The Making of Citizenship Against Corruption in Kosovo: Protest, Lies, and the Public Good

This contribution interrogates the ways in which public space and activist networks are linked together in protests against corruption in Kosovo. The contribution accounts for changes in the social order and values, particularly definitions of morality and legality, within the space of politics and social-economic transactions. Specifically it traces public protests against “lies” and “theft” (commonly used as synonyms of corruption) of what are considered public goods. The ethnographic study conducted here serves to inquire into two distinct but interrelated questions. I ask what have been the political, socio-cultural and economic terms based on which activism and civil engagement against corruption takes place? And, how is the public sphere transformed by state bureaucracy and international interventions, and what these mean for the making of citizenship in Kosovo? I argue that within the broader anti-corruption discourse and practice in Kosovo, culture is often read as backwardness, a remnant of socialism, or post-war criminality, which are cited as the enabling factors, if not determinants, of Kosovo’s high rates of corruption. Therefore, the need to build “a rule of law culture” is frequently followed by discussions on Kosova’s “transition to democratic governance and need to strengthen its institutions.” Many would confirm: “If we wish to become European, enter the EU, we must fight corruption.” Nonetheless, understandings of rule of law, culture of corruption, or the “European way,” do not mean the same thing to all those who use the terminology. With the increased public demand to focus on the level of “everyday concerns” – electricity prices, water shortage, road maintenance, etc. – the influence of international power-holders and systemic economic transformations are made more evident, and so are the fuzzy arrangements between the ethical and unethical, legal and illegal.

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