Veze and shtele in welfare: personhood, citizenship, power in a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina
(University of Goettingen)
Paper short abstract:
This paper thinks through the work that veze and shtele do in the everyday life of a town in BiH. It approaches clientelist relations in welfare as entangled with transnational processes, suggesting that clientelism and contemporary forms of flexible governance are often mutually constitutive.
Paper long abstract:
This paper thinks through the work that veze and shtele do in the everyday life of a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Veze literally mean relations and connections, while shtele (štele) literally mean relations / connections that had to be fixed. Veze and shtele affected access to welfare, intertwining public administrations with logics of friendship, kinship, and compassion. This intertwining was not just the outcome of complicated postwar and postsocialist reconstructions of the country. The paper suggests that interpreting clientelism and favors as context-specific responses to a failing statehood and dysfunctional institutions of a (nation-)state perpetuates the hegemonic story about the inevitable direction of progress and modernization, thus impoverishing the political imagination. The paper makes a case for analyzing contemporary clientelist relations in BiH as entangled with transnational processes. Clientelism and contemporary forms of flexible governance are not necessarily contradictory to one another, but often mutually constitutive. Clientelism in BiH fit right into the growing expectation to proactively look for opportunities, forge networks and alliances, and negotiate different welfare arrangements. Welfare reforms in BiH reinforced ambiguities over what the 'state' is and how it relates to 'society', thus encouraging the patterns of clientelist relationality, rather than disturbing them. The sneaking in clientelism within welfare should not be interpreted as backwardly unruly. Instead, it can be understood as a contextually specific manifestation of an emerging global direction of governmentality in which public and private responsibilities and roles are not envisioned as neatly distinct.
Patronage-clientelism 2.0: the legacy of Mediterraneanist anthropology in contemporary corruption/anti-corruption studies [MedNet]