EASA2012: Uncertainty and disquiet

Nanterre University, France, 10/07/2012 – 13/07/2012

(W029)

Violence and resilience in South-Eastern Europe

Location S300
Date and Start Time 13 Jul, 2012 at 11:30

Convenors

Hanna Kienzler (King's College London) email
Enkelejda Raxhimi (University of Sherbrooke) email
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Short Abstract

In South-Eastern Europe, violence goes beyond death, disease and trauma, to include the effects of the destruction of the societal fabric. We explore the consequences of such violence through individual biographies, life trajectories, collective memories and expressions of coping and resilience.

Long Abstract

In South-Eastern Europe, political and structural violence go beyond death, disease, trauma and anxiety, to include the pervasive effects of the destruction of the economic, political and social fabric of society. This workshop invites papers that explore the consequences of such violence by tracing them in individual biographies, life trajectories, collective memory and communal strategies for coping with and being resilient to violence, adversity and uncertainty. In particular, the papers should describe and analyse the situated, manifold and complex interconnections between violence, larger social forces and individual suffering and ways in which they affect individual and collective perceptions of reality, identity and expectations for the future.

Expanding on the work of other anthropologists who have tried to make sense of different forms of violence, we argue that violence is pervasive, ancient, infinitely various and a central fact of human life, but also poorly understood in general. At the same time and despite these "conceptual uncertainties", it is, among other things, "a cultural problem" which requires attention to the details of its meanings and enactments by social actors in particular contexts. Adopting Sherry Ortner's notion of "serious games", the workshop emphasizes the social aspects of violence through different case studies by arguing that it is shaped, maintained and appeased through the expression of personal and subjective experiences in connection with larger social actors such as the state, international organizations, transnational flows of finances, and the global media.

Chair: Enkelejda Sula-Raxhimi
Discussant: Hanna Kienzler

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

"Once we had a house": invisible citizens and consociational democracy in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina

Author: Azra Hromadzic (Syracuse University )  email
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Short Abstract

Spanning more than 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in this article I focus on the transformation of Yugoslav “mixed citizens” into “invisible citizens” in the context of war and postwar democratization.

Long Abstract

One of the most important goals of postconflict reconciliation and democratization programs around the world is the establishment of a social order that would lead to peace and stability. In the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), this includes careful planning of the spatial reorganization of people and territory. More specifically, the project of democratization in BiH assumes a fixed relationship between people, understood as ethnic collectivities, and territory, understood as ethnically homogenous spaces. This particular spatial governmentality relies on a powerful set of rigid assumptions about belonging, identity, territoriality and politics in BiH, which makes ethnically "mixed" individuals spatially unmappable, bureaucratically invisible and socially undesirable. Spanning more than 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in BiH, in this article I focus on the transformation of Yugoslav "mixed citizens" into "invisible citizens" in the context of war and postwar democratization. The experiences of these citizens provide an exceptionally fruitful site from which to understand, contextualize and critique the consociational model of peace and democracy in BiH and beyond.

Banished from society: Roma in post-Communist Albania and in independent Kosovo

Author: Enkelejda Raxhimi (University of Sherbrooke)  email
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Short Abstract

These past two decades, unearthed ways of population management in Albania and Kosovo, driven by nationalist discourses with disastrous consequences on the lives of the Roma. This paper attempts to explore the different facets of violence exercised against Roma in Albania and Kosovo.

Long Abstract

The traumatic transition from Communism to the dismemberment of centralized state, as is the case of Albania, or the violent dissolution of the Yugoslav federation into new nation-states, which is the case of Kosovo, marked the past two decades in those two Western Balkan societies, unearthing other ways of population management. Such processes, advanced and driven by nationalist projects and discourses have had disastrous consequences on the lives of the Roma in those two countries.

Based on recollections and narratives of Roma in post-Yugoslav Kosovo and post-Communist Albania, and drawing from the Foucauldian notions of biopolitics and biopower, this paper intends to shed light on how exclusion and racism against Roma were crafted and remodeled in the new political contexts. Roma have not been part of the nation-state building and consolidation, which informed those two societies in the last twenty-years.

Whether targeted by physical violence in post-war Kosovo, or ignored, systematically disqualified or left in the disarray of structural violence in Albania, the Roma become object of ostracism by the endeavors of the ethnic state. We would further argue that they linger in a vicious cycle of persistent exclusion created and maintained by the technologies of power exercised through a bureaucratic system; and the attitudes of the majority non-Roma population.

This paper attempts to explore the different facets of violence exercised against Roma in Albania and Kosovo, and argues that the Roma represent the banished in those societies.

The state is in our living room: structural violence in communist Romania

Author: Alexandra Dorca-Jivan  email
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Short Abstract

The mechanisms of subjugation during Ceausescu's dictatorship covered a large spectrum, ranging from physical violence to propaganda. This paper focuses on the later years of the regime as they are illustrated in sixty narratives recorded in 2005 and 2006 in Romania.

Long Abstract

As Arendt pointed out, totalitarian regimes are not aiming at changing the outside world, but the human nature itself; this is how the Conducator (the Leader) can assert its state of exception. The mechanisms of subjugation during Ceausescu's dictatorship covered a large spectrum, ranging from physical violence to propaganda.

The 1980s have been marked in Romania by food shortages, disruptions of electricity and water, and rationing of gas. To make ends meet, both the state and the families had to make plans: the former with a "scientific feeding program", the latter with stratagems to prepare dinner.

This paper focuses on the later years of Ceausescu's dictatorship as they are illustrated in sixty narratives recorded in 2005 and 2006. It examines the impact of subjugation and control on everyday life. The fear of secret police informants, the physical suffering and shortages of all kinds have led to the deterioration of ordinary relations. Therefore, identifying the forms of resistance and survival strategies that my interviewees have used in the past allows us to understand how they have been able to imagine a future.

The totalitarian state has existed owing to fear and surveillance, but also to a carnivalesque theatralization - Maoist spectacles, Proletkult art and literature, sport heroes, young pioneers movement, surreal Communist Party meetings. The examination of the attributes and masks of this multi-faced government - socialist, communist, totalitarian, or carnivalesque - sheds some light upon its short and long-term effects on the population.

Effects of the siege on residents' relationship with Sarajevo

Author: Kate Marple-Cantrell (University of California, Berkeley)  email
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Short Abstract

This project is an interview-based study of the changes Sarajevo endured due to the war in Bosnia and how those changes affected residents’ relationships with the city. Changes in the lived experience of the city were found to arise from a number of shifts precipitated by the violence of the siege.

Long Abstract

The 1992-1996 siege of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was the longest siege in modern history, and for nearly four years residents lived under constant threat of violence, prevented from escape and cut off from the outside world. This project explores the changes that residents endured as a result of the siege of Sarajevo and how those changes affected their relationships with the city, approaching the topic from an urban perspective. To address these questions a series of interviews of students, professionals in urban-related fields, and residents of the city were conducted. All interviewees lived in Sarajevo both before and after the siege; some stayed in the city during the siege and others watched the city crumble from afar. The most substantial changes found were 1) changes in the lived experience of the city resulting from dramatic shifts in demographics, the destruction of the city's recreational areas, and the disappearance of neighborhood community life; and 2) concurrent politico-economic stagnation and polarization. This project presents these findings by outlining main areas and experiences of change in the city and by discussing implications of these changes for Sarajevo's future. Facing anti-urban campaigns that were later termed "memoricide" and "urbicide," Sarajevo's residents literally peered over the precipice of destruction, and this experience of violence manifests differently in their post-war lives. Regardless of their choices today, the example of their communities' survival and desire to rebuild provides inspiration of the many ways that a challenged society can face change and uncertainty fearlessly.

Violent space: readings of urban memory and anxiety in Sarajevo

Author: Gruia Badescu (University of Cambridge)  email
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Short Abstract

While a first reading of Sarajevo reveals signs of past violence, the city appears as a bustling place that overcame trauma. However, when the city is reread through local narratives, it is reshaped as a conglomerate of ‘violent spaces’, embedding memory of trauma as well as contemporary anxiety.

Long Abstract

Urban experience and urban landscapes can be read as a text, according to Walter Benjamin. My paper aims to provide a reading of the city of Sarajevo, where war and reconstruction dramatically reshaped the urban experience. I examine how political violence and trauma can be read through the urban landscape and in the narratives of Sarajevans. The perspective of the outsider flâneur-observer is first used for the reading of contemporary Sarajevo. While signs of political violence are apparent, the city appears as a bustling, energetic place that overcame trauma. However, when the city is reread through the prism of locals' narratives, it is reshaped into a conglomerate of spaces of violence, embedding memory of trauma, as well as a contemporary state of anxiety. Several processes come to the foreground, including the segregation of experiences, the establishment of new borders and boundaries, all rooted in anxiety and memory of trauma. Nevertheless, a blurring of these boundaries also emerges, based on economic needs of individuals which transgress in some cases the memory of violence. Yet urban spaces are continuously read through the prism of violence as they are recharged by the anxiety regarding the future stability of the country and of one's life.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.