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American Anthropologist

On the Road to Normal: Negotiating Agency and State Sovereignty in Postsocialist Serbia

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Abstract

ABSTRACT  I examine how perceptions of state crisis and moral decay in Serbia (after the breakup of Yugoslavia) impact people's belief that they are no longer normal agents capable of effective action. More specifically, I argue that a shift in Serbia's geopolitical position and changing dynamics at international borders reveal the intimate links between people's self-conception as moral, agentive subjects and the conditions that structure state power. Discourses of normalcy are about the loss (and possible restoration) of a historically specific form of citizen agency that emerged in relationship to a functioning, sovereign, and internationally respected socialist Yugoslav state. I focus on young people's intimate experiences and narratives of everyday life and leisure. In exploring the intersection of forms of state sovereignty and the experience of citizen agency, I illuminate how young Serbian citizens experience changing configurations of state power as enabling conditions for their own moral and agentive capacities.

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