Spring 2021

Roswitha Kersten-Pejanić (Center for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies at Humboldt University, Germany)

Roswitha Kersten-Pejanić completed her PhD thesis on the interrelation of linguistic norms and gender perceptions in Croatian in 2016 at the Center for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies at Humboldt University. She holds Magister degree in History and Serbian/Croatian from Humboldt University and a Master in EU Studies from Centre International de Formation Européenne.
From 2010-2017, Roswitha was working as a research associate and lecturer at the Department of Slavic Studies and the Transdisciplinary Center for Gender Studies at Humboldt University in Berlin. She also worked as a trainer for EU fundraising both in academic and non-academic education. She is co-editor of the volume “Doing Gender – Doing the Balkans” and has published papers on issues of gender, language, discourses and Europeanization in Croatia, such as “Language ideology and linguistic manifestations of gender conceptualisations in Croatian”, “»Imenice muškog roda imenice su općeg roda…« Why Questioning Androgendering Naming Practices for People Is Still Worth the (Slavicist’s) While”, “Are times of Europeanisation times of the gender experts? The window of opportunity in the EU accession process in Croatia”, and others.

Project – title: “Linguistic Landscapes at the margins: Performativity of ethnic belonging and memory politics in Croatian post-conflict border regions”

Roswitha has been a postdoc fellow at CAS SEE for the last two years and will stay here until Autumn 2021. She is working on the project “Linguistic Landscapes at the margins: Performativity of ethnic belonging and memory politics in Croatian post-conflict border regions” which receives funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG, project number: KE 2368/1-1):
Her research concentrates on the linguistic landscape in two rural border regions and former war sites in Croatia (the “Danube border region” around Vukovar, Ilok, Erdut and Batina and the “Una border region” around Kostajnica, Dvor, Dubica and Jasenovac). A central emphasis of her work lies on the examination of persisting linguistic signs of ethnic and nationalist tension in the public space. The continuing influence of the war and, hence, the status of this space as a post-conflict site is of particular analytic importance for this research project. The project aims at making an active contribution to the methodological development of Linguistic Landscape Studies (LLS) by concentrating on rural landscapes, while most research in LLS so far has focused on the study of urban areas. Furthermore, the project is drawing the attention of this emerging field of ethnographic studies on language use to Southeastern Europe, which allows adding a particularly fascinating set of material and analysis due to the loaded legacy of (language) politics in the region. Roswitha is co-organiser of the exhibition “Croatian Memoryscapes” financed by EPK2020 and Schroubek-Fonds which will be shown in Rijeka in Winter 2020/21. In May 2021 Roswitha will, together with the CAS team, organize the international conference “Semiotic Landscapes of Southeastern Europe” at Moise Palace on the Island of Cres.

Bojan Bilić (University College London, UK)

Bojan Bilić is a psychologist and political sociologist doing research on LGBTQ activisms and the anthropology of non-heterosexual sexualities and gender variance in the post-Yugoslav space. He holds a PhD in East European Studies from University College London and works as adjunct professor of Gender and Social Movements in South East Europe at the School of Political Sciences, University of Bologna. He is the author of We Were Gasping for Air: (Post-)Yugoslav Anti-War Activism and Its Legacy (2012) and Building Better Times: Trauma, Violence, and Lesbian Agency in Croatia and Serbia (2020), editor of On the Rainbow Way to Europe: LGBT Activism and Europeanisation in the Post-Yugoslav Space(2016), and co-editor of Resisting the Evil: (Post-)Yugoslav Anti-War Contention (with Vesna Janković, 2012), Multiple Others in Croatia and Serbia: Intersectionality and LGBT Activist Politics (with Sanja Kajinić, 2016), Sisterhood and Unity: Lesbian Activism in the (Post-)Yugoslav Space (with Marija Radoman, 2019), and In Transition: Trans Lives, Activisms, and Culture in the Post-Yugoslav Space (with Iwo Nord and Aleksa Milanović, 2022).

Project – title: “Unexpected Challenges to Trans Freedom: Transphobia in Serbian Leftist Activism”

Over the last few years, the highly charged debates about the role that trans women should play in leftist and feminist struggles have spilt over from the Anglo-American space into the polarized and fragmented field of Serbian activist politics. In the context of rapid impoverishment, omnipresent corruption, and constant erosion of the working class, trans women – one of the most marginalized social groups – have been constructed as an “arch-enemy” provoking painful tensions and draining activist energies. In this research project I draw upon semi-structured interviews with trans and feminist activists to explore why it is that some strands of Serbian leftist activism – which has had a hard time recovering from the 1990s’ nationalist blow – mark gender difference in such a rigid way that “what is socially peripheral” becomes symbolically central (Hall, 1997) to the point of exclusion, discrimination, and verbal violence. While I focus empirically on the polemics surrounding the activist collective Marks21, whose most visible male members have been particularly vocal about the risks that trans (women’s) emancipation allegedly poses for the precarious achievements of the leftist and feminist movements, I juxtapose it with Praxis, an older Yugoslav Marxist initiative that can hardly boast about its feminist record. Within such an analytical frame, I argue that the capacity of the ‘trans question’ to split the already minuscule left side of the political spectrum is reflective of the long-term conservative and neocolonial dimensions of the Yugoslav/Serbian Left.

Marko Luka Zubčić (University of Rijeka, Croatia)

Marko-Luka Zubčić holds a PhD in Philosophy from University of Rijeka, with the dissertation titled “Certain Fundamentals of the Design and Assessment of Social Epistemic Systems”. His main research focus is institutional/systems-oriented social epistemology, an interdisciplinary study of epistemic properties of governance systems. His work was published in Synthese, Philosophy & Society and Ethics & Politics, and he co-edited a Special Issue of Phenomenology & Mind. He works in policy research and development, with particular focus on food security (the design and development of the Food Network in Croatia), and on the design and development of lottocratic and collective intelligence instruments for purposes of better institutional problem-solving. He also works as a communication strategist for both the non-governmental and private sector.

Project – title: “Institutional Epistemology of Open Order”

Building on work of Helene Landemore, studies in division of cognitive labour, New Diversity Theory and Ostromian political economy, I present the institutional structure of an Open Order, and show how it outperforms representative democracy, minimal state and technocracy in solving complex problems due to its epistemically reliable use of diversity and collective intelligence.

Open Order is composed of two levels of governance responsive to two types of complex governance problems. First, Open Society upgraded with minimal epistemic infrastructure is epistemically reliable in responding to “wicked problems”, in which sustained redundant diversity conditions social learning. Second, Open Democracy understood as a polycentric lottocracy featuring open-source policy-making and utilizing information markets and quadratic voting, is reliable in responding to “learning problems”, in which solution discovery is conditioned on transient diversity in the deliberative phase and the evaluative convergence in decision-making phase.

Desara Dushi (University of Bologna, Italy and University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg)

Short bio: Dr. Desara Dushi currently works as lecturer at the Law Department of Epoka University, in Tirana. She holds a Double PhD Degree in Law, Science and Technology from University of Bologna and University of Luxembourg as an Erasmus+ Joint PhDs Fellowship holder. During her PhD studies Desara has been working as a researcher at CIRSFID, University of Bologna. She also holds a M.Sc. in Criminal Law and a MA in Human Rights and Democracy. Before joining Epoka University as a full-time staff member, she served as advisor to the Minister of Justice of Albania as part of the LEAD Albania Fellowship Programme, while also teaching at Epoka University. Desara is specialized in criminal justice, ICT law, cybercrime, human rights, judicial reform, online child protection, and Internet Governance. Desara also serves as Executive Committee Member of the South East Europe Dialogue on Internet Governance (SEEDIG). Since 2016, Desara contributes in shaping various international and regional Internet Governance conferences annually.

Project – title: “The Impact of Judicial Reform and New Judicial Institutions in the Rule of Law and EU Integration in Albania”

Albania is currently implementing a comprehensive Justice Reform which started in July 2016, a key requirement for EU integration. This constitutional reform reshaped the landscape of the institutions governing the justice sector in Albania. In order to implement the reform, Constitutional amendments were made, followed by the approval of a comprehensive list of laws aiming at strengthening the independence, accountability, efficiency and professionalism of the Justice System.
One of the aims of the Justice Reform was to restore public trust in the Justice System and ensure the independence and proper functioning of the justice system. For this reason, a transitional re-evaluation of judges and prosecutors (“vetting”) is underway. This vetting system led to a huge impact in the delivery of justice especially because as a result of dismissals and resignations, the country has been without a Supreme Court and without a Constitutional Court for three years.
The aim of this research is to identify the changes that the ongoing justice reform is bringing in the justice system and the rule of law in Albania, how will it impact access to justice and fight against corruption in the judiciary, why is it progressing so slowly and where is it leading to.

Miloš Ćipranić (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade, Serbia)

Miloš Ćipranić is a theorist of spatial arts. He obtained his PhD from the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Belgrade on the topic of description of edifices in Ancient Greek and Roman literature. A major area of his research interest is the relation of text and architectural objects.

Project – title: “The Statutes of Eastern Adriatic Communes in Space”

The statutes of East Adriatic communes contain a significant number of chapters that refer to architecture and urban planning. Legal norms conditioned the building activities, and thus, complementary, the coexistence of citizens on a given territory. Can the statute, as a legal document, be seen as a real architect of these cities and towns? Most communes of the Adriatic littoral and islands completed the codification of their statutes and provisions between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries (e.g., the Cres statute is from 1332). In the spirit of republicanism, the cities tipped the institutional balance of the common and particular in favor of the former. One of the aims of this research is to examine the hypothesis that the city is primarily a social object and a juridical artifact, which assumes that it, ontologically, rests on written and institutional acts. According to this thesis, the content of the statutes manifested across myriad dimensions of urban life and impacted the physical form of the communes. The background intention of the project is the reaffirmation of the republican idea and revitalization of an important part of southeastern European heritage.

Viktor Pál (University of Tampere, Finland)

Viktor Pál is Grant-funded Researcher at the Department of Cultures at the University of Helsinki, Finland. He also serves as Coordinator at the Helsinki Environmental Humanities Hub. His first book “Technology and the Environment in State-Socialist Hungary. An Economic History” was published in 2017.

Project – title: “Red Trash. The Concept of Waste in Communist Eastern Europe”

The Soviet bloc has been often interpreted by social scientists as “dirty” as opposed to the “clean” and “superior” West when it came to the environment. Despite that consensus, socialist citizens developed complex repair, reuse and recycle skills. They transformed, saved, and condensed an amazing variety of foods, consumer objects, and packaging.

The system of objects was not rigid in the Soviet bloc, however change appeared at a significantly slower rate than in the West until the collapse of communism. After 1990, the “old” somewhat circular consumer system radically changed and consumer culture had overtaken urban areas of Eastern Europe.

That new consumerism was based on the take-make-waste extractive industrial model originating from the West and was based on the continual influx of new products designed to be used briefly and then discarded. As a result of the “new” throw-away system .e.g. Russia currently battles with one of the worst consumer waste crisis globally.

This project aims to study how the idea of domestic trash changed in the Soviet bloc from the end of World War II to the rise of post-Soviet market economy. By analysing the content of socialist trash bins, this project aims to make meaningful contributions to the ongoing debate on humanity’s shift to circular economy within the larger frame of sustainability.

Nikolina Židek (Complutense University of Madrid, Spain)

Nikolina Židek is Adjunct Professor at IE University Madrid, School of Global and Public Affairs and member of Research Group Places, marks and territories of memory, at the Memory Studies Nucleus, at IDES, Buenos Aires, Argentina. She received her PhD in political science from the Complutense University. Her research interests fall in the field of diaspora studies, memory politics, transitional justice, and processes of democratization. Her current research is focused on the Croatian post- World War 2 diaspora in Latin America and Spain. She regularly collaborates and publishes with research groups and journals from Argentina, Spain and Southeast Europe. Her most recent articles were published in Memory Studies Journal and two volumes published by Routledge.

Project – title: “The Genie Out of the Bottle: Engagement of the Argentinean-Croat Diaspora in Homeland Politics (1990-today)”

This research concentrates on the continuing influence of diaspora on new Croatian democracy and democratic culture. This project aims at making an active contribution to fill the research gap on the role of diasporas on democratization, applied to the empirical study of the Argentinean- Croat diaspora. By studying the kin-state- diaspora interaction in the context of democracy consolidation in Croatia, the project will particularly focus on its effects on democratic freedom and equality, together with their role in fostering anti-democratic tendencies in contemporary Croatia.
The proposed research stands at the intersection of the studies of democratization and diaspora politics, drawing from the fields of nationalism and long-distance nationalism, and how it affects the quality of democratic culture in Croatia.

Gabriele Giacomini (University Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Milan, Italy)

Gabriele Giacomini is Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Udine. He is a member of the Sociological Laboratory at University of Udine, of the Centre for Studies in Ethics and Politics of Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan, of the “Giannino Bassetti” Foundation in Milan. He wrote the books “Psicodemocrazia” (Mimesis, Milan 2016) and “Potere digitale” (Meltemi, Milan 2018). Thanks to his research studies he was awarded the followings prizes: Premio nazionale Frascati “Elio Matassi” in 2017 (with the book “Psicodemocrazia”), Premio giovani SPe “Achille Ardigò” in 2018, “Libro ComPol dell’anno” of Italian Association for Political Communication in 2019 (with the book “Potere digitale”).

Project – title: “The Utopia of “Rousseauian Democracy” in the Digital Age: A Liberal Critique”

Through participation platforms and social media it is technically possible to “overcome”, at least in part, the mediation of the traditional political class and “directly connect” citizens and institutions. In an era where representatives are often compared to a closed and ineffective “caste”, it is possible to think of stimulating greater participation through direct and digital participation practices. This has been the strategy adopted by the so-called “digital parties” in Europe (Pirate Party, the 5 Star Movement in Italy, and Podemos in Spain).
The first part of the research project consists of analysing the theoretical foundations of these new political organisations. The “promise” of democracy through ICTs is to overcome the defect that Rousseau attributed to representation in the legislative sphere. Indeed, the M5S has built a participation platform on the Internet, namely “Rousseau”. The choice of this name is not accidental. In fact, there are several points in common between the Italian party and the theories of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The similarities concern, for example, the preference for the imperative mandate, the methods for seeking the general will/common good, and the figure of the Legislator/Guarantor.
However, this “Republican” project has some weaknesses. The second part of the research aims to investigate (and systematise) the potential political dangers of a “Rousseauian” approach to digital technologies in democracies. Without denying the normative value of citizen participation in democracy and starting from the analysis of concrete cases, I intend to highlight the problems that can accompany the implementation of “political directism” practices through ICT. In particular, a liberal interpretation will be adopted (with reference to authors such as Constant, Norberto Bobbio, Joseph Schumpeter, Ralf Dahrendorf, and Giovanni Sartori).

Kevin Kenjar (UC Berkeley, USA)

Kevin Kenjar is a sociocultural and linguistic anthropologist with a strong regional focus on Southeastern Europe. He completed his PhD in Anthropology at UC Berkeley in 2020, and was a visiting scholar at the Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics (2016), the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (2018), and the Slavic Department at the University of Cologne (2019). While specialized in the study of the nexus of language and ideology, nationalism, and ethnic diversity, his eclectic research interests include such diverse topics as memorialization, post-Ottoman and post-Austro-Hungarian legacies, materialist Biblical exegesis, and Victorian nonsense poetry.

Project – title: “Fool, This is a Post Office”: The Dynamics of Linguistic Landscape Intervention in Post-Yugoslav Space

The goal of this project is to assess creative engagement with the linguistic landscape, particularly through the use of graffiti, in post-Yugoslav space. Building on a body of work in linguistic anthropology dealing with the many complexities of textuality and the materiality of texts, and recognizing that writing is a culturally organized and ideologically grounded activity, bound up with historical, cultural, and political meaning (rather than an autonomous, neutral technology of transcribing the spoken word) this project explores the unique dynamics and relations specific to spatially situated texts.

Using carefully documented instances of graphic intervention in the linguistic landscape, paired with “photo-elicitation” interviews in which research participants are presented with partially decontextualized photographs, this project provides insight into how local participants craft, experience and interpret such images from the range of possible meanings, including participants’ potential (in)ability to identify which standard languages are being used when denied particular contextual clues.

An essential aspect of this project is the linguistic analysis of often-neglected levels of signification (e.g. graphemes, fonts, colors) to determine intertextual and generic relationships that reveal neatly organized and patterned collective voices through the bleeding of forms and content. This patterning in turn reveals intricate turn-taking, in which participants engage with one another through coded responses, modifications, effacement and defacement, all captured within a single frame, despite these participants never having met face-to-face and their utterances potentially being separated by a period of months or even years.

Tanja Anđić (University of Minnesota, USA)

Tanja Anđić completed her PhD in Sociology at the University of Minnesota in 2020. There, she worked as a research assistant for the Minnesota Population Center IPUMS-DHS project and taught courses in Social Theory. Her current research interest is in imaginations of the future, and how these imagined futures shape contemporary social action. She has conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork on everyday life in Belgrade, among Serbian immigrants in Germany, and in syringe exchanges in the United States, as well as working on quantitative projects using Demographic and Health Surveys data. Her broad topics of research on emigration, social welfare, futures, the state, transitions to adulthood, and energy markets are driven by a fascination with late capitalism and its effects on all aspects of social life.

Project – title: EU Accession and Energy Competition: The Future of the Western Balkans in the “Laboratory of Conditionality”

EU membership was once seen as the inevitable future of the Western Balkans (a term defined by what it is not – countries in South East Europe which are not EU members). However, the decades long trial-and-error process of accession has made the promise of this future appear less viable. Despite the diminishing hope for eventual membership among the countries’ populaces, and seemingly no end in sight as the EU experiences “enlargement fatigue,” candidate and potential candidate countries must continue to implement the EU’s market-radical policies of privatization, marketization, and liberalization across sectors.
Using discursive process tracing and ethnographic fieldwork at sites of infrastructure, this project seeks to understand the relationship of EU conditionality and market-radical policy diffusion as it plays out in the contentious field of energy production in Serbia (EU candidate) and Bosnia & Herzegovina (potential candidate). In recent implementations of public-private partnerships (PPPs) with domestic and international energy investors, governments have failed to meet EU2020 quotas for renewable energy while creating social unrest surrounding both reinvestments in coal and the irreparable damage caused by thousands of new “green” mini-hydroelectric plants across the region. Applying a political ecology framework to this dynamic site of policy diffusion, financing, implementation, and environmental activist contestation, this research seeks to answer how imagined, promised, and materially constructed futures are shaping the political and physical landscapes of EU candidate countries.