Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

Women in Black: Mobilization into Anti-Nationalist, Anti-Militarist, Feminist Activism in Serbia

Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

Women in Black: Mobilization into Anti-Nationalist, Anti-Militarist, Feminist Activism in Serbia

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

This article presents an analysis of mobilization into the antinationalist, anti-militarist, feminist organization Women in Black. It is an organization, founded in Serbia in response to the wars that destroyed former Yugoslavia, that persists to this day and that has, since its inception, undergone much social and political repression. Women in Black's activism represents a case of what Dough McAdam calls high-risk/cost activism. According to him, in the context of the study of social movements (SMs) and social movement organizations (SMOs), cost "refers to the expenditures of time, money, and energy that are required of a person engaged in any particular form of activism," while risk "refers to the anticipated dangers--whether legal, social, physical, financial, and so forth--of engaging in a particular type of activity," where "certain instances of activism are clearly more costly and/or risky than others." (3) Throughout the years, there have been instances of Women in Black activists being threatened, slurred, physically attacked, intimidated, unlawfully detained, tortured, and illegitimately criminalized. (4) These social and state practices have had the aim of frightening and exhausting Women in Black activists and of promoting distrust and divisiveness among the members of the organization in order to inhibit the advancement of its mission. (5) I thus locate this study within the framework of the study of contentious politics, defined by McAdam et al as "episodic, public, collective interaction among members of claims and their objects when (a) at least one government is a claimant, an object of claims, or a party to the claims and (b) the claims would, if realized, affect the interests of at least one of the claimants." (6) The research question that propelled this study was, considering the systematic social and political repression that Women in Black have endured ever since the start of their activities, how and why have activists become mobilized into this type of anti-nationalist, anti-militarist, feminist political contention?

In this article, I argue that mobilization into Women in Black takes place through specific structures (the "how") and mechanisms (the "why") of mobilization. When analyzing the data gathered for the purpose of this project through the lens of social movement theory, I share in the contention of McAdam (7) and Tarrow (8) that participation in activism--and in this type of antinationalist, anti-militarist, feminist high-risk/cost contention in particular--does not by any means occur in the context of disorder, social marginalization, and irrational outbursts of collective behavior but is instead facilitated first, by the various functions of social networks. These include the capacity of ties to the SMO to link potential participants to it and to thus structurally level across all state, national, ethnic, and all other divisions and barriers; we build peace networks, coalitions, and associations to stimulate the active participation of women in peace-building, peace processes, and peace negotiations; we demand confrontation with the past and the application of models of transitional justice; we create new forms of transitional justice from a feminist perspective; we educate women about feminism, pacifism, antimilitarism, nonviolence, women's peace politics, new concepts of security, civil society, women's activism, interethnic and intercultural solidarity, reproductive rights, transitional justice and fundamentalism; we create an alternative women's history by writing about women's resistance to war and the history of those who are different; we start campaigns and legislative initiatives that sensitize the public to important societal issues," Women in Black, personal correspondence. facilitate recruitment, to underscore the connection between participating in the social movement and identities that potential recruits identify as central to their concepts of self, and to shape decisions through bonds of community, solidarity, and support. …

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