Bottom-up Perspective on Post-violence Legitimacy and Transitional Justice - Lessons from Serbian Sandžak
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This thesis explores internal dynamics of post-violence legitimacy in the context of transitional justice (TJ) from a standpoint of the local Serbian Bosniaks - those who were during the 1990s exposed to direct state-sponsored or state-tolerated violence. As such, this thesis presents an empirical, exploratory and discovery-oriented work which sheds light not only on the social meanings and perceptions of legitimacy, violence, and justice from the perspective of those who were harmed, but also on how the victims with their experiences and knowledge situate themselves within the existing institutional transitional justice context(s) and ideological discourse(s), and how they relate to such situation. Specifically, this study revolves around the following questions: 1) Have the transitional justice mechanisms and processes contributed to the result that victims from Sandžak and their families recognize the new post-violence socio-political constellations as legitimate, and to feel again like full members of the polity?; 2) What have the victims asked for after period of violence?; 3) How victims' rules of recognition of post-violence socio-political constellations relate to those envisioned and promoted through and with TJ mechanisms? Through engagement with these questions, I have striven not only to expand transitional justice scholarship on Serbia (which have been lacking empirical people-oriented studies), and to shed the light on Sandžak area that has been traditionally neglected in the Balkan area studies, but also to further contribute to cumulative empirical evidence of critical transitional justice and peacebuilding scholarship which are focused on discovering conditions for sustainable peace. The overall conclusion is that transitional justice processes and mechanisms, in their current ideological and institutional form, design, and manifestation in Serbian context have been unable to properly address victims' needs and justice claims, in particular their socio-economic justice demands and need for recovery of life. The experience of transitional justice processes and mechanisms in Serbia, did not establish enough grounds for the victims to feel fully included in the polity in the way they had expected. The formal procedures which were introduced as a response to past injustice were neither effective nor efficient in delivering the kind of justice(s) the victims had expected to get. Paradoxically enough, the effects of transitional justice and ordinary democratization endeavors created a feeling of continuity of injustices and exclusions among the victims. This feeling of continuity of sufferings and exclusions provides a basis for deficit of legitimacy of the post-2000 socio-political constellations and governance.