Panel 2: Neighborliness and Enmity: The Neighbor as Enemy

Chair: Miloš Řezník (German Historical Institute Warsaw)

Katarina Ristić (Universität Leipzig):
Neighbors as Brothers: Neighbors as Enemies – Memories of Neighborliness in (former) Yugoslavia

This paper looks at the memories of neighborliness in former Yugoslavia asking how the rise of ethnic animosities which led to the conflict affected neighborhood relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia and what is the function of these memories in the post-conflict societies. Intensified globalization in 90s set forth dialectic process of de- and re-territorialization (Middell, 2014) with Yugoslav state actors failing to legitimize the state and its authority under the new global condition. As new actors with rivaling concepts of territoriality emerged, re-imaging ethnically mixed areas as ethnically cleansed nation-states, the conflict broke out tearing apart social tissue of society.


Situating the notion of neighborliness (“komšiluk”) within specific traditional Balkan values and socialist Yugoslav “brotherhood and unity” ideology (Bougarel, 2007, Stover 2005, Pavlaković, 2014) I look at memories of neighborliness in the war crimes trials and media asking how victims and perpetrators described their pre-war and war experiences of neighborliness. The analysis focuses on two phases in changing neighborliness: phase of ethnic mobilization, when official ‘neighbors as brothers’ pattern was challenged by the discovery of “neighbor as enemy” and the phase of direct violence and open conflict, with gradual raise of fear, distrust and utmost feeling of betrayal accompanying the process of physical dismantling of neighborhood spaces. At the same time, the process of turning neighbors into enemies was neither ubiquitous nor complete, as usually presented: the cases of resistance, mutual help and surviving neighborhood relations persisted, and the paper pays special attention to such cases.
Victims from all three ethnic groups share similar image of neighborhood relations describing the phase of ethnic mobilization as a top-down process led by the academics, media and politicians, reminding of atrocities committed by the ancestors in the Second World War. Personal pre-war memories of neighborliness on the other hand, indicate strong, close and intense relations, with regular visits and joint celebrations, what Mann would call “manifest neighborliness” (Mann, 1954), followed by abrupt break of personal relationships (Corkalo et al, 2005). Considering that similar line of the argumentation is shared by the perpetrators too, I ask to what extent such idealized memory of neighborliness serves as a shield for distancing individuals from the responsibility for the outbreak of the violence, instead transferring responsibility to (often unknown) others.

Aurora Sottimano (University of St Andrews):
My Neighbor, my Brother, my Enemy: The Politics of (De)Mobilisation and Securitisation in the Middle East

This paper looks at the politicization of neighborly relations in the Middle East. In this region, neighborhood boundaries – although very not physical barriers – often coincide with politisized identities as well as micro level governance strategies emanating from central authorities.
In the Middle East, the politicization of urban space at the neighborhood level is paramount and has attracted the bulk of scholarly work: the quarters of Beirut and Tripoli reflecting the confessional arrangement of Lebanon, the ‘downtown’ public space associated with autonomous activism versus the ‘compounds’ surrounding Cairo, the refugee neighborhoods in most Middle Eastern cities (Altindağ in Ankara, 6thOctober in Cairo, the Palestinian quarters of Amman). The question of the relations between neighboring states has been instead surprisingly understudied: this requires first, to depart from the premise that ‘neighborhood is not in itself political’, and second, to devise specific methodological tools and notions tailored to the specificity of the state dimension.
A range of questions arise about the relation between the local and the national level (for instance, what relations exist – if any – between domestic urban neighborhoods and the national policies with neighboring states?). Coming to the regional level proper, the first question would be whether is there a distinct level of ‘neighbors’ politics’ within (or instead of) ‘regional’ politics. Interestingly, although examples of ‘good neighbor’ social practice exist – for example the acceptance of refugees from neighboring countries – the foreign policy discourses of Middle East states are usually articulated around fierce antagonistic relations (Israel being the archetype of ‘neighbor from hell’ for Arab leaders) and ‘brotherly’ relations (with neighbors but also other regional and countries), with the exception of the Turkish ‘zero problem with neighbors’ (which has rapidly evolved in ‘many problems with all neighbors’). In practice, nevertheless, we can observe that ‘special relations’ exist between small states and their big neighbors (see Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Qatar and its neighbors). Moreover, although economic relations between contiguous territories have often been kept going irrespective of foreign policy antagonism, the few regional economic and security blocs seem to exceed or eschew both the ‘neighbor’ and the ‘region’ rationales.
Starting from the above preliminary questions, the paper will test the analytical viability of the notion of ‘neighborliness ‘in order to make sense of the regional relations and volatile foreign policies of Middle Easters states, and in so doing, to eventually question the elusive notion of the Middle East ‘region’.


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