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Mila Dragojevic, Ph.D.
Sewanee, University of the South
Country: United States (Tennessee)
Mila Dragojevićis Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of the South, Sewanee, TN (Ph.D., 2010, Brown University). Her book, The Politics of Social Ties: Immigrants in an Ethnic Homeland (Ashgate 2014/Routledge 2016), examines the relationship between ethnicity and political incorporation of former refugees in Serbia. In her forthcoming book Amoral Communities: Collective Crimes in Time of War(Cornell University Press 2019), she studies local-level variation of violence against civilians in multiethnic communities. She has extensive experience with ethnographic research.
Race, Ethnicity and Politics
Immigration & Citizenship
Conflict Processes & War
Comparative Sub-state Politics
Politics Of Migration
Countries of Interest
This article examines how the production of a dividing line, through violence, the accompanying narratives, and the policing of a physical border from 1991 to 1995, shaped and influenced the lives of ordinary people, all residents of Western Slavonia. How was it possible for people to be divided so abruptly and effectively in a community with a history of multiethnic solidarity? How were these new social divisions produced and reproduced over the course of warfare on a social level? By considering new archival sources, in-depth interviews, and recent scholarly publications, this study argues that such dividing line made the process of ethnicization, or of polarization, possible. Thus, by representing the space where the top-level political cleavages, local-level cleavages, and individuals’ beliefs and momentary choices meet, the wartime dividing line effectively transformed former neighbors into political enemies who were no longer familiar, visible, or accessible on a human level.
This article examines the role of the inter-generational memory of the Second World War (WWII) in identity formation and political mobilization. An existing explanation in the ethnic-conflict literature is that strategic political leaders play a crucial role in constructing and mobilizing ethnic identities. However, based on 114 open-ended interviews with individuals born in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia, conducted in Serbia during 2008–2011, nearly a third of the respondents make spontaneous references to WWII in their statements, usually drawing parallels between the cycle of violence in the 1990s and that in the 1940s. The question this article asks, then, is why some respondents make references to WWII spontaneously while others do not. It is argued that inter-generational narratives of past cycles of violence also constitute a process of identity formation, in addition to, or apart from, other processes of identity formation. The respondents mention WWII violence in the context of the 1990s events because they “recognize” elements, such as symbols, discourse or patterns of violence, similar to those in the inter-generational narratives and interpret them as warning signs. Hence, individuals who had previously been exposed to inter-generational narratives may be subsequently more susceptible to political mobilization efforts.
In contrast to studies that examine cases of immigrant incorporation where the newcomers differ culturally from the established residents, this study controls for the ethnic identity of immigrants by considering the case of former refugees in Serbia who fled violent conflicts in the early 1990s. It also disaggregates the incorporation concept into three dimensions – social, political and economic. Based on the original survey of 1,200 respondents, this article shows that the three dimensions of incorporation do not move in unison. Immigrants incorporate economically and politically to a greater degree in neighbourhoods where the proportion of immigrants is larger, while they incorporate socially to a lesser degree in those same neighbourhoods, as evident in the tendency to form interpersonal networks consisting mainly of other immigrants.
This case study of the northern Serbian Province of Vojvodina explores the basis of regional shared group understandings in the absence of ethnic difference between the majority in the region and the center. It addresses the question of whether there is an emerging regional identity in Vojvodina within the political elite discourse at the time of the passage of the Omnibus Law in 2002, which devolved part of autonomy that the Province had lost following the 1991 Constitution. The method of content analysis was employed to uncover the collective sense of social purpose (i.e. desire for greater autonomy) and the shared views toward groups perceived as ‘others’. The findings show that the principal supporters of autonomy are the center-based civic-oriented parties, as well as the regional parties. On the other hand, the opposition to autonomy comes from the center-based nationalist parties.
National identity traits are not “fixed,” and an ethnic group may emphasize distinct traits at different stages of national identity construction. This study examines the case of Croatia, where religion was stressed in an earlier phase of identity construction while language has become the principal group-distinguishing feature in the most recent period. It is argued that language was chosen primarily by secular elites with a goal not only of distinguishing between “us” and “them,” but also in order to secure a privileged status within their own group.
In Amoral Communities, Mila Dragojević examines how conditions conducive to atrocities against civilians are created during wartime in some communities. She identifies the exclusion of moderates and the production of borders as the main processes. In these places, political and ethnic identities become linked and targeted violence against civilians becomes both tolerated and justified by the respective authorities as a necessary sacrifice for a greater political goal.
After forced migration to a country where immigrants form an ethnic majority, why do some individuals support exclusivist and nationalist political parties while others do not? Based on extensive interviews and an original survey of 1,200 local Serbs and ethnic Serbian refugees fleeing violent conflict in Bosnia and Croatia, The Politics of Social Ties argues that those immigrants who form close interpersonal networks with others who share their experiences, such as the loss of family, friends, and home, in addition to the memory of ethnic violence from past wars, are more likely to vote for nationalist parties. Any political mobilization occurring within these interpersonal networks is not strategic, rather, individuals engage in political discussion with people who have a greater capacity for mutual empathy over the course of discussing other daily concerns. This book adds the dimension of ethnic identity to the analysis of individual political behavior, without treating ethnic groups as homogeneous social categories. It adds valuable insight to the existing literature on political behavior by emphasizing the role of social ties among individuals.
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