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Accepted Paper:

‘The Great Powers will decide’: scaling interests and apathy in central Serbia  
Nicholas Lackenby (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

I explore how some Serbians situate their country's politics in a much wider relational field, and so evacuate parliamentary procedure as a site for action. Rather, imagining that Serbia’s future will inevitably be decided by external actors, they seek both proximate and abstract solutions.

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers how people may perceive the liberal democratic landscape of their country as being wholly subject to the interests of external actors, and effectively beyond their control as voters. With an ethnographic focus on central Serbia, the paper explores the voices of people who might be termed ‘conservative’, and who frequently assert the value of Serbian traditions and the Orthodox Church. Despite the waves of anti-government protests which rocked Belgrade in the summer of 2020, my interlocutors remain sceptical of such action, claiming that Balkan governments are only ever changed when it suits the interests of the ‘Great Powers’. Thus, responsibility for Serbia’s ailments is always scaled upwards to powerful actors, such as the EU, NATO, and ‘the West’. Similarly, help might also come from the outside intervention of Russia, or even the Trump administration.

Ultimately, the paper shows how my interlocutors effectively evacuate national parliamentary procedure as a site for action. Rather, they seek solutions at levels which are simultaneously more proximate and more abstract. On the one hand, they focus on ‘getting by’, playing the system, and asserting their scepticism of all ‘politics’. On the other, they imagine the ‘Serbian people’ as implicated in much wider geopolitical and sometimes cosmological dynamics, where the narrative becomes about a struggle between the West and the Orthodox world, and ultimately, between good and evil.

Panel Irre12a
Scaling irresponsibility: perceptions of the failure of European liberal democratic politics I
  Session 1 Tuesday 30 March, 2021, -