The bequest of Ilegalja: Contested memories and moralities in contemporary Kosovo

This source preferred by Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers

Authors: Schwandner-Sievers, S.

Journal: Nationalities Papers

Volume: 41

Issue: 6

Pages: 953-970

DOI: 10.1080/00905992.2013.767792

In this essay I explore the ways in which the internal Albanian politics of memory in Kosovo rely on a longer, lived history of militant self-organisation than the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) war period alone. On the basis of recent ethnographic research, I argue that the memory of prewar militant activism is symbolically codified, ritually formalized, and put on the public stage in Kosovo today. Not only has this process effectively rehabilitated and consolidated the personal, social, and political status of specific former activists, it also has produced a hegemonic morality against which the actions of those in power are judged internally. On the one hand, this process reproduces shared cultural references which idealise ethnonational solidarity, unity and pride and which have served militant mobilisation already before the 1990s. On the other, it provides the arguments through which rival representatives of the former militant underground groups (known as Ilegalja) compete both socially and politically still today. Although this process demarcates some lines of social and political friction within society, it also suggest that international efforts to introduce an identity which breaks with Kosovo’s past and some of its associated values, face a local system of signification that is historically even deeper entrenched than is usually assumed.

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Authors: Schwandner-Sievers, S.

Journal: Nationalities Papers

Volume: 41

Issue: 6

Pages: 953-970

eISSN: 1465-3923

ISSN: 0090-5992

DOI: 10.1080/00905992.2013.767792

In this essay I explore the ways in which the internal Albanian politics of memory in Kosovo rely on a longer, lived history of militant self-organisation than the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) war period alone. On the basis of recent ethnographic research, I argue that the memory of prewar militant activism is symbolically codified, ritually formalized, and put on the public stage in Kosovo today. Not only has this process effectively rehabilitated and consolidated the personal, social, and political status of specific former activists, it also has produced a hegemonic morality against which the actions of those in power are judged internally. On the one hand, this process reproduces shared cultural references which idealise ethno-national solidarity, unity and pride and which have served militant mobilisation already before the 1990s. On the other, it provides the arguments through which rival representatives of the former militant underground groups (known as Ilegalja) compete both socially and politically still today. Although this process demarcates some lines of social and political friction within society, it also suggests that international efforts to introduce an identity which breaks with Kosovo's past and some of its associated values, face a local system of signification that is historically even deeper entrenched than is usually assumed. © 2013 © 2013 Association for the Study of Nationalities.

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