Humanitarianism During and After Socialism in Montenegro, 2013-ongoing

Moneybox of the socialist Yugoslav Red Cross

This is an ongoing research of various humanitarian, philanthropic, and developmental actors in Montenegro. It aims to understand how people do – and do not – help others, through contextually specific humanitarian patterns, opportunities, and oppressions.

I have conducted ethnographic research at the Red Cross-managed camp for displaced persons on the outskirts of Podgorica. Commonly described as “the largest refugee camp in the Balkans”, the camp today provides housing for people who mostly identify as Roma and Balkan Egyptians, the majority of whom fled from violence in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999. I am also looking at the history of the Red Cross in Montenegro and at different philanthropic and vernacular forms of helping others that have been developed over the past twenty-five years.

Topics: humanitarianism, philanthropy, development, ecology, human rights activism, Montenegro


Rethinking Politics of Favors in Contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2008-2016

“Not Quite a Bifurcation Tree”, made by Vanja Gagovic

This project started at the University of Manchester as my doctoral research on the ways in which people take care of one another through official and unofficial channels in contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina. Over the years and with the support of the CEU IAS in Budapest and GSOSES in Regensburg, it resulted in the book “Managing Ambiguity” (Berghahn 2017).


In “Managing Ambiguity” and various articles, I explore how citizenship was redefined as an ethical category, showing that favors and clientelism offered people a way to navigate the resulting ambiguity over welfare responsibilities. This research also looked at how differences in power and socio-economic status were reflected in what people could do with ambiguity: while most people struggled to navigate ambiguity and to find their way through it, there were some who were able to manage it.

Topics: ambiguity, power, humanitarianism, citizenship, policy, favors, clientelism, Bosnia and Herzegovina


Ethnological Archives in the Balkans, 2011-ongoing

This research started in 2011, when I won the Wenner Gren grant to organize the conference Anthropology Otherwise, together with Andrew Hodges, Vanja Celebicic, and Marina Simic.

The discussions the thirty participants had led during this five-day event, held at the Petnica Science Centre, have given me an impetus to look more closely at the history of ethnography at the beginning of the twentieth century in Croatia and Serbia.

In 2014/15, with the generous support of the New Europe College Institute for Advanced Study (NEC IAS), I focused on the ethnological archives organized, collected, and published in the Balkans a century ago. The kinds of things noticed, written down, put on maps, and deemed worthy to be published by the early Balkan ethnographers point to a particular idea about the relationship between “natural” and “social” worlds, whereby a “society” could not be known without knowing “nature”, and vice versa. This research explores the ways in which focusing on “just data” (rather than on theory) allowed early Balkan scholars to leave “nature” and “society” epistemologically undistinguished. It looks into the wider conceptual framework in the Balkans in which “society” and “nature” belonged to the same order of knowledge: they were described and measured through the same terms (and thus prone to “anthropogeographic” or “cultural-genetic” approaches).

Topics: history of ethnology and anthropology, archives, epistemology, Croatia, Serbia


Ambivalence of Nation-Building in Montenegro, 2007-2009

I worked as a junior researcher on the project New and Ambiguous Nation-Building Processes in South-Eastern Europe. It was organized by the Free University Berlin and University of Graz and funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and Austrian Science Fund.

As a pre-doctoral researcher exploring senses of national belonging in Montenegro, I conducted ethnographic field research in online communities and NGOs in Podgorica.

Topics: ambiguity, nationalism, internet, NGOs, activism, Montenegro