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Resisting Violence:
Hegemonic Negotiations of Ethnicity
in the Republic of Macedonia

(doctoral disseration abstract)



Vasiliki P. Neofotistos

Doctoral candidate in Social Anthropology at Harvard University

TFF associate

October 3, 2003

Thesis Advisor: Professor Michael Herzfeld

This is a dissertation about the social negotiation of ethnicity and local resistance to the use of armed violence. Based on eighteen months of fieldwork between March 2000 and August 2001 in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia, I unfold the social processes related to ethnicity that can both escalate violence and hinder its escalation in multi-ethnic states in the Balkans. More specifically, I ask the following question. Given the social tensions between Macedonians and Albanians, why did an all-out ethnic war not sweep across Macedonia when the conflict between the Macedonian State Army and the Albanian National Liberation Army erupted in February 2001? By comparing the processes of Macedonian and Albanian ethnic identity building in an ethnically heterogeneous neighborhood, I make two arguments. First, I argue that reasons why civil wars in multi-ethnic societies are constrained lie with the schematics of minority social structures and in particular with a minority's capacity to internalize the hegemonic ideology of the majority. In particular, the construction of the division between village and city regulates high and low social status within the Albanian community and casts Albanian urbanites in a favorable position vis-a-vis Albanian villagers. From an urban Albanian viewpoint, the latter are the only ones who deserve to occupy low positions in the moral hierarchy found in the wider society. Consequently, Albanian urbanites and Macedonian individuals can experience an affinity of values, negotiate ethnicity and accommodate social tensions by deploying a variety of strategies, from irony to changing personal names. Second, I argue that it is the dynamic combination of social tensions and social constraints against warfare that grant the social system flexibility at times of crisis. Social tensions can contribute to warfare, however, should forces exogenous to the state boundary emerge and manage to mobilize local support. My work points to the dynamics generated by the simultaneous presence of violence and peace in daily life and contributes to furthering our understanding of the role minority structures can play in helping avert ethnic conflict.


© TFF & the author 2003  


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