St Antony's student Maximilian Lehmann (MPhil European Politics and Society) awarded Peter Kirk Travel Scholarship

St Antony's student Maximilian Lehmann (MPhil European Politics and Society) awarded Peter Kirk Travel Scholarship

21 March 2023

St Antony's student, Maximilian Lehmann (MPhil European Politics and Society) has been selected as a recipient of the prestigious Peter Kirk Travel Scholarship.

The scholarship was launched by Trinity College last year, with the aim of providing students with the opportunity to undertake independent research into any aspect of modern European culture. Nine scholarships were granted in 2023, selected from 50 applicants from across the University.

Max will travel to Kosovo to undertake research for his project, Post-conflict gendered emancipation through small-scale workers’ cooperatives in Kosovo.

He explained that almost 25 years after the violent conflict in Kosovo, the young Western Balkan country continues to face a variety of socio-political challenges linked to the outburst of ethnic violence between Kosovo-Albanians and ethnic Serbs, and the secession of the formerly autonomous region from Serbia in 2008. In addition to the ongoing political dispute in terms of Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo’s independent statehood, post-conflict rehabilitation remains wishful thinking in large parts of society on both sides of the border.

Recent instances of disputes between ethnic Serbs in the city of Mitrovica and an ongoing row concerning bureaucratic formalities such as mutual recognition of licences plates and personal documents serve as a point in case, despite the international community's continued efforts to mitigate conflict and promote reconciliation.

Post-conflict transition has, however, taken place in some instances, and Max will be using the Peter Kirk Travel Scholarship to research the Kooperativa Krusha, which is one example of how gradual reproachment between civilian members of former adversaries can overcome historically and politically imposed imperatives.

The Kooperativa constitutes a project started by Fahrije Hoti, a resident of the north-Kosovar village of Krusha e Madhe, which was the scene of one of the worst massacres of the 1998-1999 Kosovo War, committed by Serbian forces. Hoti, who lost her husband during this massacre, is but one of more than 140 women who lost their husbands or sons at that time, all living in the village which is now known as the Village of War Widows.

As a result of a lack of access to socio-economic support and the marginalised role war widows have often been subject to, Hoti started producing regional products such as Ajvar, a typical pepper-tomato spread, in 2005, with the ambition of a) gaining socio-economic independence for herself and her family and b) creating a support network for other women affected by the war.

The success of Hoti's enterprise offers a number of interesting questions which Max would like to contextualise through his fieldwork:

1.     How has the local social perception towards widows changed since the start of Kooperativa Krusha?

2.     To which extent is the Kooperativa Krusha linked to the Yugoslavian tradition of worker self-management?

3.     What can conflict-mediators learn from the experience of Kooperativa Krusha, and have similar cooperatives also been established in other areas in Kosovo?

Find out more about the Peter Kirk Travel Scholarship.