Nation building and the others

I’m on my way to Cyprus where I’m giving a paper at the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration conference (IASFM: www.iasfm.org) . My paper is about RAE in Kosovo, but I’m not going to look into the appaling living conditions of the communities, as there are several detailed reports on this, rather I would like to use the situation of the RAE as a lens to look into tensions and conflicts in the process of nation building in Kosovo. In particular, i want to explore the tension between ‘colonial’ EU protectorate policy and practice and ‘colonial’ responses of  Kosovo ruling elite. Two chapters of the RAE integration strategy and some pilot interviews carried out last year are the empirical basis of the reflections. More work will follow next year when I’m planning a 2 weeks trip to Kosovo.

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Ancestors

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The search for ancestors is a key task of nation-building. To root the present into the past – and the older the better – it is essential to substantiate and embellish any claim over a territory. Thus, it is not surprising that one of terrains on which the battle for the control of Kosov@ is/was fought is the ownership and meaning of the items found in the region. In the museum there are a lot of empty windows and spaces. Posters here and there call for international support to the campaigning for the return of hundreds of pieces taken/borrowed by Serbia in the immediate aftermath of the war in 1999.

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It is also not surprising that in the post 1999 Kosovo, many efforts were put into excavations and archeological research  (with the support of internation donors, of course). And here I come to my final point: why the international community is keen on archeology. Politcs and archeology are closely related in contested territories. This is true for Albanian-speaking Kosovans as well as for Serbian-speaking ones, but also for the western sponsors of the new independent Kosovo. Let’s not forget that we are talking of a country were Islam is the main religion. While keen to affirm/confirm their geopolitical control over the Balkan against the pro-Russia Serbia (for how long?), the western powers  are keen to promote and enhance a specific vision and imaginary of Kosovo as a secular country for the rest of the world but in primis for Kosovo inhabitants. Investing in archeology is therefore instrumental in achieving this aim as it can date back the claim over the territory but also over its cultural roots and heritage to a pre-Islamic time.