Bojan Bilić: Not in our name: collective identity of the Serbian Women in Black

The Belgrade-based activist group Women in Black has been for twenty years now articulating a feminist anti-war stance in an inimical socio-political climate. The operation of this anti-patriarchal and anti-militarist organization, which has resisted numerous instances of repression, has not been until now systematically approached from a social movement perspective. This paper draws upon a range of empirical methods, comprising life-story interviews, documentary analysis and participant observation, to address the question as to how it was possible for this small circle of activists to remain on the Serbian/post-Yugoslav civic scene for the last two decades. My central argument is that a consistent collective identity, which informs the group’s resource mobilization and strategic options, holds the key to the surprising survival of this activist organization. I apply recent theoretical advances on collective identity to the case of the Belgrade Women in Black with the view of promoting a potentially fruitful cross-fertilization between non-Western activism and the Western conceptual apparatus for studying civic engagement.


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