Kosovo in Traditions and Traditionalisms

Gallery of the People’s University Vranje, Lole Ribara

26. 04. 2018 18:00

Rex as a Guest: A dialogue among Dialogues #5

REX AS A GUEST – A DIALOGUE AMONG DIALOGUES – A series of discussions that tackle from different social and political positions numerous topics in relation to the “Kosovo question”. Participants: Sanja Zlatanović (PhD) ethnologist, Aleksandar Pavlović (PhD) philologist, Gordana Ristić activist in the NGO Generator, Sanja Stamenković activist and organizer of cultural events.

"Tradition is forgetfulness of origins", "A good historian must forget his own tradition", "It is impossible to understand one's own tradition if you don't relate it to other traditions"

Those are some of the sayings about traditions that can be applied to traditionalisms, i.e. to perspectives that give priority to or overestimate the significance of a tradition or traditions.

Within the current and numerous historical debates on all the topics that are brought about or covered by the "Kosovo question" there is a series of traditional representations and considerations about state-juridical, cultural-historic, economic-political nature and essence of modernity in Balkans. After the fall of socialism there are, in general terms, two dominant political tendencies in selecting and organizing the arguments: a "liberal" and a "national" one.

Those two tendencies are easily recognizable and already profiled within the "Internal Dialogue about Kosovo" where one depends, in terms of infrastructure and logistics, on the public institutions sector (the national) while the other relies on academic, advocatory and activist practices of the non-governmental sector (the liberal). It is not hard to arrive at a conclusion that the abovementioned topics represent not only a welcome confrontation of important arguments, but that they are the bedrock for dialogue or, better yet, struggle between the two fractions of middle class that in the post-socialist (or even anti-socialist) society strive to be integrated into the power bloc by asserting and reproducing effectively or potentially dominant ideological patterns of thought.

On the other hand, recently published and ongoing researches, public activity of the experts as well as different forms of activism have certainly brought about certain valid forms of knowledge and understanding of different social issues that have been systematically neglected or suppressed in large part due to the exigencies of struggle between the dominant political formations. For decades voluminous and systematized scientific knowledge compiled through the experience of focused observation of social events and processes seems to have lost all its influence on reasoning and conclusions of political decision-makers. In addition to that, the enthusiasm, innovativeness and experimental nature of activist scene actions remain unused or neglected, be it for the isolation of non-governmental organizations and self-organized civic initiatives or the exhaustion of actor's energy because of irregularity of funding, generalized precariousness and inflated project management administrative tasks enhanced by the pressure brought about by chaotic selection of topics in foundations and constant shifts in their focus.

The debate in Vranje will draw attention to the selected knowledge and experience in scientific research as well as in activist practices and results that have dealt, from different perspectives and on various occasions, with tradition and its influence on contemporary culture and politics. The goal of this discussion will be to analyze the potentials and significance of those experiences for better understanding of the "Kosovo question" by trying to keep in balance the two imperatives: the Aristotelian one "All people should strive for what is righteous not for what is habitual" and a Mark Twain's "Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it."

Participants short biographies:

Sanja Zlatanović (1972) is research associate at the Institute of Ethnography, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. She graduated and received her Mag. Phil. and PhD from the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade. She was the participant of the National Scholarship Programme of the Slovak Republic as scholarship holder at the Institute of Ethnology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in 2015. She has carried out intense, long-term fieldwork in Kosovo and among persons displaced from this area in Serbia. Sanja Zlatanović has published one book and about fifty papers in local and international publications, among majority of which based on research conducted in Kosovo. Her book "Ethnic Identification in Post-War Area: Serbian Community of South-East Kosovo" is in print.


Aleksandar Pavlović is a researcher at the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory of the University of Belgrade. He obtained his BA and MA from the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade, and got his PhD at the Russian and Slavonic Department of the University of Nottingham. He initiated several international projects and conferences such as "Figuring out the Enemy: Reimagining Serbian-Albanian Relations" and "Overcoming Hostilities: The Change in Serbian-Albanian Perceptions". He publishes essays in culturology, Balkan oral traditions, literary theory and gender studies. He is the author of "Epic and Politics" (Epika i politika, Beograd: XX vek, 2014) and co-author of "Rethinking Serbian-Albanian Relations: Figuring Out the Enemy" in Serbian (2015), Albanian (2016) and English (forthcoming).


Sanja Stamenković, born in Prizren 1967, did her studies at the Faculty of Mathematics in Belgrade. From 2002 she works with children and youth within the organizations Prijatelji dece and Zdravo da ste in Vranje. From 2008 she is a continual collaborator of the 484 Group and she participates in intercultural and informal youth education programs (projects such as "Equation with Two Knowns", "Interculturalism through Literature and Dialogue", "Migrations School", etc.). She works with orphaned children in the "Vera Radivojević" House in Bela Crkva as well as with readmitted people and migrants. She is a member of organizational board of the festival Bora's Gate. She initiated the local initiative Ponovo radi korzo, Pesničenje, as well as a number of actions and programs in collaboration with the art collective Škart. She organized a Reading Club with Dejan Ilić, the editor in Fabrika Knjiga, as a constant guest. She participated in the international program of the Docufest entitled "Kids on the Corners", and she hosted the artists from the Corners team - an international platform for collaboration and meeting between artists, organizations and institutions as to draw attention to the places that are not visible on the cultural map of Europe. She is currently involved in the program "Us and Others" of the 484 Group that works with school children from Bujanovac, Preševo and Veliki Trnovac of both Serbian and Albanian nationalities. She is a member of craft community Nepraktične žene (Impractical Women).

Gordana Ristić, born in Vranje where she, from 2001, organizes the activities of the NGO "Generator". She got her knowledge and skills for civil society work through informal education in the fields of human rights, peace-building, non-violent communication, management in project cycles, external and internal communication, engaged art, etc., as well as through work in some international organizations. She manages the activities of Generator by focusing on projects that foster tolerance among different ethnic communities in the south of Serbia as well as trans-border collaborations among youth. From the 2006 the Generator became involved in the EU programs for youth, and from 2009 it realized a series of international cultural projects and develops collaborative projects with artists from around the world. As a representative of the Generator she took part in founding the regional Center for Development in Jablanica and Pčinj Counties, KOMS, NAPOR, NKSS and FLARE. She organizes trainings in the field of human and minorities' rights, theatre forum, youth activism and internal communication. She published in 2015 in collaboration with Marija Janković the "Old-Time Cook Book of South Serbia" that was financed through the Kickstarter platform.


Illustration: a part of women's traditional costume from the vicinity of Prizren

Organization and production: Cultural Center Rex/B92 Fund in collaboration with the People's University in Vranje

The project within the framework of the Spoken Programs is supported by the Open Society Fund Serbia