Borderland temporalities: About movements and halts in Croatia’s periphery
Carolin Leutloff-Grandits, Lara Lemac
Since Croatia’s integration into the EU in 2013, the quality of its borders is changing rapidly. While Croatia’s borders to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia are increasingly securitized, especially against so-called “illegitimate” migrants from the global South, the inner EU borders have been opened for labour migration, of which many citizens of Croatia take advantage, as the possibilities for employment within Croatia are meagre.
Considering these divergent border dynamics, the research focusses on the perspective of the local inhabitants of Donji Lapac, one of the
marginalized regions along the Bosnian border in Croatia, and wants to explore the experience of movements and halts and their effects on everyday life.
In fact, this region, which is inhabited mainly by Serbs who had fled at the end of the war in the 1990s and who only slowly returned, experienced a rapid economic outmigration of younger inhabitants within the last couple of years. This fosters depopulation and an economic standstill, symbolized by many empty and decaying buildings. Migrants, on the other hand, who unofficially passed the Bosnian-Croatian border, rush through this region as invisible as possible, as they are hunted by policemen who are regularly push them back as soon as picked up
In order to grasp the changing quality of the borders and their impact on the everyday life from the perspective of local inhabitants, the research mainly builds on biographical interviews which link the present to past and future perspectives. It is shown that with the changing materiality of Croatia’s borders, the region of Donji Lapac becomes a place of transit and outmigration, despite, or because, Croatia’s integration into the EU. For those still living in the region, migrants are like ghosts in the region, who may be potentially dangerous, while they experience their region as increasingly as a dead-end, as slowly and quietly dying, like many of the growingly old inhabitants who stay put and who have been left behind by the younger
Reporting Pushbacks at Southeastern Fringes of EU: Case of Vernacular Ethnography?
The proposed paper aims to present part of the textual production of the anti-restrictionist and pro-migrant local and transnational groups, sometimes conceptualized under common denominators of solidarity, vernacular, citizen or volunteer humanitarianism (cf. e.g. Brković 2017; Rozakou 2017; Sandri 2018), active at southeastern fringes of EU. Following the main points of the debate about intersections of activism and academia within field of the critical migration research, this paper will focus on the analysis of the reports about pushbacks, fast track expulsions of migrants to neighboring state, here from Croatia to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Montenegro. Settled on the crossroads of ethnography and forensics, testimonial and administrative, political and affective, these reports evoke, but also significantly depart from the reports introduced in the framework of the so-called second age of international humanitarianism (Cf. Fassin 2007, 2008). Based on the analysis of textual and paratextual elements of selected push-back reports collections (i.e. their front pages, titles, subtitles, prefaces etc.) published by different solidarity groups stationed in area in issue, this paper aims to explore the possibility to address these reports as instances of “vernacular ethnography”.
Šid borderscapes: memories, experiences and interpretations of borders and refugee movements.
Ildiko Erdei, Marta Stojić Mitrović, Teodora Jovanović, Katarina Mitrovic
In this research we will follow the 30 years’ dynamics of the bordering processes in the case of Šid, a small town in Serbia, located on the very border with Croatia. Ildiko Erdei will focus on the period of 1990s, during which the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia dissolved, resulting in the creation of new nation-states. She will present memories and experiences of mobility of the residents of Šid related to changeable existence and permeability of borders, of forced movements of 1991/1992 and 1995, as well as how the “old” residents perceived, accepted and/or othered, the newly arriving ones. Marta Stojić Mitrović will connect manifestations of migration movements in the Šid area in the period 1995 to 2013 with administrative transformations which aimed at regulating cross-border and intra-state mobilities and stay, reflected in laws on borders, foreigners, citizens and refugees. Besides bilateral relations between Serbia and Croatia, she will discuss the influence of the EU and the EU Accession Process.Teodora Jovanović will focus on (transit) migration movements of non-ex-Yugoslav foreigners in Šid area from 2014, and in particular on modes of accommodation, such as the official camps and self-made squats, on aid provision as well as the Covid-19 pandemics induced militarization. She will put special emphasis on perception of these developments by local residents. Katarina Mitrović will discuss education of migrants as perceived and experienced by students, parents and teachers. She will try to illuminate what the correspondents see as main conditions for a successful inclusion of migrant children into local schools. Together, we will discuss how these transformations and encounters shaped memories, experiences and interpretations in borderscapes at the margin of the EU.
Inclusion of migrant and refugee children in the education system of Bosnia and Herzegovina: An example of integration in the Una-Sana Canton
Vildana Pečenković, Nermina Delić
Since the beginning of the migrant crisis in BiH, the integration of migrant and refugee children inthe education system of BiH has only begun in the last year.The first to initiate activities for the inclusion of migrant children is the Una-Sana Canton where the largest number of this population currently resides.It is estimated that 20 per cent of the total number of migrants in BiH are children, of which one third is without parental care. Therefore, inclusion in the education system is very important for the normal psychophysical development of these children, because the right to education is a fundamental right of every human being. Examples of good practice implemented in schools in the Una-Sana Canton, as well as the activities of professors and students of the Faculty of Pedagogy of the University of Bihac in teaching Bosnian as a foreign language, as a basic prerequisite for inclusion in the regular teaching process,will be presented in this paper.Methods and examples that help migrant and refugee children overcome psychological, cultural and sociological barriers will also be presented.
The research’s aim is to discuss violent practices over migrants in the Bihac area from the point of equality, or more precisely, they will be discussed and conceptually rearranged according to the concept of equal moral status. The work of local and/or activist groups warn about continuous practice of violent “push-backs”, and the overall degrading and inhuman practices by various actors towards migrants on the move. These practices vary from inadequate accommodation, practices of exclusion and the separation of migrants from public spaces, frequent police security controls, public stigmatization through various practices and speech. The paper will demonstrate that the common denominator of abovementioned violent practices is treating someone as inferior, or as moral unequal. The paper will propose the thesis that violent practices towards people on the move are not just wrong because of the inflicted pain, physical suffering, or because these practices transgress the national and international laws, they are wrong because in these practices people are treated as inferior, and morally unequal, and because they are subjected to social cruelty. In order to tackle the issue of “wrongness”of these practices, the typology of social cruelty will be presented and developed.
Colleague, sister, dangerous foreigner: Activism and participation in ethnographic research among the residents of Bihac, Bosnia-Herzegovina
In this presentation I will discuss my main strategies of participant observation while doing research on the responses of an entire town to the influx of non-European migrants and refugees.
One activity was to volunteer with an NGO that works in the official transit camps. Here my goal was to understand the day-to-day workings of the system set up by the local authorities where
most of the workers were also from the local community. This was partially successful but it also
placed me into some dilemmas when regional activists launched campaigns against the international organizations running the camps. The other main activity was to become a donor and a “person who helps” migrants living outside the camps. I came to this strategy both because I saw a way I could be useful but also out of frustration with my mostly unsuccessful efforts to get to know the local volunteers who provide aid to migrants. They are all specific personalities (one might say difficult!) but were also very wary of outsiders and of calling attention to themselves given the high level of disapproval of these activities among the local population and, most alarmingly, increasing pressures from the police to refrain from offering aid to migrants. I launched a call for donations among my friends and colleagues and used the money I raised to support some of the local volunteers but also to become a helper myself – and this showed me first hand what they were also going through.
I got to know several of the volunteers this way, though not all, and
there was also a draw-back: my call caught the negative and quasi-public
attention of a local politician who is a vocal opponent of migrants and
of any form of assistance to them, including the maintenance of camps
or organizations that distribute aid. As a result, I gave up my plans to
interview the politician himself and I also felt nervous about
approaching members of his group, although I continued to attend
protests he organized. This situation brings up several points about activism and research that I will discuss in the
presentation: 1) how to classify the activities of local volunteers providing help to migrants as well as those active in protests against them – is this activism? 2) how far can or should researchers go in engaging in activism, humanitarian aid, or even being vocal on social media? and 3) how to research multiple “sides” of a debate while being clearly positioned in that debate yourself. I draw lessons from years of engaging with these questions by ethnographers and especially feminist researchers, while also opening up a discussion of how the present situation poses new challenges for ethical and productive research.
Refugee Encounters, “Hybrid” Anthropologists, Data Extraction and Knowledge Production in Bihać
In this research, I put into action what Comaroff and Comaroff (2012) call “theor[izing] from the south.” More specifically, I consider Bihać’s dystopic “migrant presents,” “refugee pasts” and ethnographic lifeworlds not only as rich places for data extraction and repository, but rather as sites where both our questions and our insights about “hybrid, native” ethnography and anthropological knowledge production are transformed and reconfigured. I reflect on how, when I arrived to Bihać in June 2018; I was “ethnographically paralyzed” by the site of converging human tragedies, politics of impasse and infrastructural accretions. In my journal, I wrote: “Bihać looks different. It has been a year since my last visit and the town appears uncanny – familiar but not mine. The main public spaces are sprinkled with groups of devastated people, the ‘human flow.’ They are mostly young males, but there are quite a few families as well. They are sitting in the main parks, usually on the grass, suspended in their waiting to cross into the EU. Some are sleeping in larger groups next to each other, their bags, their only possessions, under their heads. Stray dogs, another symbol of Bihać’s postwar ‘transition,’ are roaming around them. The sight is overwhelming, unbearable and dystopic. It creates ‘the limit’—existential, methodological and semantic…” In this presentation I take seriously this and many other similar, disconnected journal notes from the field in order to (self)challenge, probe, unpack and complicate the position of a “hybrid/native” anthropologist, without vilifying or glorifying this position. Rather, I plan to historicize this unique position which has been especially important in constructing, production circulating “knowledge” about the Balkans. I hope to “theorize” and untangle the production and “branding” of this type of knowledge, and to examine the expectations—ethical, disciplinary, and political—of “hybrid” Balkan ethnography. In the process, using the Balkan “semi-periphery” as the starting point, I highlight the unique, extracting nature of anthropological endeavor and anthropological knowledge production at large.
Zooming in activist organisations –an analysis of local activist movements in Serbia
Chandra Esser, Julia Bantouvaki, Jana Pirlein, Santiago Cuervo Escobar,Elena Schmid
Migratory flows through the Western Balkan region became more visible in 2015. After the closure of the so-called Balkan route in the spring of 2016, thousands of people on the move from the Global South were forced to interrupt their journey to their desired destinations in the European Union. Instead they found and still find themselves stuck in transit –the Western Balkans. In our research, we would like to focus on activists on site who are supporting people on the move in Serbia.
Inspired by the activist groups Women in Black Serbia (Žene u crnom) and No Border Serbia we will zoom into these two intertwined activist movements to achieve a better understanding of their work and aims. With reference to the main topic, each one of us will follow her/his field of interest ranging from personal motivation, general agenda, goals, hierarchical structures as well as the transnational character of the aforementioned movements. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic we are unable to conduct ethnographic research on site.
Therefore, our collaborative research will be solely done remotely and based on digital research methods. Through the conduction of semi-structured and narrative interviews with short-and long-term activists, we are seeking to put our research objective into practice.
Oral Stories about Migrants Recorded among Bihać Residents
Transformation and Construction of Homes among Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Zagreb
The aim of this research is to analyze and rethink the concepts, imaginaries, and experiences of home and home-making processes among refugees and asylum seekers in Zagreb. My research, therefore, stands on the junction of two field nodes: migration and refugee studies on the one hand, and spatial studies on the other. Thus I will be looking into the constructions of home(s) through the concepts of both (restrained) mobility and (new) rooting and emplacement. The key research questions can be put in three (necessarily intertwined) analytical frameworks: (1) what do(es) home(s) mean and represent in the context of refugeehood; (2) how are home(s) being imagined, constructed, and experienced through spatial practices; and (3) what is happening with the neighborhoods in which refugees and asylum seekers temporarily or permanently reside.