Section: Working Papers

2014

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2014/36

Citizenship as lived experience: belonging and documentality after the breakup of Yugoslavia

 Jelena Vasiljevic

Abstract
Citizenship is usually thought of in terms of legal and political parameters setting the conditions for individuals’ statuses and rights, and so has been the case in its application to the post-Yugoslav context. With the primary interest in the “top-down” perspective, citizenship has been described as a tool with which new states regulated their respective citizenship bodies. But, equally, by granting us documents (passports, birth and marriage certificates, IDs, etc.) which connect us to a wider community, and by employing an array of ethnic, cultural and state symbols, citizenship instills us with a sense of belonging, membership and identity. Furthermore, through our enacting of rights and duties of citizenship, it becomes an inextricable element of our everyday experience. It is especially when questioned and contested that citizenship plays a significant role in how we perceive ourselves, how we appear to others and how intergroup relations are mediated. This paper focuses on personal narratives that reveal lived experiences of the triangular relationship between citizenship, identity and (national) belonging in the post-Yugoslav space. Its aim is to shed some light on a less examined perspective of citizenship transformations, and to complement the currently existing literature on citizenship regimes in the post-Yugoslav states with a bottom-up approach that treats citizenship in its identity-forming and recognition-bearing social role.

Keywords
citizenship, post-Yugoslav states, life stories, belonging.

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