A new state of being: citizenship in rebuilt nations

Written by Olivia Arigho-Stiles on . Posted in Current publications, Publications

9781472446411.PPC_PPC TemplateWhen states dissolve and national borders are re-sketched, what happens to the inhabitants caught within? To those who are in the nation, but not of the nation? This is an over-arching theme in Jelena Džankić’s book Citizenship in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro. Džankić is a Fellow at the EUI’s European University Democracy Observatory (EUDO) project which studies democracy and citizenship in Europe.

At the crux of the book and of explorations on citizenship more generally, is the realisation that it means many things, from rights bestowed by the state such as access to social security to abstract notions of political belonging. Džankić tells EUI Times, ‘’I define citizenship as an articulation of the state’s identity. Each state has its own identity and the way it defines citizenship says a lot about how that state is functioning and what that state is. It tells you how the state manages difference and how it deals with minorities’’.

In the book Džankić takes the post-Communist Western Balkans as her focus because, having experienced conflict and state transformation so recently, they are especially propitious sites for analyses on citizenship today. ‘’I use these states as a mini-laboratory. You see a huge spectrum of citizenship policies regulating exclusion and inclusion, and symbols of citizenship and how it is experienced’’, she explains.

Originally from Montenegro, Džankić has personal experience navigating the region’s vacillating citizenship policies. After the breakup of Yugoslavia she was without Montenegrin citizenship for a number of years despite being born there.

Džankić argues that the nations which were re-made after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe were configured in highly narrow ways. Rather than taking into account the pluralist ethnic make-up of the new countries, the governments’ nation-building projects asserted the primacy of dominant groups.  They had ethnic groups in conflict, and as an outcome you have citizenship policies which are very restricted. In Macedonia you have state symbols which only reflect the dominant ethnic community for example. [Political elites] virtually reconstructed the nation’s capital as part of the nation building project. They say it is rooted in antiquity but it only reflects the dominant ethnic population and the minorities are put aside.’’

The implications of Džankić’s book therefore extend beyond the (relatively recently constituted) borders of the Western Balkan states. In a world where the right of belonging to a nation and who is entitled to its protection remain so universally and assiduously policed, Citizenship in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro is a timely reminder of the importance of scholarship on citizenship beyond the European Union borders to today’s global policy debates.

 

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