The Western Balkans as »double transit« room: Solidarities, boundary drawings and boundary transgressions between migrants and local inhabitants on their way to the EU

Carolin Leutloff-Grandits (Frankfurt/Oder), Snežana Stanković (Berlin)


The panel aims to analyze the contemporary status of a “double transit” in the Western Balkans by focussing on their socio-political and economic transition and EU-integration and, in an entangled perspective, on the state of migrants from the Global South and East who cross the Balkans in the hope of reaching the EU countries for a better future. In the panel, we want to highlight the meaning of a long-distance journey of migrants to the EU that mostly proves as profoundly difficult: It involves an uncertain time of waiting in the countries of the Western Balkans, where local inhabitants are burdened with their own insecurities and difficulties due to the post-socialist transformation and the 1990s wars that left the countries prostrated, causing the stagnation of economic development, a lack of job opportunities and, in general, intense poverty. In fact, within the Western Balkans, not only migrants are waiting to reach the EU, but also, for decades, many residents have been waiting for their countries to join the EU, so that their lives start feeling as suspended and not cared for. This temporal stagnation, to be restricted on a limited movement within the delineated space, is what connects both of the groups. Following the approach of a simultaneous ‘de-migrantization of migration studies’ and ‘migrantization of the society’, developed by the Lab Migration at the Humboldt University in Berlin (Bojadzijev und Römhild, 2014), this project seeks to align both the perspectives of migrants and those of local inhabitants in order to look at interfaces between the defined groups, their mutual recognition, lines of solidarity, but also dissociation, competition and boundary drawing. By taking such a positioning, we want to implicitly question border(-ing) practices: border security control in the countries of the Western Balkans, the ever-growing illegal ‘push backs’ that expose migrants to physical and mental violence, but also the long process of EU accession policies for the countries of the Western Balkans, which entail new hegemonic perspectives and the drawing of new boundaries. In this transitional space that trasforms into a zone of unforeseeable waiting, we want to look at the new and ambivalent dynamics emerging from inescapable interactions between the residents and migrants – from solidarities to dislike and competition. We want to explore how narratives of the past, of the violence and suffering during the 1990s wars, overlap with current narrations, whereby the experience of flight constitutes an important convergent point. Also, we aim to engage with dominant views according to which migrants pose a threatening burden to the countries where there are not enough possibilities to find employment whatsoever. Moreover, we want to shed light on the legitimization of specific practices, e.g. by referring to the wide-spread narrative that these migrants are not ‘real refugees’ fleeing the war or/ and violence but (only) looking for better economic possibilities. Which comprehensive and practical tools we could offer to disentangle these complexities is the question that this panel implicitly wants to pose.


Reporting push-backs at the Southeastern fringes of the EU: A case of vernacular ethnography?

Marijana Hameršak (Zagreb)

Inclusion of migrant and refugee children in the education system of Bosnia and Herzegovina. An example of integration in the Una-Sana Canton

Vildana Pečenković (Bihać)

Oral stories about migrants recorded among Bihać residents

Amira Dervišević (Bihać)

The production of the Western Balkans as a “double transit” room: the EU Accession process and the EUropean border regime

Marta Stojic (Beograd)

Unfolding border complexities: Entangled perspectives on the experiences and management of movements and halts at the external EU border

Carolin Leutloff-Grandits (Frankfurt/Oder)

Mapping cruelty

Duško Petrović (Zagreb)

The double movements’ materialities: People and objects on the move

Ildiko Erdei (Beograd)