Dissertation Abstract

Security or Identity? Narratives of State & Nation in International Territorial Conflict Protraction

My dissertation explores how popular domestic beliefs regarding the meaning and value of disputed lands contribute to the protraction and resolution of international territorial conflict. Using comparative historical analysis and artefactual field experiments, I find in Israel and Serbia that persistent popular unwillingness to relinquish claims to a “United Jerusalem” and “Kosovo and Metohija” have resulted from the extraordinary position of these territories in their respective national homeland narratives. These outcomes stand in stark contrast to Israel’s largely popular withdrawals from the Sinai Peninsula, Southern Lebanon, and Gaza Strip, dominantly valued as strategic rather than cultural assets. They also contrast with Serbia’s acquiescence to the political independence of both Bosnia and Montenegro, spaces of high concern for Serb political self-determination but relatively low territorial-cultural priority. The Golan Heights and the West Bank are also analyzed as disputed spaces wherein strategic and cultural narratives continue to contribute to conflict protraction. In doing so, I demonstrate how particular strategic and cultural narratives come to dominate public discourse over disputed spaces and, in turn, how these narratives constrain the policies states can legitimately pursue in these spaces. Ultimately, I find that popular perceptions of national identity can be as powerful a force in determining government policy as state security prerogatives.

Dissertation Committee:
Will Reno (Chair), Hendrik Spruyt, Jason Seawright

What Happened?

question markA few people have been asking me of late what in the world I have been up to. Given that no new posts have gone up on the blog in over a month, this is a fair question. Allow me to put speculation to rest.

Since returning from Serbia in mid May, I have been working hard on developing and publicizing surveys which examine domestic attitudes toward political language in both Israel and Serbia respectively.

Continue reading “What Happened?”

Srpska kultura i identitet na Balkanu


Srpska kultura i identitet na Balkanu:
diskusija u grupi

Američki kutak Beograd

Dom omladine Beograda, Makedonska 22/1

Sreda, 11. maj – 15.30
Četvrtak, 12. maj – 15.30
Ponedeljak, 16. Maj – 15:30

Ukoliko želite da prisustvujete, kontaktirajte azellman@u.northwestern.edu



Serbian Culture and Identity in the Balkans:
a group discussion

American Corner Belgrade

Dom Omladine Beograda, Makedonska 22/1

Wednesday, 11 May – 15:30
Thursday, 12 May – 15:30
Monday, 16 May – 15:30

If you would like to attend, please contact azellman@u.northwestern.edu or visit http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=152904678110814

Research in Serbia

Late this evening, I will be flying to Belgrade, Serbia for a three-week trip to follow up on my travels there in the summer of 2009.

During my next few weeks, I will be meeting with academics and pollsters to develop a political behavior survey. This will be similar to the one I have been working on here in Israel for the last few months which will be launched on this site in the coming weeks.

I will do my utmost to continue to update the blog while “abroad” although I anticipate doing very few interviews and will likely not venture far from the capital. With many in Serbia demanding new elections and bilateral discussions between Belgrade and Pristina on the horizon, it should be an interesting time to be there. Stay tuned for more.

Paper Submitted for ISA 2010 in New Orleans

On Friday, I submitted my paper, “’Kosovo is Serbia’: Nation and Homeland in Contentious Territorial Politics” for this year’s International Studies Association conference in New Orleans. I will be leaving for the Big Easy this Tuesday and returning to Chicago on Sunday.

While there, I intend to take in the local scene, go to a few jazz clubs, enjoy the ambiance, and, oh yeah, present my paper. 🙂 In all seriousness, I have a number of friends and colleagues whom I am looking forward to seeing again and catching up. ISA is always a great conference and I am thrilled to be presenting for my fourth year.

You can read the abstract of the paper on my earlier post announcing my acceptance to the conference and you can download the entire paper in PDF format from the links provided by AllAcademic here.  As always, your comments, critiques, and feedback are greatly appreciated.

Quick Update

It was pointed out to me recently that I have failed to post anything to this site since October 5, so a brief update is in order:

The Fall Quarter at Northwestern has just ended as has my time as a TA for Jim Mahoney’s Political Science 310: Methods of Political Inference course. I am happy to report that, although the class was quite challenging, my students really pulled out all stops in the end and did quite well in their final papers and exams. Congratulations to all. Next quarter, I will be TAing for Wendy Pearlman’s Political Science 390: Middle East Politics course and continuing my work with the Northwestern Middle East Forum.

Over the break, I will be continuing work on grants to secure funding for future fieldwork. Thanks to ongoing assistance from the staff at the Northwestern Office of Fellowships and my dedicated dissertation committee, I managed to complete both the Fulbright IIE and Fulbright Hays grants. I am now engaged in writing the United States Institute for Peace’s Jennings Randolph Peace Scholarship Dissertation Program application. I will also be moving ahead with writing a paper based on my fieldwork in the summer in Serbia.

With any luck, it will be a very productive month. Thank you as always for reading.

Day 36: Nova Srbija and Final Day in Belgrade

nova-srbijaThis post is going to be a short one. On Tuesday I woke up late and spent most of the morning and early afternoon writing the post about my interviews and activities on Monday. I also did a bit more work on my Fulbright IIE grant, finished up some relevant paperwork, and started packing up my things for my flight today (Wednesday). Finishing up at around 2 pm, I decided to try one last time to secure an interview with someone at the New Serbia Party (Nova Srbija).

This center-right nationalist party is best known through the activities of its leader, Velimir Ilić, a bombastic figure who played a key role in the fall of Slobodan Milosevic. He led a motercade from Čačak, where he was mayor at the time, on October 5, 2000 to Belgrade atop a bulldozer culminating in the charge on Parliament seen on television screens across the world. Since then, he has distinguished himself through his frequent emotional outbursts and use of profanity, particularly on national television. The party’s platform is remarkably similar to that of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and the two usually run on a joint ticket during national elections. The party currently holds 10 seats in the National Assembly.

Continue reading “Day 36: Nova Srbija and Final Day in Belgrade”

In Belgrade but Without Regular Internet Access

Just a quick update… I have been back in Belgrade for almost a week now, but I have been staying at a hotel with no internet access. Therefore, no new posts are going up. On the up side, I am alive and well, still experiencing and seeing lots of new and interesting things. My apologies to everyone who has e-mailed me in the last week and have yet to receive a response. I will soon be back on the ball. Best wishes from Serbia!

Today to Decani Monastery

I’m happy to have a few minutes back in KIM studios this morning for a quick update.

Today we’ll be traveling to Decani Monastery in western Kosovo. This is one of the most isolated Serbian enclaves in Kosovo but the Orthodox Church maintains a very active presence here. We’ll meet the bishop there and I’ll have a chance to chat with him and the other monks while my friends from Serbian Letter get interviews and footage for their documentary.

I have decided to back-post my older entries for date accuracy… This is easier than going back to update all of my “today”, “yesterday”, and “tomorrow” references for accuracy. Once they go up, they’ll be in the proper dates so you’ll have to go before (or after) this post to read them. Still no access to wifi so it will take a few more days.

If any of you caught last evening’s broadcast on Serbian Television Fox or Television Pink, yours truly was included in the segment on Vidov Dan and the ceremony at Gazimestan. I’ll see if I can find it anywhere posted online to share here. Because I am in EULEX/KFOR/Pristina administered Kosovo, my cell phone service does not work for outgoing calls… I am on a Serbian network. But I believe that I can still receive them.

Now I am off for another very very full day. Best wishes to all.

Serbian phrase of the day: Dobre utra = good morning

In Čaglavica with no Internet

I am now sitting at an internet terminal in KIM studios, a radio broadcast station and television production studio in Čaglavica, a Serb village outside of Pristina. Unfortunately internet access has been very scarce since I arrived yesterday in Kosovo, so I have not been able to post up my latest journals. I have two entries sitting on my laptop that I will upload once I am able to get reliable internet access again. In the meantime, posts will pile up so expect a burst of them once I am back in Belgrade, likely by Wednesday.

All is well here, I am learning a lot, having a great time, and have a lot to say… but I will not try to rehash it now. Today was Vidov Dan and I spent it at Gazimestan and Gracanitca. If you have any idea what I’m talkin about, you’ll know that’s way cool. 🙂 I am told that I am in the news clip they are sending to one of the major Serbian television news outlets today. Stay tuned!