"And burn today whom yesterday they fed": citizens and state in Montenegro

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This dissertation is an anthropological study of relationships between the citizens and the state in Montenegro. Since there is no way of delineating what is the state if not the citizens themselves, the dissertation is rather about how Montenegrins go about their lives in the presence of bureaucracy-based nation-state. It has been already two decades since the socialist system collapsed in most of the communist countries and the politically declared transition to democracy, as the final and decisive leap towards the ‘normality’ or the status of a ‘European’ country started in Eastern parts of Europe. This phenomenon gave rise to a whole new literature on post-socialism and transition. Many researchers have paid attention to the phenomenon of transition and to ways how this process was influenced either by the imported Western ideas or the expelled soviet past. The crest of the dynamic and interesting transition process has already been left in the past. Therefore – why should one read about Montenegro, a country which has gone through the transition processes and could be stereotypically described as ‘normalising’?
My answer is: it is precisely because the time has passed and the explosions of the transition process have echoed away, we have now the necessary perspective needed to pay a closer and different look at Montenegro. This dissertation engages in discussion and provides new insights in two areas: Firstly, it provides ethnographic information about contemporary Montenegro (the field work material comes from 2001-2008), especially what concerns various forms in which Montenegrins interact with the state. Secondly, the dissertation raises and challenges broader theoretical questions about the nature of interaction between the state and citizens in the context of frequently changing state systems. There are two main arguments in this dissertation. First, I argue that the interaction between the state and citizens in Montenegro is largely influenced by the principle of dividing world into two cognitive spheres. One of these spheres is associated with a seemingly stable and familiar area, including kin and fictive kin networks, friendships and institutions related to these phenomena. The other sphere is seemingly unstable and permanently changing and comprises the state, business world as well as contemporary non-governmental organisations. Consequently, the second argument is that by dividing the world into the one that is emotionally important and seemingly unchanging and the one, which is emotionally detached and therefore less important but open for exploitation, is an adaptation to the state that is changing significantly and regularly. This ‘buffer culture’, i.e., adaptation to significant and rapid change at the level of the state, is not only characteristic to Montenegro but also other parts of the world where such regular and dramatic change can be observed. Eastern Europe(including the Balkans) and post-socialist countries, however, are particularly suitable because here geographic (transition between East and West), ideological (constant transition to the ‘bright future’) and political (transition from the old state to the new state) transition often overlaps.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTallinn
PublisherTallinn University Press
Number of pages239
ISBN (Print)978-9949-29-117-5
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameTallinn University. Dissertations on humanities
PublisherEstonian Institute of Humanities, Tallinn University


  • Montenegro
  • anthropology of state

Field of Science*

  • 5.9 Other social sciences

Publication Type*

  • 2.2. Scientific monographs or collective monographs


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