PhD Student in Anthropology
CUNY Graduate Center
Unchanging Boundaries: The reconstruction of Skopje and the politics of Heritage
This paper discusses the politics of urban planning and heritage in the city of Skopje, Macedonia and its tumultuous fortunes. In February 2010, the VMRO Christian Conservative government unveiled the plan for urban renewal called Skopje 2014: the center of city was about to be transformed into a baroque and neoclassical Disneyland. Activists vehemently opposed the plan, declaring it “an act of discrimination” since it completely removed existing Ottoman and Communist built environment from view. They called today “grand capital” a secluded city, glorifying older communist architecture – that created an “open city”. In this paper I try to make this picture more complex. I compare three phases of urban reconstruction under three political systems: the inter war Kingdom of Serbs Croats and Slovenes, the communist regime, and the present day “democracy”. I show that the ambiguous marginalization of Ottoman heritage has been a continuous practice, despite today’s reading of communist planning as “open”. Through a discussion of Yugoslav politics towards religious and national “minorities”, I show that Ottoman heritage has been preserved only insofar as it fits within the state’s definition of power. I specifically detail how the construction of “European” “secular” public space has worked as a tool through which state/nation building established new hierarchies of power. I show how that is reflected most clearly in the specific politics of heritage: I address this by discussing the creation, regulation and management of the “Čaršija”, the “old Turkish” neighborhood of Skopje. I then move to the complex life that those spaces have taken today: exclusionary, yet spaces of collective mobilization for an “inclusive” politics, they embody the contradictions of modern politics.
Fabio Mattioli obtained his BA in Political Philosophy from Florence University (Italy) and his MA in Social Anthropology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, Paris France). Before joining the PhD program in Anthropology, he has been visiting researcher at the university Ss Cyril and Methodius of Skopje, Rep. of Macedonia. Fabio is interested in questions of Urban Anthropology, Aesthetics, Consumption, and Citizenship and teaches Culture and Crime at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He is currently exploring the articulation of political economy and subjective experience, looking at how the privatization of urban space in Skopje, Macedonia. He explores the transformation of socialist Macedonia’s “production” based economy into a “rent” based post-socialist one. How do space translate and reflect the new economic settings? Which kind of rules and practices are enacted? How are they resisted? His secret dream is to learn how to prepare burek.