Workshop "Negotiating Diversity in the Balkans ...

- only by invitation -


"Negotiating Diversity in the Balkans: Past, Present and Future Perspectives"

Date: 18.12.09

Venue: MPI zur Erforschung multireligiöser und multiethnischer Gesellschaften, Göttingen

Organizers: Monika Palmberger (MPI MMG) and Goran Janev (MPI MMG)

Although the region of Southeast Europe has been characterized by its long-standing diversity, over a century has been spent in creating homogenous nation states. This drive culminated with the collapse of the Yugoslav Federation. After massive population shifts as a result of the recent wars, national homogeneity of the Southeast European nation states is again “challenged”, this time by immigrants who seek to enter the EU. The expansion of the EU border to encompass this territory in the near future will set the region’s migratory pattern on its head, turning it from a region of intense emigration into one of significant transit migration and immigration. Even if at this moment new immigration flows are only noticeable in some of the Balkan countries (mainly Greece and Slovenia), it is likely that other Southeast European countries, not least due to their geographic location, will also attract people from the global South and East.

These recent developments are reasons for the organizers of the workshop to tackle the question of diversity – past and present – in Southeast Europe again. In contrast to many conferences held earlier – concentrating first and foremost on nationalism, ethnic cleansing and its results in the last centuries – we propose to include a wider historical perspective by exploring multiple ways in which diversity (in regard to ethnicity, religion, language, class, etc.) was managed and negotiated in different historic-political periods, such as under the Ottoman and the Habsburg Empires, as well as in later periods, such as during first and second Yugoslavia. We aim to explore the question of how diversity has been politically and administratively managed and controlled and to what extent everyday practices reflect or counter these official policies. Such an approach may reveal the influence of representations of diversity (e.g. of official historiography, of the media or cultural practices) on everyday encounters and popular perceptions and representations (of the past and present) but may also disclose discrepancies (or a “domain lag”) between the political and social organization of diversity.

This diachronic approach should help us to better contextualize present developments of negotiating diversity, old and new. Moreover, it may help us to better understand the benefits and constraints the EU membership may bring to the Southeast European countries in regard to their “diversity policies”, but also to teach us which lessons can be learned from the region’s specific diversity policies and practices. The workshop brings together a selected group of academics from different disciplines, such as anthropology, history, and political science, all focusing on the Balkans and on questions of diversity.