, DEMOS undertakes interdisciplinary research on the competences, functioning, mechanisms and institutions, on the continuities and challenges which these arrangements imply.