Research and Publications

New article on informal settlements in JCCEE, by Dorina Pojani

This article analyzes media representations of squatters and their settlements in five case studies in the Western Balkans: the capitals of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, and Serbia, drawing on a database of 300 newspaper articles, dating from 1990 to 2015. The analysis reveals eight themes. The press has: (1) questioned the state’s legitimacy to govern, (2) characterized squatters as citizens; (3) sympathized with squatters; (4) de-legitimized controls on informal housing and the classes in power; (5) expressed resentment towards powerful elites which have also engaged in informal construction; (6) engaged in nostalgic reminiscing about the rule of law under socialism; (7) engaged in exclusionary discourse towards squatters; and (8) criminalized squatters. Given the region’s socialist legacy of egalitarianism, negative representations of squatters have been mostly symbolic and they have not significantly diminished their chances of bettering their lives in the city. Building “informality” is clearly a social construct, and its representations depend largely on the class, size, and political clout of the social groups engaged in informal construction.