Ethnic property conflicts and the transformation of property relations in post-war Croatia: The example of Knin.
- Published on Tuesday, 15 May 2012 22:04
- Written by Carolin Leutloff-Grandits
The Ph.D.-project tries to explain the changing meaning and significance of property-relations in post-socialist, post-war Croatia, while taking into consideration the economic and social (re-) construction of the local community and the (re-) integration of different population groups into the local context. As common for social-anthropological research, the PhD-project examines ethnic property conflicts on a micro-level, but shifts to meso-levels of analysis and integrates macro-level perspectives of political changes and power-relations.
The empirical data is based on anthropological fieldwork (2000/2001) carried out in the town of Knin and the surrounding region, which falls within the boundaries of the Croatian state (internationally recognized in 1992). In the area of Knin itself, (forced) migration as well as concepts of ethnicity and territoriality are key words to describe the social situation in general and property relations in particular.
Prior to 1990, the population of Knin was predominantly Serbian. In an assertion of Serbian and Croatian identity in 1990/91, which led eventually to full-scale war, Knin became the capital of the self-declared "State of Serbian Krajina" and Serbian forces expelled the Croatian population. The Croatian property was destroyed or given to co-ethnics.
When the Croatian army re-conquered the area in 1995, the process developed in the opposite way: Almost all Serbs fled and much of the property they left behind was destroyed or redistributed to Croats from other regions, notably refugees from Bosnia Herzegovina. Recently, however, it has been possible for Serbs to return to the area and, thanks more to the active engagement of international agencies than to the policies of Zagreb, to reassume their earlier property rights. But on the local level, property conflicts around repossession, occupation and reconstruction of houses are still unsolved and shape interethnic relations.
In my research I am particular focusing on four areas:
Property conflicts and property relations in regard to changing property regimes (before WWII, in socialist times, between 1990-95 and after)
Property relations as social, economic and legal relations, as resource of social and especially ethnic and national identity, solidarity and conflict as well as of material necessity
Discourses, structures and agencies which are responsible for controlling and regulating property relations and property conflicts (international, national and local institutions, social norms and values)
The role of violence in changing property relations.
The thesis aims at reviewing and combining existing theoretical literature on changing property relations in transitional, post-socialist countries (e.g. Hann, Verdery, Kideckel) with theories about ethnicity, ethnic conflict and reconciliation (e.g. Elwert, Wimmer, Barth, Schlee) in order to develop a theoretical contribution on property, transition and ethnic conflict based on its ethnographic findings.
The research for the PhD-project builds on the work I carried out for my master's degree under Serbian refugees from the Knin area in Belgrade (1995/1996), the participation in a research group on violence and conflict at the Free University of Berlin (1995-1999) and on a four-month internship in the European Commission in Zagreb in 1999/2000.
In the framework of the PhD-program at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, I got further acquainted with theories of property, post-socialist transition and (ethnic) conflict and integration. During a one-year anthropological fieldwork in the municipality of Knin (2000/2001) I participated in the everyday life of the community, collected life stories of the Serbian returnees, Croatian returnees and Croatian settlers and intensively followed the ways of property transactions in occupation, repossession and reconstruction of houses as well as the ways of land use. From September 2001 on I started to evaluate my empirical data. It is planned to have a draft version of my PhD thesis with the beginning of 2003.
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