How does the use of “culture” and “tradition” shape the women’s rights discourse in transitional Serbia?

pages: 679-694

  • Sara Petrovski Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade

Abstract

Although social anthropologists have mostly abandoned the essentialist view of “culture” and “tradition”, these static notions are still frequently used in Serbian public discourse regarding women’s rights. I believe that analysing the production of cultural meaning and knowledge among different social actors and the state is important when exploring the implementation, transformation and protection of women’s rights at a local level. In this article, I shall investigate how “culture” and “tradition” are being constructed and used by certain right wing groups, political leaders, intellectuals and by the Serbian Orthodox Church. On one side, arguments of “culture” and “tradition” are used in order to “preserve the national identity” and save it from “imposed Western norms” and “Western imperialism”, while on the other, they are used to explain the cultural obstacles regarding the effective protection of women’s rights. “Tradition”, often constructed as a linear project of inherited “cultural” and “moral” values and practices, stands in opposition to the EU; therefore, it calls to be nurtured and protected or changed and abandoned. Consequently, I see women rights issues trapped into a pro-EU or against EU, pro-traditional values or pro-liberal values discourse. I conclude that women rights in Serbia are and probably will be affected more by the use and abuse of different concepts of “culture” and “tradition”.


Keywords: culture, tradition, women’s rights, public discourse, EU, Serbia, Balkan

References

Allcock, John B. (1991) “Constructing the Balkans”, in John B. Allcock & Antonia Young (eds), Black Lambs& Grey Falcons. Women Travellers in the Balkans, Bradford: Bradford University Press: 170−191
An Na’im, Abdullahi Ahmed (1990) “Problems of Universal Cultural Legitimacy for Human Rights” in A.A. An-Na’im and Francis Mading Deng (eds), Human Rights in Africa: Cross-Cultural Perspectives :Washington DC: Brookings Institute.
Autonomous Women’s Center (2012), Report on advocacy actions in 2012, Beograd: Autonomni ženski centar, available at: http://www.womenngo.org.rs/english/ (accessed 23 Apr 2013)
Bakic-Hayden, Milica and Robert M. Hayden (1992), “Orientalist Variations on the Theme ‘Balkans’: Symbolic Geography in Recent Yugoslav Cultural Politics”, Slavic Review 51(1):1−15
Balkanization (2013), in Encyclopædia Britannica (online), retrieved from: http://www.britannica.com/ EBchecked / topic/50323/Balkanization (accessed 23 Apr 2013)
Božilović, Nikola (2010), “Tradicija i modernizacija (evropske perspektive kulture na Balkanu)”[Tradition and Modernization (European Perspectives of Culture in the Balkans)], Sociologija LII(2): 113−126.
CESID (2012), “Rezultati izbora 2012”[Results of the elections in 2012], Beograd: CESID, available at: http://www.cesid.org/ lt/articles/rezultati-izbora-2012/ (accessed 21 Apr 2013)
Cowan, Jane, Dembour M-B. and Wilson R. (eds) (2001), Culture and Rights: Anthropological Perspectives, Cambridge: CUP
Drezgić, Rada and Žarkov, Dubravka (2006), “Feminističke nevolje s Balkanom” [Feminist troubles with the Balkans], Sociologija XLVII(4)
Dveri srpske (2009), “Dveri” (online), available at: http://www.dverisrpske.com/sr/
(accessed 25 Apr 2013)
Dundes Renteln, Alison (1988), “Relativism and the Search for Human Rights”, American Anthropologist 90(1): 56−72
EU Delegation to the Republic of Serbia (2102), “Support to the Rule of Law System, Brussels”: European council, (online) available at: http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/serbia/ipa/2012/pf_ 1_support_to_the_rule_of_law_system.
pdf (accessed 23 Apr 2013)
European Union, Council of the European Union (2012), “Council Conclusions on Enlargement and Stabilisation and Association Process”, Brussels: EU Council 11 Dec 2012, (online) available at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/
cms_data/ docs/pressdata/EN/genaff/ 134234.pdf (accessed 23 Apr 2013)
“EUtanazija, Kosovo iznad Evropske Unije, EU, Eu mit i stvarnost”[Euthanasia, Kosovo above the European Union, EU myth and reality] (2008), Dveri srpske 37(1), (online) available at: http://www.dverisrpske.com/pdf/casopis/37
KosovoiEvropskaunija.pdf (accessed 23 Apr 2013)
Filipescu, Corina (2012), “A Contemporary East-West Dialogue: The Orientalism Discourse in the Relationship between the European Union and the Western Balkans”, Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Law and Society
Association, Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort, Honolulu. 3 Jun
Gasmi, Gordana (2009),“Najvažnije je podizanje nivoa obrazovanja i svesti žena o jednakosti polova”, [The most important is to raise the level of education and consciousness about gender issues], Belgrade: Demokratski politički forum (online), available at: http://www.politickiforum.org/index.php?vrsta=tribina&kategorija=&tekst=22&naredba=prikaz&br_stranice=#481 (accessed
12 Apr 2013)
Grillo, Ralph D. (2003), “Cultural Essentialism and Cultural Anxiety”, Anthropological Theory 3(2): 157−173
Gudac – Dodić, Vera (2006), “Položaj žene u Srbiji (1945-2000)” [Women condition in Serbia 1945 – 2000] Helsinške sveske 23: 33−130
Harris-Short, Sonia (2003), “International Human Rights Law: Imperialist, Inept and Ineffective? Cultural Relativism and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”, Human Rights Quarterly 25(1):130−181
Irvine Jill A. and Lilly, Carol S. (2007) “Boys Must be Boys: Gender and the Serbian Radical Party, 1991–2000”, The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity 35(1): 93−120
Maner, Jon K., DeWall, Nathan C., Baumeister, Roy F. and Schaller, Mark (2007), “Does social exclusion motivate interpersonal reconnection? Resolving the ‘porcupine problem”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92: 42–55
Merry, Sally Engle (2003), “Human Rights Law and the Demonization of Culture (And Anthropology Along the Way)”, PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 26 (1): 55−76
Mićunović, Dragoljub (2009), “Najvažnije je podizanje nivoa obrazovanja i svesti žena o jednakosti polova”[The most important is to raise the level of education and consciousness about gender issues], Belgrade: Demokratski politički forum, (online) available at: http://www.politickiforum.org/index.php?vrsta=tribina&kategorija=&tekst=22&naredba=prikaz&br_stranice=#481 (accessed 12 Apr
2013)
Mršević, Zorica (2009), “Najvažnije je podizanje nivoa obrazovanja i svesti žena o jednakosti polova”[The most important is to raise the level of education and consciousness about gender issues], Belgrade: Demokratski politički forum, (online) available at: http://www.politickiforum.org/index.php?vrsta=tribina&kategorija=&tekst=22&naredba=prikaz&br_stranice=#481 (accessed 12 Apr
2013)
Naši (2013) , “Naši”(online), available at: http://nasisrbija.org/ (accessed 25 Apr 2013)
Naumović, Slobodan (1994), “Upotreba tradicije” [The use of tradition] in Mirjana Prošić-Dvornić (ed) Kulture u tranziciji [Cultures in transition], Beograd: PlatΩ.
Nešić, Milan (2013), “Alarmantne razmere nasilja nad ženama u Srbiji”[Alarming proportions of violence against women in Serbia], Radio Slobodna Evropa, 7 March (online), available at http://www.slobodnaevropa.org/content/alarmantne-razmere-nasilja-nad-zenama-u-srbiji/24922399.html (accessed 10 March 2013)
Nikolić, Zlatko (2012) “20% muškaraca smatra da bi trebalo tući ženu”[20% of men find men should beat women], Press online, 5 Feb 2013 (online), available at: http://www.pressonline.rs/info/politika/ 201847/20-muskaraca-smatra-da-bitrebalo-tuci-zenu.html (accessed 17 Apr 2013)
Papan, Jovana (2008), “Evropa – mračni predmet čežnje za prosečnošću”[Europe - that dark object of desire of mediocrity], Dveri srpske 37(1), (online) available at: http://www.dverisrpske.com/pdf/casopis/37 KosovoiEvropskaunija.pdf
(accessed 23 Apr 2013)
Ramet , Sabrina Petra (1996), “Nationalism and the idiocy of the countryside: The case of Serbia”, Ethnic and Racial Studies 19(1): 70−87
Said, Edward W. (1978), Orientalism, New York: Vintage Books Serbia European Integration Office (2013), “Public Opinion Poll for December 2012”, Beograd: Government of the Republic of Serbia, (online) available at: http://
www.seio.gov.rs/news. 101.html? newsid=1393 (accessed: 23 Apr 2013)
Spehar, Andrea (2011), “This Far, but No Further? Benefits and Limitations of EU Gender Equality Policy Making in the Western Balkans”, East European Politics and Societies 26 (2)
Stakić, Isidora (2013) “Odnos Srbije prema ekstremno desnicarskim organizacijama” [The relation of Serbia towards far right organisations], Predlog prakticne politike (online) available at: http://www.bezbednost.org/upload/document/
odnos_srbije_prema_ekstremno_desniarskim_organizac.pdf (accessed: 28 Apr 2013)
Stanojević Vesna (2013), “Alarmantne razmere nasilja nad ženama u Srbiji”[Alarming proportions of violence against women in Serbia] Radio Slobodna Evropa, 7 Mar (online), available at http://www.slobodnaevropa.org/content/alarmantnerazmere-
nasilja-nad-zenama-u-srbiji/24922399.html (accessed 10 March 2013)
Stiglmayer, Alexandra (1993), Mass Rape - The war against Women in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press
Stojsavljevic, Jovanka (1995), “Women, Conflict, and Culture in Former Yugoslavia”, Gender and Development, 3 (1): 36−41
Todorova, Maria (1994), “The Balkans: From Discovery to Invention”, Slavic Review 53(2) : 453−482
United Nations, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2007), CEDAW/C/SCG/CO/1/CRP, (online) available at: http://www.gendernet.rs/files/dokumenta/ CEDAW_zakljucni_komentari.pdf
(accessed 23 Apr 2013)
United Nations, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (2012), CEDAW/C/SRB/Q/2-3, (online) available at: http://www.refworld.
org/docid/506173032.html (accessed 5 May 2013)
Višnjić, Jelena (2011), U zoni političkog: Feministički odgovori i inicijative u savremenoj Srbiji [In the political zone: Feminists’ answers and initiatives in contemporary Serbia], Beograd: Ženski informaciono-dokumentacioni centar (ŽINDOK)
Wright, Susan (1998) “The Politicization of ‘Culture’”, Anthropology Today 14(1): 7−15. 1389 (2013), “Srpski narodni pokret 1389”, (online) available at: http://www.1389.org.rs/onama.html (accessed 25 Apr 2013)
Published
2016-10-15
How to Cite
PETROVSKI, Sara. How does the use of “culture” and “tradition” shape the women’s rights discourse in transitional Serbia?. Filozofija i društvo / Philosophy and Society, [S.l.], v. 27, n. 3, oct. 2016. ISSN 2334-8577. Available at: <http://journal.instifdt.bg.ac.rs/index.php?journal=fid&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=391>. Date accessed: 17 nov. 2017. doi: https://doi.org/10.2298/FID1603685P.
Section
STUDIES AND ARTICLES