Skirts as Flags: Transitional Justice, Gender and Everyday Nationalism in Kosovo


Krasniqi, Vjollca, Ivor Sokolic, and Denisa Kostovicova. 2020. "Skirts as Flags: Transitional Justice, Gender and Everyday Nationalism in Kosovo." Nations and Nationalism 26 (2): 461-76.

Authors: Vjollca Krasniqi, Ivor Sokolic, Denisa Kostovicova

Keywords: art, gender, nationalism, transitional justice, Kosovo


"In this article, we bring the perspective of everyday nationalism to the feminist theorizing in the field of transitional justice and investigate gendered dimensions of post‐conflict nation building. Our aim is to understand possibilities for achieving gender‐just peace characterized by the transformation of gender relations, as well as their obstacles. Feminist scholarship has captured complex, contested, and ambiguous dynamics of shifting gender relations in conflict and post‐conflict settings in the everyday domain. Despite increasing understanding of women's agency and its limits, the entrenchment of dominant hierarchical norms at the intersection of gender and the nation remains puzzling. Everyday nationalism directs attention to mundane aspects of nationhood. It also offers a bottom–up perspective on top–down processes of “formal” nationalism and their interplay with everyday constructions of nationhood. The alignment between these bottom–up and top–down processes reveals how national ideologies are legitimized and hierarchical gender relations entrenched. We ask, does the public recognition of wartime sexual violence and women's suffering challenge the norms and habits of masculine nationhood and pave the way for a new start free of patriarchal hierarchies? Or does it entrench a gendered war “metanarrative” (Björkdahl & Mannergren Selimovic, 2015, p. 172) and with it, unequal gender relations? We study a public art installation about wartime sexual violence in Kosovo aimed at tackling the stigma and silence about wartime rape. The analysis is focused on how this artistic practice, as a symbol, discourse, and performance, as well as an intervention in the everyday domain, offers recognition of wartime sexual violence, and how this recognition responds to, or interacts with, existing gendered dynamics of nationhood. Drawing on Malešević (2013, p. 14), we argue that nationalism and nationhood transcend the public/private dichotomy by connecting institutions and organizations, such as public art installations, to everyday microinteractions. We show that the public endorsement of the art project and the acceptance of wartime sexual violence result in the recognition of the war crime but not the victim. Dynamics of everyday nationalism reinforce gender asymmetries and women's marginalization in a nation‐building process even while their suffering is being acknowledged publicly. Twenty years after the war in Kosovo ended, justice for ethnic Albanian women victims of sexual violence is still largely elusive. Their suffering has been sidelined both in international criminal prosecutions as well as in hybrid domestic war crime trials. The recent adoption by Kosovo's parliament of a reparations law for wartime sexual and gender‐based violence marks formal progress. But, its impact on actual redress for this wartime harm has been limited. One of the major obstacles for women coming forward to claim the reparations is the stigma surrounding wartime sexual violence. The stigma is steeped in gendered patriarchal mores playing themselves out in the politics of postwar peacebuilding within the victims' national community, and it pervades everyday life. By focusing on how an artistic intervention can promote justice for victims of wartime rape, we explore an avenue for supporting gender‐just peacebuilding that is an alternative to women's activism, legal responses, and formal gender equality policies. Despite the “context‐specific natures of claims of justice” (Murphy, 2017, p. 6), the case study of Kosovo reflects the typical pattern of gender‐based harm and the challenges of building gender‐just peace after a civil war. Therefore, our findings reveal everyday dynamics of gendering nation building and contribute to the wider understanding of how the redress for wartime sexual violence perpetuates gender‐insensitive peace (Chinkin & Kaldor, 2013). Empirical research in this article draws on a range of sources. These include the analysis of the Thinking of You art installation, published interviews with the artist, reports of domestic and international media outlets (in Albanian and English), a documentary film about the installation with the same title (Mendoj Për Ty|Thinking of You–Documentary), and speeches by former president of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga. We first outline feminist perspectives on transitional justice and present the analytical gains of applying an everyday nationalism perspective to the study of gendered construction of nationhood. This is followed by a background section on the war, sexual and gender‐based violence, and postwar stigma in Kosovo, as well as an overview of the art installation. The analysis is organized around three conceptual dimensions of everyday nationalism: symbols, discourse, and performance." (Krasniqi et al 2020, 461-2)

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Gender Hierarchies, Gender Equality/Inequality, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, Reparations, Transitional Justice, War Crimes, Nationalism, Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence, Rape Regions: Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Kosovo

Year: 2020

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