Squaring Politics: reactions to ethnocratic spatial reordering in Macedonia
Exactly three years ago a group of students of architecture organized a public protest against the construction of a church at the central city square in Skopje. Counter-protesters, apparently fervently religious group, outnumbered them tenfold and their violent spearheads kicked and pushed away the students from the square. Police simply observed. Year later, the government started unprecedented construction offensive around the city square populating it with dozens of monuments and over ten new buildings, sans the church, in some historicist Neo-classical style. The adjacent municipality that is under control of the ethnic Albanian political party erects monuments and constructs a new square. Each of these two squares is dominated by one monument, the transformed central square by Alexander the Great, the other square by Skenderbeg, each of them historical figures central for the construction of Macedonian and Albanian national myths. Skopje citizens are squeezed between the two ethnically defined political blocks and actively search for their own space in the city that is under ethnocratic siege.
This paper asks the question of the possibility of resistance expressed in spatial practice, consisting of trajectories of movement, ephemeral acts of passing by, sharing the street, sharing a table at a tea-house. In other words, how can spatiality help us understand the political moment and analyze it, for certainly there is politics in space/time (Massey: 1992)? Who claims the right over squares, the ultimate public space for symbolic representation or for protest, for demanding change and imposing status quo, or how property ownership rights regulate the limit or allow access (Zuccotti Park or Liberty Plaza)? In a word, what can contemporary commons regulation reveal about our societies?
Goran Janev is a lecturer of social anthropology at the “Sts Cyril and Methodius” University, Skopje, Macedonia. He received his DPhil from the Oxford University for thesis on interethnic relations in Macedonia. He recently finished his post-doctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Goettingen.