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Workshop: Resistance or Resilience? New Avenues of activist citizenship in Southeast Europe


7-8 May 2015


Queen Mary University of London


Closed Roundtable Event

In the period since the global financial crisis, there has been a marked upsurge in citizen-led activism across the globe, including the Occupy movements and the so-called 'Arab Spring'. Such events also spanned across Southeast Europe (SEE), from the aganaktismenoi in Greece to the formation of citizen plenums in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Although there are several possible ways to demarcate the boundaries of SEE, for the purposes of the workshop and special issue, the region comprises: Greece, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, and Serbia. In many parts of SEE, the scale of the dissent was unprecedented in their respective post-authoritarian histories. As in more high-profile protests further afield, such as the protests in Gezi Park in Istanbul and in the Maidan in Kiev, these mobilisations often crystallised around the right to use of urban public spaces. The events of interest are those that transcended single-group or single-issue initiatives and escalated into general expressions of grievance in the name of the whole populace. 

These mobilisations can be conceptualised as having four stages, with interlinking paths of research for each: catalysts; objectives; methods; and outcomes. The catalysts are the events that escalate into mass citizen-led mobilisation. Objectives are the self-understandings of the goals of the actions by participants (both leaders and non-leaders). The methods used can be violent, can involve the establishment of ad hoc institutions, and patterns of conflict or co-operation with opposition political elites, professional NGOs, or other actors. The outcome may adhere to the objectives of activists, and may also have strong symbolic meaning (irrespective of success) for future mobilisation.

Drawing on the growing multi-disciplinary research on recent protest events and movements in SEE, the workshop examined aspects of the life cycles of recent citizen-led mobilisation in comparative and inter-disciplinary contexts, with a specific focus on how self-understandings of the objectives of these citizen-led events and movements condition the actors and methods used. The goal of the event was to provide more nuanced understandings of mass dissent in SEE. The theoretical framework drew on the concept of ‘activist citizenship’ developed by Engin Isin; Professor Isin delivered the opening address and was one of the discussants for the workshop.

  • Tracing Mobilisations: Economic Crisis and the Upsurge of Citizen Activism in Romania
    Marius Ioan Tatar, University of Oradea, Romania
  • Populism as the master frame of the Great Recession movements
    Paris Aslanidis, University of Macedonia, Greece
  • Contesting electricity neoliberalization in the Western Balkans: The ‘Aman’ movement in the Republic of Macedonia
    Stefan Bouzarovski, University of Manchester, UK
  • Right to the City
    Danijela Dolenec, University of Zagreb, Croatia
    Karin Doolan, University of Zadar, Croatia
    Tomislav Tomasevic, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Croatia
  • From Activist Citizenship to Political Subjectivity: Grassroots Movement Tactics and their Unintended Consequences in the Montenegrin Social Space, 2010–2014
    Bojan Baća, York University, Canada
  • Aesthetics of Resistance and Rebellion in the Contemporary Balkans
    Igor Štiks, University of Edinburgh, UK
  • New Activism in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Re-inventing Civil Society as Civic Driven Change
    Felix Fritsch, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
    Randall Puljek-Shank, Centre for International Conflict Analysis and Management (CICAM), Institute of Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen
  • De-NGOizing Mobilization? A critical analysis of the role of NGOs in the 2013 and 2014 unrest in Bosnia-Herzegovina
    Chiara Milan, European Union Institute (EUI), Italy
  • Shaping Power of Activist Citizenship: Comparative Assessment of Romania and Ukraine
    Clara Volintiru, Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, Romania
    Cristina Buzasu, University of Bucharest, Romania