New ECMI Senior Researcher Dr. Marika Djolai travels to Belgrade


Busy times lie behind and ahead of the new ECMI Senior Researcher Dr. Marika Djolai. After presenting a paper on illiberal democracy and its determinants in the Balkans at the “Conflict. Stability. Democracy?” conference in Belgrade last month, Marika will again travel to Belgrade this week. This time, she will participate in the Belgrade Security Forum.

The paper she presented is entitled: Why Experience and Legacies of Civil War Inevitably Lead to Illiberal Democracy?”. By observing the state of affairs of social transformation and post-war civil rights, it aims to explain some root causes of the democratic decline and to explore whether experience of civil war can be directly linked to it. It argues further that civil war and its legacies create conditions where it is impossible to have a healthy democracy. The paper contributes to the emerging scholarly literature on illiberal democracy and democratization after civil war in general and more specifically in the Balkans.

After a valuable appearance last month, Marika is now looking forward to attending the Belgrade Security Forum (BSF). The BSF is one of the biggest action-oriented networking events regarding security policy in the Balkans and Europe. Since 2011, the BSF has taken place each autumn in Belgrade. The autonomous event is hosted by three partner civil society organizations (the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy and the European Movement in Serbia).

Providing a platform for security dialogue among policymakers, the academic community and civil society, the forum intends not only to support the development of a security community in the Balkan region but also to contribute to the exchange of different perspectives and opinions regarding pressing European and global security issues.

“Dealing with security challenges in the Balkans: One-man band or regional Approach?” is the provoking and promising title of Marika Djolai`s paper which she will present at the forum on the 16th of October in the Academic Panel 2: Regional Security and the Retreat of Liberalism in the Western Balkans. In her paper, Marika claims there is need for a better definition of security at the local, national and regional level in the Balkans. She elaborates on how new forms of politics determine approaches tackling security concerns and securitisation of citizens’ empowerment at the national level. The paper investigates whether security in the Balkan countries is being transformed ‘from below’ and examines the connection to regional security cooperation.


About Dr. Marika Djolai:

At the ECMI, Dr Marika Djolai is Head of Conflict and Security Cluster. She holds Masters’ degrees from University of Novi Sad and University College London, UK and received her Doctorate in Development Studies (Conflict and Violence) in 2016 from the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. With Professor Justino, Marika has been awarded Leverhulme Research Grant for three years for her research on BiH. Her research focuses on community dynamics, violence and post-war social interactions and social identities in ethnically diverse societies, while her policy work is oriented towards the EU accession agenda of the Western Balkans countries and bilateral disputes resolution.

Within the field of minority studies, Dr. Djolai is particularly interested in challenging the mainstream interpretations of conflicts in countries dominated by national minorities issues and ethnic complexities; searching for new paradigms in defining conflict drivers and security challenges in complex environments; participatory approaches to managing group relations, group boundaries and collective as well as individual identities; links between development, security challenges and minorities, including group behaviour against this backdrop.

As a development anthropologist and sociologist, Marika primarily relies on a qualitative research methodology, in combination with participatory mapping and household surveys. Her analytical approach combines micro and meso-level research with narrative analysis and grounded theory.

Before joining the ECMI, Dr. Djolai has worked as a Researcher and Teaching Associate at the Institute of Development Studies. She was also a Visiting Researcher at the Faculty of Political Science in Sarajevo in 2012 and won a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Centre for Advanced Studies of Southeast Europe, University of Rijeka in 2016.

Most recently, Marika worked as a consultant for GIZ and UNDP in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while her past engagements include UNICEF, the British Council, SDC and BBC Media Action among others. Her geographic expertise covers the Balkans and Eurasia.


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