Dear Reader, Welcome to our research blog. This blog is dedicated to sharing reflections on research on Southeastern Europe. Here, researchers from the centre, visiting fellows and other scholars discuss their experiences on how to research Southeastern Europe, notes from archives, methodological challenges, experiences in the field and broader reflections on conducting research on the region from... Continue Reading →
This article presents the research methodology and approach of the Marie Curie project titled Spatialities of Europeanization in Western Balkans (EURoWEB), which I am conducting at the Centre for Southeast European Studies. The project opens a dialogue between urban studies and Southeast European studies to develop a new multispatial approach to the Europeanization of the Balkans.
Considering the post-Yugoslav context in its broadest sense, current political relations between Serbia and Montenegro can be best described as poor and underdeveloped. The existence of common historical, cultural, and religious features between the two states has not resulted in improving state relations during the post-Yugoslav period. Rather, further antagonism in the relationship prevailed. There were a few occasions and events that have dramatically worsened relations between Serbia and Montenegro during the post-referendum period such as the statements of Serbian high-ranking political officials and dignitaries of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) about the absence of Montenegrin identity, decisions of the Montenegrin government to recognize Kosovo’s independence (2008) and to join NATO membership (2017), the issue of dual citizenship, official participation of the Montenegrin state delegation to the ‘Operation Storm’ celebration in Croatia (2018), etc.
Researching post-conflict societies presents researchers with a unique set of ethical problems that institutional ethics procedures struggle to include in their frameworks. Scholars, especially inexperienced scholars, are often sent into the field without appropriate measures in place to prevent harm from occurring to their research participants, to the societies they are researching, and to the researchers themselves. The dichotomous nature of ethics procedures, which construct ethical considerations as a static pass/fail test, do not appropriately take into account the multiplicity of harms we can cause, the harms we can suffer, and the harms that are left behind in the field.
While the political Europeanization of most of the Western Balkans remains uncertain, its financial dimension already structures both materially and socially the daily lives of almost every household in the region. European banks have become dominant in Bosnia and Herzegovina as in many other Southeastern European (SEE) countries at a time when economic transformations have caused citizens to struggle with credit and debt. Although this has assured households a wider access to credit, at the same time it has increased their vulnerability to the Eurozone’s financial instabilities and their exposure to speculative dynamics carried out by banks outside of the EU regulative framework.
When the mayor of Skopje announced a highly comprehensive urban project called “Skopje 2014,” hardly anyone in North Macedonia, except for then Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, believed that the undertaking would be implemented. However, over 25 new neoclassical and baroque objects and 150 sculptures and monuments have been constructed in less than five years.
In the most recent case of Balkan “archive fever,” Croatian Parliament discussed whether or not to unseal the archives as a step towards “overcoming the national divide.” Aside from being a populist move, the underlying assumption is clear: archival records are transparent, mirroring the truth and reality. Around the same time, another discussion of Bosnian post-WWII archives took place, in which Max Bergholz shared his experience in navigating archives (and basements) in search for highly sensitive material. Between lustration and politicized, bureaucratized, or outright neglected archival practices, however, there is little or no discussion on what archives mean for historians and public, how they change, and what narratives they tell.
Analyses of the megalomaniac remake of Skopje, also called Antiquisation, have been both frequent and trenchant in their criticism, but a similar attention has rarely been paid to the on-going reconstruction of the neighbouring Albania. Not only before elections as right now – though construction companies make huge profits in the pre-electoral period – Albanian urban landscape has been undergoing dramatic changes in the past decade. But my recent trip to Albania made me wonder – what are these new façades hiding
Happy coincidence and personal enthusiasm were the main promoters for an unusual doctoral workshop which I recently co-organized at the University of Basel, together with my colleague Prof. Bilgin Ayata. We invited two acclaimed film directors, Lordan Zafranović from Prague/Zagreb and Nezahat Gündoğan from Istanbul, to watch and discuss their documentaries on genocidal violence in their home countries Croatia and Turkey, with the aim to explore, in a gendered approach, their visual methods as a means to negotiate violence and memory both from the victim's and the perpetrator's perspective.
In the wake of the integration of ten Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries into the European Union (EU), EU enlargement was hailed as the most successful tool for external democracy promotion (Dimitrova and Pridham 2004; Schimmelfennig and Scholtz 2008; Vachudova 2005). As long as the expected reward was sufficiently attractive, the domestic political costs for adaptation low, and the membership promise credible, it was expected that the perspective of enlargement coupled with EU conditionality would readily result in democratic change.