Generation on the Move. Children of the 90s in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, and Serbia. Franz Vranitzky Chair of European Studies; Sigmund Freud University; Center for Advanced Studies of Southeastern Europe, 09.10.2015–10.10.2015.
Reviewed by Christina Krakovsky
Published on H-Soz-u-Kult (March, 2016)
Generation on the Move. Children of the 90s in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, and Serbia
The conference “Generation on the Move. Children of the 90s in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, and Serbia” focused on academic work in the fields of humanities and social sciences of the Balkan region. The conference attracted an international audience comprising of participants and lecturers: More than 20 speakers from universities of Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Hungary, as well as Austria, Germany, France, Canada and the USA attended to present and discuss their findings.
After a warm welcoming speech by Snježana Prijić–samaržija (Rijeka), who is currently the director of the Center for Advanced Studies of Southeastern Europe and vice rector at the University of Rijeka, RAINER GRIES (Vienna) raised urgent questions in his introductory speech regarding the “Generation on the Move“ vis-à-vis the content of the conference.
The main focus was the lives of the children and youth, who lived through the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, and then the accompanying war and crisis. The younger generation in this region is still deeply affected by the events of that transitional period. These early and adverse experiences of trauma contributed to shaping the self-images and the worldly views of these age cohorts. They formed, at the very least, the foundation of their political dispositions today and for the future. It stands to reason that a general trend at the workshop was the discussion of the social and political conditions young people are confronted with nowadays. Indeed, these conditions are closely related to the traumatic past, however they are often not explicitly identified or seen in their historic context.
In the first Panel “Imagine the Balkans & the European Union” the chairwoman ORLI FRIDMAN (Belgrade) conducted a debate about the aspects of otherness, exclusion and inclusion, migration, the symbolic hierarchy in Europe, and the role of social media. BEKIM BALIQI (University of Pristina) stressed the very young population in Kosovo (2011 median age of population is 27 years), hence the majority lived through the war as children. Baliqi argues that today’s young generations have ethno-nationalistic tendencies and are strongly politicized, despite the fact that they are less political active. This is related to the presence of a low level of trust in state and political institutions and a bad socio-economic situation. In case of Kosovo these effects of war formed the collective memory and identity of youth. It influenced socio-political positions within their ethnic and political communities, and in other ethnic groups. The impact in their political attitudes and ethnic relationships not only appears as a concrete or personal experience, but usually as so called post-memory which is regularly transmitted and reproduced by ethno-political power elites and their instruments like the media, historiography, public space and discourse.
JELENA GOLUBOVIC (Vancouver) examined the symbolic hierarchies within Europe. She emphasized the eastward expansion of the European Union and its effects on the lives and identities of middle- to upper-middle class youth in Belgrade. For those youth the basic challenge is to conceptualize the meaning of being outside of the EU’s border. Over a long period of time the Balkans represented, for Western Europe, a buffer zone to Asia and still is often received as not being European, but rather a space in between. The legacy of the 1990s continues to affect the subjectivities of Serbian youth, expressing tension between European belonging and exclusion. Jelena Golubovic’s data shows that Belgrade is seen as a mostly European city by its young citizens, and with this in mind as an exclusion from the rest of Serbia and the former Yugoslavia. However, this youth cannot connect with EU politics and also distance themselves from Serbian politics, which is perceived as being corrupt. Consequently, they feel excluded from politics, which leaves them torn and in a state of chronic uncertainty.
The next speaker, KARL JACOBS (Graz), focused on student migrants in Austria who were born in the Balkans and sought to determine aspects of the phenomenon of brain drain. Through interviews using social media, Karl Jacobs detected a great amount of students would rather not return home in the near future. Taking their reason to stay into consideration, usually it being their academic education, the data could be interpreted as a “brain gain” as well, because those who went abroad for better education may have the intention to return home.
The most discussed talk during the first panel centred around JOVANA VUKCEVIC (University of Montenegro) and her investigation of the phenomenon of “Yugonostalgia”. Yugonostalgia is mostly referred to in popular culture as an embellishment or romanticized remembrance of the socialist period that indeed provided some sort of employment, and health care etc; aspects that cannot be fulfilled completely by the current politics. On the other hand, nostalgia is seen as part of reconciliation. Youth express the socialist past as a place of socialization. Furthermore, young people use nostalgia as a rebellious act against collective amnesia, and also as an answer for the processes of capitalism. Therefore it helps in processing the traumatic past, by reflecting and connecting the history to present political and social difficulties. As direct and indirect victims they may feel like playing a subordinate role only in an already marginalised discourse of how to deal with the events of the past.
As the chairman of the second Panel “The Challenges of Integration” Dino Abazović (University of Sarajevo) addressed the subjects of identity and integration. SELMA POROBIC (Sarajevo) concentrated on the socio-economic and discrimination contexts for people returning to Bosnia-Herzegovina, in particular their struggles in re-establishing themselves in their homeland. One of their main motivations in returning to their post-war society is the longing for their cultural roots and social ties. The motivations behind returning (f.e. socio-cultural factors, morality-based arguments like patriotism, refugee experience factors, economic or environmental factors) are often met with suspicion, even though these motivations were in many cases already present during the early integration phase into the host society.
ANIDA SOKOL (Rome) mentioned another aspect of identity. She analysed the positions, attitudes, and reactions of Bosnian youth toward the Census of 2013. Political campaigns urged people to declare themselves as Bosniak, Serbs, and/or Croats, together with their religious affiliation and language, while civil society groups propagated the refusal of the ethno-national identities. Although young people do not express interest towards political issues in Bosnia-Herzegovina most of them identify themselves according to the ethno-national specifications. However, there is a tendency among young people (around 10%) to refuse common categories. Anida Sokol showed that identities of young people are overlapping and changing. Youth are constructing their own new identity that will not fit in the established categories.
The third Panel moderated by Sanja Bojanić (Rijeka) “The Potential of Institutional Structures” broached the issue of institutional trust and responsibility. ANNA GEIS and KATARINA RISTIĆ (both Magdeburg) started the panel by presenting their findings regarding the perception and reception of transitional justice measures in Serbia. In particular, they conducted research on the war trials of International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, United Nations (ICTY), which is indeed a delicate research topic due to the controversial perception of the trials and the difficulty in obtaining classified data. The research team suggested that there are different narratives circulating which are not connected to a complete story. Media is overstrained with the task of reporting reliably and steadily, firstly because war crimes are an extremely sensitive topic; and secondly media avoids reporting about long lasting and complex political events.
ANJA GVOZDANOVIĆ (Zagreb) examined the influence of institutions for social civility in Croatia. Erosion of civil values and, at the same time, erosion in institutional trust can be observed. This is worrying because according to the social capital theory the value of institutional trust is one determinant of civility. Anja Gvozdanović found a lack of possibilities for families to support their youngest child economically or providing useful social contacts because of narrowing resources. The bitter consequence is that the “luxury” of civility cannot be afforded.
MARY KATE SCHNEIDER (University of Maryland) concentrated on the influence of education in Bosnia-Herzegovina in terms of social distance and living separately. The educational system is divided into three types of schools: There are monoethnic schools, schools that separate ethnics by schedules or building parts, and integrated schools. In separated schools pupils learn only about the history of their ethnics. The 14 different curriculums are domestically produced and often influenced by politics. Surprisingly, despite these circumstances, only 1/5 of students would like to have personal contact with other groups. Students who attend integrated schools report higher levels of interethnic tolerance than those who attend monoethnic or segregated schools. Nevertheless, statements that it would be best for each ethnic group to have their own territory run like a red thread through the data.
VANNI D’ALESSIO (Rijeka) focussed on the schooling of minorities in Rijeka, Croatia. The 90s generation is characterized by a return to private life. Vanni D’Alessio presented in detail, and by reference to historical development, the difference between an institutionalized Italian minority and the Serbian minority, who are not present in the public sphere.
In addition to the historical factors influencing this generation, high rates of unemployment, the persistent practices of corruption and limited social mobility are causing much more immediate problems in their present lives. As the chairman Bekim Baliqi discussed these factors during the last panel “Present Challenges Against the Background of the Past”. In his work ADEM FEIZAH (Paris) deals with aspects and impacts of patriarchy in Kosovo. In an essayistic manner he examined the issues of families and pays attention to the everyday life of women in a post-war society.
ANDREJ KIRBIŠ (Maribor) investigated the effects of discrimination on young people in post-Yugoslavia. He examined the perceived discrimination including gender, economic status, religious affiliation, ethnicity/nationality, educational level, political party affiliation and regional origin among the youth in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia & Kosovo. The results indicated cross-national differences in perceived discrimination with highest perceived discrimination being detected in Kosovo and lowest in Croatia. Consequences of discrimination can be seen in violence experiences, lower attachment to school, higher somatic stress, anxieties and depression, and low self-esteem.
BERT PREISS (Graz) highlighted the importance of youth civic participation in politics and social affairs. However, the concept of participation still is quite vague and the question arises as to how young people are able to actively participate at all. Most international concepts supporting civic participation for the youth are top-down and therefore not appropriate or accepted, therefore a rather weak tradition of youth organizing groups is common in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. Furthermore, due to the poor living conditions young people migrate to European countries and the United States, which leads to brain drain. Also an alarming radicalization of young Muslims takes place, recently increased by the bellicose attacks of IS.
In her Ph.D project ELISA SATJUKOW (Magdeburg) focuses on the everyday life of citizens in Belgrade taking into consideration the bombings in the 90s. By conducting narrative interviews and analysing “Egodocuments” (letters, school essays, emails, etc.) and (youth) media, Elisa Satjukow will contribute to the fields of memory and generational studies thus providing input for a historical understanding of everyday life in Serbia under Milošević, and its consequences up until the present day.
A concluding round-table discussion brought a fresh start: On the one hand, insights at the conference determined, that they are a highly problematical generation in an equally highly problematic environment and time. On the other hand, the panel reiterated the hope that it will be possible to come together in conversation: Numerous contributions to the conference showed that this generation would like to enter the dialogue.
Snježana Prijić–Samaržija (Center for Advanced Studies of Southeastern Europe, Rijeka)
Rainer Gries (Franz Vranitzky Chair for European Studies, Vienna)
Panel I: Imagine The Balkans & The European Union
Chair: Orli Fridman (Center for Comparative Conflict Studies, Faculty of Media and Communications, Singidunum University, Belgrade)
Bekim Baliqi (University of Pristina): Young Europeans and Old Balkanians. Children of the 90s and youth of today in Kosovo
Jelena Golubovic(Simon Fraser University, Vancouver): Between Abnormalcy and European Belonging. Belgrade Youth and the Legacy of the 1990s in the Context of European Union Expansion
Karl Jacobs (University of Graz): Gastarbeiter or Brain Drain. A Qualitative Analysis of Student Migrants’ Intentions in Graz, Austria
Jovana Vukcevic (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris): Borrowed Memories. Borrowed Memories. Yugonostaliga, Youth and Europe
Panel II: The Challenges Of Integration
Chair: Dino Abazović (University of Sarajevo)
Selma Porobic (University of Sarajevo): “They tell us we are crazy for coming back and always ask ‘why on earth did you come back’, when they should really ask who we are, why we went in the first place and what we do since we came back” – A study of life attitudes and well-being among the war-children and youth returnee migrants in a post-Dayton BiH
Anida Sokol (University of Rome): The Bosniak-Bosnian Identity Dilemma. Youth, Nation-building, and the Census of 2013
Panel III: The Potential Of Institutional Structures
Chair: Sanja Bojanić (Center for Advanced Studies of Southeastern Europe, University of Rijeka)
Anna Geis & Katarina Ristić (University of Magdeburg): Generation Y’s perception of ICTY trials in Serbian media
Anja Gvozdanović (Institute for Social Research Zagreb): Erosion of social civility in Croatia
Mary Kate Schneider (University of Maryland): Sustainable peace through education in Bosnia- Herzegovina? A look at the first generation of ‘new’ Bosnians
Vanni D’Alessio (University of Rijeka): Schoolchildren across “Ethnic Filters”. Schooling, Identifications and Minorities in Croatian and Mulitcultural Rijeka (From the 20th to the 21st century)
Panel IV: Present Challenges Against The Background Of The Past
Chair: Bekim Baliqi (Department of Political Science, University of Prishtina)
Adem Ferizaj (Sciences Po Paris): The texture of patriarchy in Kosovo
Andrej Kirbiš (University of Maribor):Perceived discrimination among post-Yugoslav youth. A comparative analysis of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo
Bert Preiss (University of Graz): The Power of Youth. Exploring Young People’s Potential for Participation in Local Conflict Transformation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo
Elisa Satjukow (University of Leipzig): Children of the 90s. Growing up in Serbia under Milošević
Moderated by Rainer Gries and Michaela Griesbeck
Milica Andžić (Center for Comparative Conflict Studies, Belgrade): Sports and Media. Case Study Serbia-Croatia 1990/2015
Nikola Kosovic & Daria Copil (Central European University, Budapest): Socialization During Wars: A Comparative Study of Post-Yugoslav Countries
Maja Mirković (Universtiy of Sarajevo): The Role of Youth Organisazions in Implementation of Transitional Justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Olivera Nedić (Universtiy of Belgrade): Development of the Culture of Remembrance with Regard to Historical Truth in Books and Curricula
Janja Pilić & Ružica Strelar (Faculty of Political Science, Zagreb): Media Constructions of Modern Croatian Migratory Processes.
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Christina Krakovsky. Review of , Generation on the Move. Children of the 90s in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, and Serbia.
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