Fragmentation as a Silencing Strategy: Serbian War Veterans against the State of Serbia

This article draws on Lev Grinberg’s notion of political space, understood as symbolic spheres in which political actors represent and further their interests, identities and agendas. The political space notion is designed to analyze and criticize political power and its dynamics in cases such as the Serbian one, where governments do not rely on heavy-handed control of civil society. I suggest here that following the wars of the 1990s, the democratic governments in Serbia have excluded the war veteran population from the political space of representation, since gaining control over this population was perceived as a crucial step in the attempt to silence any public reckoning of the nation’s criminal past. Through the case study of a decade-long “Per Diem Affair”, designated to alienate the war veteran population, I show how the mechanism of fragmentation has served the ruling elite to close the political space for open debate regarding the role of Serbia in the wars of the 1990s, first and utmost, in order to maintain control over the narrative of the recent wars. This, I suggest, comes as a result of the alteration in the role of the state: from being the direct source of power to becoming a mediator between the opposing local and international demands for particular national images and identities.

Lea David

Lea David

Lea David finished her PhD at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ben Gurion University, Israel. Her work examines how a transition to democracy is changing a content of a collective memory in Serbia and is producing new social categories. She explores how a contested past is managed through the clashes of the local and the global memory cultures. She has also been lecturing on the memory studies, conflict in the Former Yugoslav countries and transitional justice at various Israeli Universities and Colleges. Her postdoctoral research under Dr Carol Kidron supervision (Anthropology Department, Haifa University) at the Strochlitz Institute for Holocaust Research, Haifa University deals with Memory Politics and Human Rights regime in International Relations.

1. According to Lev Grinberg what is a “political space”?
2. What was the purpose of the fragmentation mechanism according to the author?
3. How has the fragmentation of the war veterans in Serbia been achieved?
4. Why is the fragmentation mechanism denoted as a mechanism of silencing? Can you think of other examples where this mechanism is supposedly present?
5. What is the source of the shift in the role of the nation-state and how has this shift been manifested according to the author? Is this shift apparent within the other states in the region and what are the possible consequences of it?


Southeastern Europe