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Ethnic Mobilization in the Former Yugoslavia as a Kind of Structural Setting and Framing

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image of Southeastern Europe

Ana Hofman, Guest Editor

The author claims that strategies of ethnic mobilization have deep roots in the politics of ex-Yugoslav nations, and that these roots are closely related to the response of the Western Balkans, especially Serbian political elites, to the challenges of democratization and modernization. The author develops this notion in two basic sections, outlining the ontology and history, and psychological background of the ethnic mobilization. Beyond the larger historical perspective, which will be reviewed, the very source of current ethno-mobilization processes lies in the deep opposition of Serbian political elites to the loose federal Yugoslav Constitution of 1974 that initiated various political strategies of ethno-mobilization's undermining and neglect. The author understands the term 'ethnic mobilization' to have three layers of meaning, the first being most rudimentary: an orderly and phased procedure aimed at ethnic crystallization or homogenization of Serb people. The second layer encompasses the underlying framing narrative of the reinterpretation of certain social events or conflicts within a particular interpretative frame or 'code.' The third meaning is, in a very important sense, demobilization, namely, the competing elites had to be demobilized, neutralized, or marginalized, and were usually described as ethnic 'traitors,' or 'those who sold to the interests of the enemy, or of the West.' Based on ideas of Latinka Perović and Dubravka Stojanović, the author traces the roots of the ethnopolitics back to the Russian anti-modernist movement of 'narodnichestvo.' This anti-Western and deeply anti-democratic strategy of political power lies at the heart of violent conflicts in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia/Kosovo, and even Macedonia. And, in the author's view, it remains the key obstacle to a post-war democratic transition for these countries. Strategies of ethnic mobilization remain, up to the present day, the driving force of power structures in these countries.


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