Accepted Paper:

Contesting the public good in an age of nation-branding: debates over infrastructure in Skopje, Macedonia  
Andrew Graan (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

Through ethnographic accounts of the controversy over Skopje 2014, a major urban development project ongoing in Macedonia, this paper analyzes how the political logics of nation branding and claims to national brand value predicate re-evaluations of the public good in the neoliberal nation-state.

Paper long abstract:

This paper analyzes how the political logic of nation branding and national brand value predicate re-evaluations of state morality and the public good in neoliberal Macedonia. In 2010, Macedonian government officials announced a major urban renovation plan designed to anchor the development of a new nation brand for the small Balkan country. Titled Skopje 2014, the project has already transformed Macedonia's capital city through the addition of an astounding number of new sculptures, monuments, museums and other buildings. Project supporters celebrate its positive contribution to Macedonia's "international image" and thus to the national economy via the enhanced attraction of foreign investment and tourism. Critics of Skopje 2014, however, have argued that the project substitutes expensive and frivolous political ornamentation for sounder investment in education, public works and infrastructure. I argue that this debate over Skopje 2014 and its nation-branding goals turns on contrasting ideologies of economic value and their concomitant moral visions of the state. From one perspective, nation branding is construed as a strategic form of semiotic regimentation that results in economic value for the nation. From the other perspective, the political economic model of nation branding and the value it claims to produce are challenged with counter-narratives on economic security and state responsibility. Through ethnographic accounts of the controversy of Skopje 2014 in Macedonia, this paper thus investigates the moral and political anxieties that emerge in response to nation branding and its political logics.

Panel P060
The anthropology of infrastructure: ordering people, places, and imaginaries