Debate on Europe in Skopje

Since gaining its independence in the 1990s, Macedonia has had to confront multiple political, social, and...

Since gaining its independence in the 1990s, Macedonia has had to confront multiple political, social, and cultural challenges. Currently a new political direction is giving rise to hope and reflection. In an open exchange of ideas, “Debate on Europe” in Skopje will pose and explore questions about the possible impact of “Art and Culture in Changing Times” and the wealth of cultural diversity – also here in Southeast Europe. The latest developments in Macedonia – with an eye on the regional and European context – will be at the heart of the debate. Authors and academics from several European countries will come together in Skopje to discuss the exceptional as well as the exemplary in today’s Macedonia. The event forms part of the series “Debates on Europe”, organised by the S. Fischer Foundation, the Allianz Cultural Foundation, and the German Academy for Language and Literature in different cities across the continent since 2012. Debates were already hosted in Budapest, Bucharest, Athens, Belgrade, Berlin, Narva, Minsk, Kharkiv, St. Petersburg, and Sarajevo. We are immensely grateful to have had the opportunity to work on this “Debate on Europe” alongside the Skopje-based NGO Kontrapunkt, with Iskra Geshoska at its helm, and the European Network for Literature TRADUKI.

S. Fischer Foundation

Allianz Cultural Foundation

German Academy for Language and Literature

“Searching for the utopia – between experiment and commons” – 

Introduction by Iskra Geshoska

As Jean-Luc Nancy and Phillippe Lacoue-Labarthe claim in their Retreating the Political, the corruption of all certainty, with the weakening of its foundations and obliteration of its horizon, made it possible – and even urgent and necessary – to re- examine again all that was believed to be ‘essentially political’.

This is a time of radical confusion between the long- established left and right ideologies, now situating themselves porously and paradoxically within politics, like an avers and obverse, like the other of the same. This is a time when freedom, identities, solidarity and equality operate discursively through all constitutions and parliaments, while at the same time, ever so great class, cultural and ethno-national walls are erected. This is a time that announces the end of utopia and with it the end of the political in politics. The captivity of the camp is the emergency in which we live continually and which tests and tempts all paradigms of modern democracy.

We are now in a middle of an experiment. Nothing else is left to us but to ask ourselves whether in this world that appears to be sliding towards destruction, that crumbles without noticing, there is a core of people that can allow for a critical redefinition of the ‘dogmas’ in which we have stopped believing. We live in a time when culture and politics constitute themselves through elimination (which is also inclusion at the same time).

Politics, as noted by Paul Ricœur, exists only during ‘the great moments’, ‘the crises’, at ‘turning points’ and crossroads of history. But when we discuss the community and what makes us political beings or when we deliberate about the commons, the key question is the ‘political’, not the politics. And this question is in fact a question about how to be together, beyond the class conflicts, beyond the ethno-national camps, beyond the shackles of our identities that capture us into a crowd. Within the socio-cultural contexts like the Macedonian that exists and lives the paradox of their geo-strategic position as part of the European continent, but outside the economic, fiscal and security formation called the European Union, a very common topic of interest is this very autonomy, not of politics, but of the political. When yearning for autonomy of the political in these societies trapped in confusing, exhausting and endless transition, we actually yearn for the political, understood as a right to a free society, consisting of differences, but able to enjoy the moment of commonality. The common, from this point of view, we would like to read as a critical space where the quotidian individual and collective experiences and representations of contemporaneity can mutate and reorganize.

At this day and age, in this area, the citizen is being evicted from the community. In this time-space the citizen has been revoked the right to exist organically as a political being and participate in the building of policies, although all political speeches would pretend to indicate the opposite. The citizens are just numbers, with no right to make decisions. Behind the mirage of democracy, there unmistakeably proceed the processes that lead to partocracy and autocracy. Therefore, we fight against the illusion of the political. We are not just decorative props, we are creators of contents, of dreams, without which both the society and the political would not exist, would have no meaning. Our duty is to jump over fences and criss- cross the social fields. We must, not unlike Marko Polo in Calvino’s Invisible Cities, draw different toponyms that will build different worlds.

Our language, here and now, is a language of muteness, disgrace and fear. This language does not take any steps forward but remains cramped and contracted. We are trapped inside the language offear and narrowmindedness, a language that does not recognize the ‘policies of friendship’, but the policies of a velvet and permanent war and state of emergency. This language cannot ‘produce’ free thought, free images – it only produces pits filled with the quicksand of the senseless policies in which we drown. This is a language that determines our existence only in opposition to the ‘enemy’, and not against the background of organic thinking and critical community. Now that we have already been numbed, it is highly unlikely that anyone will be able to claim Hamlet’s famous ‘I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space’ as the complete opposite to the idea of openness of communities, of culture. No one likes the infinite because it demands a sense of responsibility. While the captive spirit avoids responsibility. Within our semi-articulated political systems, the terror of the pseudo-democratic is lobotomizing, zombifying and instrumentalizing us all.

That is why we write our stories on the edges of history. We do not want the life on offer – created in advance. We want to create it ourselves. To surf the edges of our dreams. We tattoo the society, just as it tattoos us. It is a mutual artistic act. The political imagination is an artistic creation. We would like to change, to discover new texts, linking past experiences and visions of future actions. The citizen is an active traveler. And we have to bear in mind that, when the train leaves, it is possible that it will take only a few passengers – only those who have not missed the moment. It is also possible that most of the passengers would actually prefer not to take the train because the station seems more comfortable, more pleasant and more familiar than the journey. We need to care for and articulate our thinking processes through the capillarity of the critically observed society. We do not need a zombified survival. We wish to participate with our own civil and political imagination. Because it is a kind of an artistic creation. What we are trapped in is an aesthetic of disappearance. But nonetheless – we will return.



Thursday, Daut Pashin Hammam, Skopje



​Antje Contius, S. Fischer Foundation,

for the initiators and the network TRADUKI

H.E. Thomas Gerberich, Ambassador of the German Republic in Macedonia

Mag. Gabriele Janezic, Consul, Embassy of the Republic of Austria in Macedoniа


In between: Art and Culture in Changing Times 

Artan Sadiku, Robert Alagjozovski, Sreten Ugričić

Moderator: Carl Hendrik Fredriksson


Talk between Nenad Šebek and Vlatko Stefanovski


Musical intervention – a short concert by Vlatko Stefanovski

8 JUNE, Friday

First part: Daut Pashin Hammam

„Multiculturalism as a chance“

Ramadan Ramadani, Ivan Dodovski, Cyrill Stieger 

Moderator: Nenad Šebek

Second part: Museum of Contemporary Art


„The Colourful Revolution – Just the Beginning of an Evolutionary Process”

Welcome speech: Katrin Tomanek, Cultural foundation Allianz

Nebojša Vilić, Mariglen Demiri, Biljana Ginova Moderator: Volker Weichsel


„Literary Evening Event“ 

opening talk between Ernst Osterkamp and Luan Starova, Rumena Bužarovska, Arian Leka, Olivera Kjorveziroska , Marko Pogačar and Nikola Madžirov ​


Nebojša Vilić, born in Veles in 1962, is an art historian and full professor at Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. His focus lies on art criticism, the theory of art, and theoretical interpretations of digital arts. He has curated over 30 exhibitions in Macedonia and abroad.

Between 1986 and 1987 he was Editor-in-Chief of the Arts Program at the Youth Cultural Centre and from 1988 to 1997 he was Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Skopje. He also served as Director of the Soros Center for Contemporary Arts in Skopje. Since 1999 he is the Chairman of the Skopje-based NGO 359° – Network for Local and Subaltern Hermeneutics.

Mariglen Demiri, born in Bitola in 1985, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and is an MA student in Contemporary Philosophy at Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje. Currently he works as an Assistant Researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities in Skopje. He is the founder of numerous initiatives and political organizations, such as “Lenka”, “Solidarnost”,“Studentski Plenum”, and “Protestiram”. Demiri is also one of the founders of the political party “Levica” (“The Left”).

Robert Alagjozovski, born in 1973, is a Skopje-based freelance writer, researcher,

cultural manager, and art and cultural critic. He holds an M.A. in Comparative literature from Skopje University and is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Economics. Between 2001 and 2008 he worked as a program coordinator and editor of Kontrapunkt and the Cultural centre Tocka. For several years he also served as Macedonia’s Minister for Culture. He is the author of five books and a dozen of studies, essays, and articles on philology, film and cultural policy. Alagjozovski has been involved in many projects on cultural decentralisation, interculturalism, regional and international cooperation, and has translated several important books into Macedonian.

Besa Arifi, born in Tetovo in 1981, studied Criminal Law and holds a PhD from Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje. She is currently an Associate Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology and the Coordinator for International Relations and Mobility at the South East European University in Tetovo, Macedonia. She has published numerous research papers and studies on the topic of criminal law and has participated in congresses and conferences at home and abroad, including at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. Her research focus lies on international criminal law, victimology, anti-corruption, and hate crime. She lives and works in Tetovo.

Biljana Ginova (they/them) is a feminist and queer activist involved with several national, regional and European LGBTI and lesbian* movements. Biljana is a Co-Chair of the LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey and Co-Secretary of the European Lesbian* Conference. Biljana has been active in the civil society sector in Macedonia since 2002 working with and for different marginalised groups in society. Since 2011, when a young man was killed by police, Biljana is involved in political activism as well. First, they were involved in the movement against police brutality and later in the movement “Protestiram”. Currently they are holding the position of Advocacy programme coordinator at the LGBTI Support Center in Skopje.

Ioannis Armakolas, PhD (Cantab), is an Assistant Professor in Comparative Politics of South East Europe at the Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, University of Macedonia (Thessaloniki) and `Stavros Costopoulos’ Research Fellow and Head of the South-East Europe Programme at the Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy

(ELIAMEP). He’s also the Editor-in-Chief of the scientific journal ‘Southeast European and Black Sea Studies’ and a member of the Board of Directors of the Centre for Security Studies, the think tank of the Greek Ministry of the Interior. Ioannis Armakolas has extensive experience as a consultant with United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Open Society projects in the Western Balkans.

Rumena Bužarovska, born in Skopje, Macedonia, in 1981, is the author of three short story collections, a booklet of flash fiction, and a study on humour in contemporary American and Macedonian short fiction (What’s Funny: Theories of Humour Applied to the Short Story, 2012). As a literary translator she has translated authors such as J.M Coetzee and Richard Gwyn. She is the 2017 winner of the regional Edo Budiša prize. She is the initiator and organiser of the PičPrič women’s storytelling event and hosts a radio show under the same name. She is currently the prose editor of the literary magazine Blesok and an associate professor of American literature at the State University in Skopje.

Marie-Janine Calic is a Professor for East and South East European History at the University of Munich. Away from the place of her permanent employment she held the position of the political adviser to the Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe in Brussels (1999 – mid-2002) and for the UN Special Representative for the former Yugoslavia in 1995. She has published and lectured extensively about the Balkans. Her most recent books are “Südosteuropa. Weltgeschichte einer Region”, München: C.H. Beck 2016 (English translation forthcoming with Harvard University Press 2019: “The Great Cauldron: A History of Southeastern Europe“) and “Geschichte Jugoslawiens”, München: C.H. Beck 2014 (English translation forthcoming with Purdue University Press 2019: „A History of Yugoslavia“).

Ivan Dodovski is an Associate Professor of Critical Theory. Currently he is Dean of the School of Political Science at University American College Skopje. He studied general and comparative literature with American studies and obtained an MA degree in Macedonian literature and narratology from Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. He holds a PhD from the University of Nottingham. Dodovski has edited the volume Multiculturalism in Macedonia: An Emerging Model (2005) and seven recent volumes dealing with European integration, politics, economy, and culture. He has also published academic papers, three poetry books, and a collection of short stories.

Vedran Džihić, born in Bosnia in 1976, holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Vienna. Prior to his current position he was an Assistant Professor at the University of Vienna and an Austrian Marshall Plan Fellow at SAIS, John Hopkins University. He is currently the Senior Researcher at oiip – the Austrian Institute for International Affairs, the Co-Director of the Center for Advanced Studies for Southeastern Europe at Rijeka University, and Senior Lecturer at the Institute for Political Sciences, University of Vienna. Džihić is the author of several books and publications. His research currently focuses on: democracy in Europe, illiberalism and authoritarianism, EU enlargement and foreign policy, and Southeastern Europe.

Carl Henrik Fredriksson, born in Jönköping in 1965, is a Swedish editor, literary critic, columnist, essayist, and translator living in Vienna. He co-founded Eurozine, whose Editor- in-Chief and President he was until 2015. He is a Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Media and Communication Policy in Berlin. He was Editor-in-Chief of Sweden’s oldest cultural journal Ord&Bild. Fredriksson is a contributor to numerous Swedish and international newspapers and journals, writing on literature, art, philosophy, media, and politics. He has translated, among others, Jürgen Habermas, Ulrich Beck, Judith Schalansky, and Elfriede Jelinek into Swedish.

Dessislava Gavrilova, born in Bulgaria in 1968, holds an M.A. in Theatre Studies from the National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts, Sofia. In 2005, Dessislava Gavrilova became the director of the Centre for Arts and Culture at the Central European University in Budapest. Previously, she had established and run the Budapest Performing Arts Network, stimulating independent, artistic work across Central, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet republics. She is the initiator and coordinator of Time to Talk and the co-founder and chairwoman of The Red House Centre for Culture and Debate in Sofia. She has also conducted research into British cultural policy at the University of Oxford.

Arian Leka, born in Durrës in 1966, holds a PhD in Albanology and is the author of 16 literary books, numerous scientific articles, and a monography. Four times he has been awarded the national prize for the best book of the year. Arian Leka is the cofounder of Writers in Residence in Tirana, supported by TRADUKI, and the editor of the cultural magazine Poeteka. Several of his books and texts are translated into foreign languages and can be found in Lettre International, Lichtungen, Asia Literary Review, and European Glasnik. Leka lives in Tirana, where he works at the Albanian Academy for Albanological Studies.

Nikola Madžirov, born in Strumica, Macedonia, in 1973, is a poet, essayist, and translator. His book Relocated Stone (2007) was given the Hubert Burda Poetry Award for authors from Eastern Europe; other awards include the Xu Zhimo Silver Leaf Award for European poetry from King’s College in Cambridge. His poems are translated into more than thirty languages. The US jazz composer Oliver Lake and the Italian composer Angelo Inglese composed music based on Madžirov’s poems. Madžirov was granted several international fellowships, including the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, DAAD

in Berlin, and TRADUKI writer-in-residence fellowships in Split, Tirana, and Belgrade. He lives in Strumica.

Sašo Ordanoski’s professional journalistic carrier spans over 30 years. He is a regular contributor to several local and international printed/electronic media as well as the author of three books and a dozen of studies. He was managing director and editor-in-chief of the national public broadcaster Macedonian TV and managing director of the national commercial television station Alsat-M. He is the founder and editor-in- chief of Forum Magazine and Programme Director of Forum’s Center for Strategic Research and Documentation in Skopje. He teaches sociology, journalism, media, and theory and practice of communication.

Ernst Osterkamp, born in Tecklenburg, Germany, in 1950, is a literary scholar, literary critic, and the President of the German Academy for Language and Literature. Between 1992 and 2016 he served as a Professor for New German Literature at the Humboldt University in Berlin. His research focusses on German literature from the Early Enlightenment and the Classic and Modern era, as well as the interconnected relationship between the arts. His work as a literary scholar encompasses numerous books on Goethe, Stefan George, and Rudolf Borchardt. His latest publication is Caroline von Humboldt und die Kunst (2017). He lives in Berlin.

Marko Pogačar, born in Split, Yugoslavia, in 1984, has thus far published eleven books, including poetry, essays and prose, and won several Croatian and international awards. In 2014, he published the anthology Young Croatian Lyric. He is an editor for the literary magazine Quorum and for, a web-magazine for cultural and social issues. He was a fellow of, among others, Civitella Ranieri, Literarisches Colloquium Berlin, Récollets-Paris, Internationales Haus der Autoren Graz, and Poeteka Tirana. His books and texts are translated into more than thirty languages.

László Rajk, born in Budapest in 1949, is an architect, designer, and former Hungarian dissident. He holds a PhD in Architecture from the Budapest University of Technology and

Economics. Since 1992, he has been working as a Professor for Production Design at the Hungarian Film Academy in Budapest. He holds lectures and master classes around the world, including the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University and the Film Factory at Sarajevo University. He served as the production designer for several internationally renowned films, including Béla Tarr’s latest offering and Son of Saul, which won an Oscar in 2016.

Artan Sadiku studied and did research at universities in Amsterdam, Oslo, Munich, and Baltimore and holds a PhD in Philosophy. He is a researcher, theorist, and activist and focuses on theories concerning the subject, feminism, and radical practices in politics and arts. He is the founder of the Culture Club Syndicate and the activist movement Solidarnost. He regularly contributes to regional and international journals, such as le Monde Diplomatique, Journal Identities, and Bilten. His latest works deal with questions regarding the place of art in society and the aesthetics of workers.

Elizabeta Sheleva, born in Ohrid in 1961, holds a PhD from Skopje University and is a professor of Theory and Methodology of Literary Study at the Department of Comparative Literature. She is the current president of the Independent Writers of Macedonia and the editor of the literary journal Naše pismo. She is also the president of the board of the international festival Struga Poetry Evenings and the editor of the regional literary and cultural magazine Sarajevo Notebooks. She has published more than 230 articles and 10 books. In her research, she focusses, among others, on post-colonial criticism (Balkan imagology), gender issues, and contemporary Macedonian literature.

Vlatko Stefanovski, born in Prilep, Macedonia, in 1957, is globally renowned for his unique guitar technique and tone. He performs all over the world, both as a soloist as well as with his guitar trio, or together with musicians, such as Miroslav Tadić, Stochelo Rosenberg, Jan Akkerman, and Manu Katché. He is the founder of one of the most significant bands of the former Yugoslavia, Leb i Sol, which released 14 albums. Stefanovski also composes music for film, theatre, and ballet. As a soloist he has performed and recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, MDR Symphony Orchestra Leipzig, Tonkünstler-Orchester Vienna, and RTV Ljubljana Big Band.

Luan Starova, born in Pogradec, Albania, in 1941, graduated from Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje and holds a PhD in French literature from the University of Zagreb. He went on to become a professor for French philology at the University of Skopje. After Macedonia’s independence, he served as the country’s Ambassador in Paris as well as in Madrid and Portugal. He also served as a Permanent Representative for Macedonia to the UNESCO. He is the author of several scientific and literary publications in Macedonian and Albanian and has received several prizes. Since 2003 he has been a Member of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and its Vice President since 2016.

Senada Šelo Šabić is a Senior Scientific Associate at the Institute for Development and International Relations in Zagreb. Her research interests include Croatian foreign policy, Southeast Europe, EU enlargement, and migration. She holds a Ph.D. in political science from the European University Institute in Florence and has earned two Master’s degrees – in international relations from the University of Zagreb and in peace studies from the University of Notre Dame, USA. Senada Šelo Šabić is the Editor-in-Chief of the Croatian International Relations Review and teaches in Croatia and abroad.

Cyrill Stieger, born in Oberriet, Switzerland, in 1950, studied Slavic Philology and Eastern European History in Zurich and Zagreb. After four years as an assistant for the seminar on Eastern European History at Zurich University he worked for three years at the Swiss Embassy in Moscow. Between 1986 and 2015 he was the foreign editor and correspondent for Neue Zürcher Zeitung. August 2017 saw the publication of his book Wir wissen nicht mehr, wer wir sind. Vergessene Minderheiten auf dem Balkan (We No Longer Know Who We Are. Forgotten Minorities of the Balkans) by Zsolnay Verlag. He lives in Zurich.

Nenad Šebek works as an international media and civil society consultant. He started his professional career in 1975 at Radio Belgrade and went on to work for the BBC between 1986 and 2002. He served as the Executive Director of the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe in Thessaloniki, before taking on the role of Spokesperson for the Regional Cooperation Council in Sarajevo. Till recently he was the Director of the Belgrade office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Šebek is also a visiting professor for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law at Vienna University.

Sreten Ugričić, born in 1961 in Yugoslavia, a country that no longer exists, is the author of nine books, including novels, stories, essays, and theoretical texts. He served as the Director of the National Library of Serbia from 2001 till 2012, when the Interior Minister of Serbia accused him of terrorism and he was fired by the Government of Serbia. Since then he has been living abroad. Between 2013 and 2015, he was a visiting researcher at Stanford University. Since 2016, he is a research associate at the seminar for Cultural Studies and Science Studies at the University of Lucerne, where he is also doing his PhD. He lives in Switzerland.

Agron Tufa, born in Diber, Albania, in 1967, studied Albanian philology at the University of Tirana and world literature at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow. There he also studied at the Russian State University for the Humanities (RGGU), obtaining an MA in literary translation, with a special emphasis on the poetry of Joseph Brodsky. He is a poet, author, and translator from Russian and a professor for 20th Century Foreign Literature at the Philological Faculty at the University of Tirana. He also serves as the director of the Institute for the Study of Communist Crimes in Albania and publishes a literary journal.

Volker Weichsel, born in 1973, is a political scientist with a special focus on Central Eastern and Eastern Europe. He is the editor of Osteuropa magazine, which explores the topics of politics, economy, society, and culture across all Eastern Europe and is published in Berlin. In the past he has worked in the fields of European integration and international relations as well as energy and environmental policy. As a translator he has translated both fiction and non-fiction from Russian into German. He feels a special affinity for the Balkans owing to his numerous travels around the region.

Olivera Kjorveziroska, born in Kumanovo in 1965, went to school in her hometown and studied at the Faculty for Philology in Skopje. She has published numerous shorty-story collections and novels for children and adults alike, as well  as reviews and essays and two poetry collections. Her stories can be found in twenty national and international anthologies of contemporary Macedonian literature and have been translated into many languages. She was awarded several important Macedonian literary prizes. For Spleteni raskazi she received the award for the best prose work of 2003 by the Macedonian Writers’ Association. Her story “Events Agency” is part of the anthology Best European Fiction 2019.

Ramadan Ramadani graduated with a degree in Theology from the University of Marmara, Istanbul, and holds a PhD in History from Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje. Currently he is teaching at the State University of Tetova. Since 2011, he is an analyst at the Skopje-based Institute for Free Thinking “Nisma”. He is a regular columnist for the Macedonian-language weekly, Fokus, and the Albanian-language newspapers, Lobi and Lajm. He has written widely on religion and Islam, is a member of the Macedonian Association of Journalists and the Association of Albanian Publishers and serves as the Director of the Macedonian Cultural Centre in Istanbul

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