Ildiko Erdei
Faculty of Philosophy

Original scientific paper


Received:28. 02. 1997

ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN STUDENTLAND Narrative Multiplicity of the  Student Protest


APSTRAKT U kompleksnim društvenim situacijama, uvek postoji više različitih, nekad i suprotstavljenih vidjenja događaja, od strane ključnih aktera. U skladu sa sopstvenom pozicijom, pristupom moći, i konstelacijom političkih odnosa, oni se služe različitim sredstvima medijacije poruka i formatiraju drugačije slike o događaju, ali svoje poruke svi grade na ograničenom broju zajednički naslešenih priča, kulturnih simbola i narativnih konvencija, koje tvore “narativni konsenzus”

ABSTRAKT Complex social situations always go hand in hand with different, sometimes even contrasting understandings of events by their key actors. In line with their own positions, access to power and constellation of political relations these actors use different means to mediate a message and format the image of events, but they all build on a limited number of inherited stories, cultural symbols and narrative conventions they share and which account for a “narrative consensus”.


* * *

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting on the main city square and of having nothing to do, when suddenly a person ran close by her blowing his whistle like mad, with a man in a blue uniform holding a stick in his hand in his wake. Without giving it much thought Alice went after them and, passing through Kolarceva st, there was a lot to see indeed...[1]

On that particular day, same as on previous days, an endless human sea jammed Terazije square for the most numerous anti-regime demonstrations in the history of Serbia. They carried flags, portraits of political parties' leaders, makeshift cardboard banners affixed to wooden poles with slogans: “A sound mind in a sound walk”, “Turn the RTS off and your minds on”, “Turn a blind eye now and we may never see again”, “I am a passer-by”, “I think, therefore I am, I vote, therefore I can count”, “He and She on all channels, we on all streets"[2], to mention but a few. All of them, just like the character from the beginning, held whistles to their mouths, blowing them and creating a deafening noise all the time. An occasional vendor cut through the mass of people which grew increasingly thicker by the moment, with citizens converging on the city centre from all parts, offering badges with topical messages: Eggs for egg thieves, Together, He-walker/She-walker - 17 November '96, We won't surrender our victory, I am a student of the University of Belgrade... After them came others selling the press and protest “souvenirs” - postcards and goggles fashioned out of cardboard, resembling carnival eye masks, popularly called “walking-gogs”. Pushing through the crowd were also peddlers of whistles, a commodity in highest demand in Belgrade at that time. Their goods were sold-out first. Finally, as an indispensable part of mass rallies in the open and a remnant of the Levantine legacy of Belgrade, making his way through the throng came the vendor of snacks with his inveterate chant “peanuts, seeds, chick-pea”.

Since the end of November, the streets and squares of Belgrade became a scene used by Belgraders and the students of the University of Belgrade to stage their exciting and provocative manifestations during their months-long civic protest against the abuse of electoral procedure and manipulation with the results of the elections.[3] For days, tens of thousands of people and just as many students kept gathering at various places and at different times, but with the same wish - to fight for the respect of their vote in the elections and thus to confirm that they were still there alive. The plateau in front of the Faculty of Philosophy became a rallying-point for the students who would not concede to living in a country where “no rules are observed”. Asked by a journalist why he protested, a young man responded: “I personally protest because if we have to be shorn like sheep, if I cannot bite back, the least I can do is bleat. This protest should show whether it will be possible to make a change peacefully, or else in another way”.[4]

According to a survey carried out by the students of the 2nd and 3rd year of ethnology and anthropology,[5] at the very outset of the protests, namely during the first month, on a sample of 50 students of different faculties who gathered at the Faculty of Philosophy, 80 per cent of respondents (40) declared they joined the protest primarily because they considered it a moral imperative. “This is a moral act, an attempt to fight for a better future. Unless we tried, we would not know whether we could bring about any change”, thought a girl-student of economy in her 3rd year of studies. Her colleague from the Faculty of Philology (3rd year) protested as she wanted to plead for justice, and believed that unjust acts were an existential threat because “the one who annihilates your vote, also annihilates yourself and your freedom”. A student of the 4th year of stomatology thought along the same lines when he said: “I was prompted to join the protest by a question I had asked myself - Where will injustice lead us? Where will we end up?” It is obvious that an outright violation of electoral rules made the students wonder about the possible repercussions of the inoperative basic institutions of the system. This caused fear among them and “the feeling of being endangered, a fear of recurring injustice penetrating all pores of everyday life, including my student's life”, as explained by a student of the first year of Philosophy. While he pondered about his possible defencelessness, his colleague, a freshman at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, articulated his bitterness and tumultuous emotions in a single word of explanation for his joining the protest: “Rage”, while a student of the 2nd year of classical sciences believed that the rules of the social fair play have been violated - “I am offended by the disrespect of rules. That is what made me join the protest. I do not rejoice at the prospect of missing a lot of lectures, but I do wish to graduate in a country where I belong and where I want to create a proper place for myself."

There is hardly a public person who has failed to voice his/her view over the past few months, either supporting or opposing the civil and student protests. Abstainers were almost non-existent. This continuing and intensive stream of messages on the protest, from within and without, the attempts to define the nature of the process and comparisons with previous students protests, anticipations of its evolvement, scope and results, its symbolic foundations and multiple meanings, all allow us to distinguish between two major lines in communicating the protest messages. They are substantially different, since the initial elements (senders) in the two chains of communication are social groups which are differently positioned in the social circumstances of the protest. These are actually, the key actors of protest-related events, who are the “confronted” parties in the protest itself: on the one hand, the ruling group, embodied in the state officials who are simultaneously prominent personalities of the governing party and, on the other, the students group in protest. They have different expectations of the Protest, different social interests and, in line with their social position, seek to format an image of the protest which would correspond to the general image of the world such as they advocate. However, they use different means to convey their messages and create their own picture of the world and “accounts” of the protest. The state structures have access to all the channels of the state television (RTS), and the organizational structure of its managing and editorial team enables the governing party to exercise firm control over the RTS. Thus, one might say that the state television mostly formats the image of reality which generally matches the official political views.[6] The students in the protest do not have the same treatment in RTS programmes, which is why they opt for the alternative way of communication - ritualized action in the streets.

COMMUNICATION SCHEME: or who sends the message to whom, how and why

We will assume that the communication scheme is essentially the classical one of Lasvel's consisting of three basic and two accompanying elements of communication.[7] The main elements are the sender (who says), the message itself (what) and receiver (to whom), while the accompanying elements are the means of imparting the message (in which channel) and its consequences (with what effects).[8] It is clear that we have identified the ruling group as a sender, on one side, and students in the protest, on the other. The receiver of the message is in the first place the public, since it is explicitly addressed by both, but occasionally the “confronted” party may also appear as a direct receiver in which case the “public” acts as mediator and jury. Particular attention in this paper will be devoted to the messages themselves, but rather than analyzing them individually (which would be a substantial undertaking currently beyond the possibilities or intentions of the author), it will rather focus on their structuring to form complex semantic wholes - narratives - which will serve for “producing the orientation” of both those who create these narratives and those who take these as the bases to build their own image of events, establish their relation towards it and take relevant decisions.

Another specific question, which would also take too much space to elaborate in this paper, is the one of the role of channels used to convey the messages in this specific situation, for the structuring, internal cohesion and effects which differently “channelled” messages had on the public, on the one hand, and, on the other, especially in the case of rituals, on the group which might be designated as the sender. The specific feature of the communication chain of the student group is that, in addition to playing the role of the sender they actually - through the ritual action they perform - act as the very channel for conveying the messages, in contrast to the ruling group which uses professional services of RTS journalists. That is why it would be quite justified to consider additional dimensions of this choice of mediation. In other words, one could rightly ask the question of the epistemological dimension of the ritual which is being performed for the participants themselves who are simultaneously group senders of messages.

Alice thought she has never seen such a funny group which behaved so unusually in all her life. They were just passing by the building of the state television and they all, as if on command, turned their heads and pinched their noses. The ground-floor windows still bore egg stains, traces of days-long “bombing”, and it appeared to Alice that from the inside she heard a voice similar to the well known command of the Queen of Hearts: “Off with their heads!"

Despite the fact that in this work the ritual and the television appear as confronted channels for communication of messages, numerous authors who examined the communicative potential of the traditional forms of narrations and their use in modern media, believe that a sufficient number of elements link these two ways of conveying the events.[9] Roger Silverstone supports the thesis, developed through years-long research, that there is a specific relation between television and myth as modern and traditional means by which a society, through culturally recognizable forms, communicates with itself.[10]

Relying primarily, although not exclusively, on the approaches created by the French anthropological tradition - Levi-Strauss' analysis of myth, Marcel Maus' theory of magic, Arnold van Gennep's structure of the rite of passage and Durkheim's theory of the relation between religion (ritual) and society - Silverstone builds a framework wherein he considers the role of the TV as the one of a new “producer of sense” in modern society. As one of the most powerful means for representing the reality in the 20th century, television offers models of desirable patterns in all spheres of life, in everyday life, but simultaneously, as Durkheim's would put it, it ensures the focusing of social attention and mobilization of collective energy and enthusiasm in important moments for the collective and, e.g. by marking important state holidays, television itself creates a new form of “collective agitation” transposed into the homes of millions of its viewers.

Silverstone interprets the transition to the “TV reality” in van Gennep's terms of the rite of passage where the viewers through a “liminal” experience of sharing in the virtual reality of a TV representation go from one stage of the usual mundane activities to another. They, for a time, leave the world of the known, entering the one of the unknown to return to the familiar one transformed by the “experience of passage”. Ritual properties could be found in the daily monitoring of the evening TV news, which at the end of each day, translates the new and unfamiliar events of the world abounding in controversies and terrifying manifestations, into the known and familiar concepts presented in a recognizable reference framework which enhances the feeling of safety among the audience.[11]

Interpretative activity of the television in stable social circumstances, becomes dramatic in situations characterized by stormy social crises and sharpened interests of the conflicting social groups when the TV, in addition to the regular job of “defining the day” obtains an additional role of a mediator in the social conflict as well as the possibility to share in its articulation itself, by calming or fanning the passions (by offering appropriate interpretations, possible solutions, alternatives, by appeasing the parties to the conflict etc.). From the start of the November “yellow revolution”, thus called for the eggs the citizens used to “bomb” the state-controlled media (RTS, paper and radio Politika) the state TV has been the centre of the public attention. The history of democratization in Serbia could be interpreted as the struggle for unblocking the media, most of which are directly or indirectly controlled by the authorities. This struggle in Serbia has its own history, its tradition, victims and symbols, and forms the very bases for building the entire culture of political protests of the early '90s in Belgrade and throughout Serbia.

"I WISH TO LIVE IN A RTS COUNTRY”, or: construction of a TV myth

"Would you tell me,” said Alice, a little timidly, “why you are painting these roses?' Five and Seven said nothing but looked at Two. Two began in a low voice, “Why the fact is, you see, Miss, this here ought to have been a red rose tree and we put a white one in by mistake; and if the Queen was to find out, we should all have our heads cut off."[12]

For the first few days of the civil and student protest, the state TV remained silent and ignored tens of thousands of citizens who demonstrated in the streets of Belgrade and other towns in Serbia.[13] But, once the “walks” had started and assumed a regular route - named “Media Walk” later on - from Terazije Square along a few streets in the centre (Srpskih vladara, Kneza Miloša, Takovska), passing by the TV building, and the seat of Politika media house (Lole Ribara st.) back to Terazije (or the Republic Square), this state medium could no longer keep silent about the mass protests. This marks the beginning of media formatting of the story of the protest, by building a narrative structure based on the division and antiethic confrontation of those who partake in the protest or support it and others who do not share in the protest or disagree with it. Classification of the former into the category of “they"/"others”, and defining the letter as “us"/"normal citizens” whose views and interests are represented by the television in the name of the ruling elite, provided a framework to unfold an anti-ethically structured story, using the same matrix as the models of mythical narration. After a period of calm, the building of the “story” started by first portraying the “others”, their intentions and nature of activities. Commented reports from the protest mark the objectives of the Coalition “Together” (Zajedno) leaders as “destabilization of Serbia, its compromising in the world, slow-down of Yugoslavia's integration into the international community and even the opening of the Kosovo question”.[14] The “others” are marginals, off the main course of the “clear-cut state orientation” which has rhetorically defined “the establishment of links with Europe” one of its primary objectives. When, in response to these comments of the state media, the buildings of main media houses were exposed to a barrage of eggs, bagsful of red paint and an occasional[15] stone, this provided ample grounds to elaborate and interpret the characteristics of “others” in a substantially wider context.[16]


Structure of the mythical story

Since early December the block of daily news dedicated to the events in Belgrade had a precisely defined structure. Initially, it offered pictures from the spot. The cameraman would go through the mass, shooting close-ups or edges of the column. This did not offer any clue as to the number of the people present. The protest was never filmed in total or from a bird's-eye view. The picture was devoid of its original sound and the commentator would usually start his comment by saying: “Supporters of Coalition 'Together' who grow increasingly fewer by day have today again, as they put it, walked the streets of Belgrade. And this is what the citizens of Belgrade think about it.” Cut. Follows a survey of “embittered citizens of the capital”, and Serbia who are “prevented from going about their daily life”.[17] “We"/"common citizens” believe that “THIS” (without ever defining what THIS meant) is “horrible”, “criminal” and even that the “ring leaders should be arrested so we could continue living in peace”. An “ordinary citizen” asked who she thought the participants in the demonstrations were, said: “Well, probably those who have nothing else to do. People who have to get up early and go to work and women who have to cook the meals are certainly not there”. Cut. Cameras take the viewers to a village, into one of the numerous “industrious farmer households” throughout Serbia, where people “produce and work hard” while (in overtones) some destroy and demolish the capital. Thus, after their work has been presented as hard and toilsome and, moreover, performed under difficult and harsh conditions, farmers-creators without fail condemn the “vandalism and violence in Belgrade”, as “they are wrong to do that” (of which the farmers, all from the far-away parts of Serbia, learn exclusively via the state Television, I.E.), do not understand why “they create unrest”, and “fail to accept the legitimately manifested will of the people” (sic). “The wreck and ruin are the doing of those who don't know how to work. Those who do - they build and create”, says a farmer from Pester for the public. Naturally, the farmers believe that “it is wrong that they (und. I.E.) should destroy what we (und. I.E.) have built for 50 years”. “And, once again, we will have to pick the tab”, says an angry TV-interviewee, a viewer from distant, “more natural” parts of Serbia.

A story so formatted has clearly confronted the main protagonists - citizens of Serbia - classifying them into two unequally valued categories. At one end are those who wish “to work and produce”, to “create and build”, to “preserve the image of Serbia in the world” and “recognize electoral results” however obtained. On the other end are those who “wreck and ruin”, “spit and insult”, “disgrace Serbia” and demand the return of “stolen votes”. For the ruling class and its monopolized medium, and especially for the wide strata of the population whose only aid in “generation of meaning” is the TV, a story of events so formatted leaves scant space for different interpretations and judgements. Daily broadcasts of such blocs of commented reports, finally created a simulated picture of a TV-Serbia, homogenized both by an emotionally increased tension, “rebelling along the length and breadth of the country"[18], and by the people's justified anger reproachfully addressed the “destroyers of Serbia”. Virtualization of reality reaches its peak in the statement of an “ordinary citizen” who bases her “view” of the events - wherein she, admittedly, takes no part and which she “follows” through the RTS - on surveys done by this same house: “One can get to the bottom of it, with the surveys you have shown, that the citizens are embittered”.[19] This strategy of the RTS proved catastrophic when, on the day of the counter-rally “for Serbia” these two categories of Serbian citizens confronted each other in a real setting on the streets of Belgrade. Those citizens of Serbia “closer to the nature and creativeness” who were, over the past months of a RTS campaign, led to believe that they really were the sole and true “guardians of virtue” of the state, paid a painful price for their one-month experience of ritual “liminality” wherein it appeared to them that “everything was possible” and it only took a bus ride to “that Belgrade” to show “them” how “numerous we were”.[20]

Their “aggregation” into the world of reality was humiliating. The citizens of Belgrade (which was not wrecked as the counter-ralliers believed), insulted and confused them, took away their banners and saw them off with whistles and stones. Many of them came home disgusted and terrified, defeated more than transformed which they should have been according to the logic of the ritual effect.

In early January 1997, Coalition “Together” started an action for noise production using various tools, primarily pots and pans, at the time of the central media ritual - broadcasting of TV news at 19.30. An action with a running title “Pick up the beat and they may beat it”, brought a multitude of citizens to their windows, balconies and yards armed with pots, pans, lids, vacuum cleaners, trumpets and other paraphernalia to produce the “evening” noise, as opposed to the “daily” noise of whistles. Quite often there were conflicts, mostly of verbal nature, among citizens supporting different views: some wanted to hear the RTS “sum up the day"[21] at the usual time while others created noise to protest against the manner of reporting of the state TV and prevented their neighbours from hearing the news they believed were false.[22] The television incorporated this noisy movement into the final version of the TV myth, by referring to it as a part of the master plan of “foreign powers” called the “Brain Storm”. Extending its implications to the region of the Balkans and quoting the examples of current protests in Bulgaria where they also used noise as a form of non-violent protest, the creators of the TV myth rounded off the “story” of the “world-wide conspiracy against the Serbian people”, much-exploited during the past years. This classifies this TV story, built on the patterns of mythical narration, into the category of political myths with a central motive of conspiracy, thereby enriching the body of this type of political myths which have been fairly important in the domestic political practice over the past few years.[23]

"A HANDFUL OF STUDENTS”, or how did the TV present the scholars

Bearing in mind the structural position of the student population,[24] and also the experience of recent protests (1991 and 1992) which have demonstrated that citizens become easily attached to students and manifest greater readiness to support their requests, the TV did not dare to apply to them the same criteria it did in the case of civic protests. Therefore, it set out to minimize the student protest both in quantitative and quality terms. After the initial “silence”, reporting on the student protest started by ushering a newly formed organization called the Independent Students Movement. Only then did the Serbian citizens outside Belgrade could hear of the daily protests of “a part of students of the University of Belgrade”, while “the other part” (implying the overwhelming majority) refused the protest and discontinuance of instructions and wanted to “learn and give exams”. The Independent Students Movement was, just like every other positive hero, strongly promoted by the state TV which used it as the basis to build a story of “others” among students who were not all that “we” - the “honest”, “hard-working” and “non-manipulated” “genuine students” - were.[25] In contrast to those who would wish to attend the classes, i.e. to “create”, same as their TV counterparts from the “industrious farmer households”, the “other students” only want to have fun, “they prolong their studies for who knows how long, and even bring their music for fun”.[26] In other words, the public has once again been offered the story of those who “build” and others who “wreck”, about the “forces of order” confronting the “forces of chaos”, about “light” vs. “darkness”, albeit in a somewhat more sophisticated rendition.

When the students parodying the spirit of time the “TV-builders” spoke of, the post-war “construction of the country”, the proletarian enthusiasm which monopolizes “everything we have been building for 50 years”,[27] responded by building a wall in front of the federal parliament under the slogan: “We do not destroy, we build”, the TV used this event for further stigmatization of the civic protest. Namely, the report was so construed that one could not grasp the purpose of the action, while the commentator - without offering the basic explanation offered by the students themselves and transmitted by other electronic media, followed by the press the next day - simply “read into it” the official interpretation - “the students distance themselves from Coalition 'Together'“. This procedure is known in the theory of communication as “context clipping”, which entirely depersonalizes the original context, divesting it of the previous connotations and layers of meaning, thus allowing it to be manipulated. Interpolation of parts of the decontextualized text into a new one, accompanied by an additional interpretation results not only in a substantial change of the meaning but also generates a mistaken impression about who sends the message to whom and how, i.e. creates a confusion as to the type of the message and the lines of its communication.

In order to deserve a seriously intoned rendition on the RTS one had to make an appropriately important sacrifice and, in line with the rules of the game prescribed by the ruling elite, address the message to a serious recipient. This is what the 17 students from Nis did, by travelling to Belgrade on foot in groups of three, to bring the President of the Republic 17 disputable (falsified) electoral records from their town. They were granted an audience and the state TV made a report to be broadcasted on its prime-time information programmes. “Rest assured that by coming to see me you have made the best possible move and I will personally see that your problems be resolved in the best way”, said the President playing the role of a gracious host, offering refreshments to his guests after their long journey. “However, we must make it clear,” added Miloševi_, “that although your leaders tour the embassies, send envoys or themselves travel to the capitals of the world - Serbia will not be ruled by a foreign hand. We are our own lords and masters here in Serbia and must resolve our problems within our institutions”.[28] The first meeting of the students' representatives with the President of the Republic, after their talks at the University Chancellery in March 1991, was used to convey to the public a message which soon became an inspiration to the organizers of a series of rallies in support of the official policy of the Serbian leadership and, finally, the motto of the counter-rally held in Belgrade on 24 December 1996 - “Serbia will not be ruled by an alien hand”.[29] At this rally, the speech of the President of the Republic, the ultimate, but invisible hero of the official TV story, and simultaneously the “lord of all TV stories”, finally explicated the structure of roles: “... They (und. I.E.) have all, from without and within, in collusion, sought to weaken us. But, I am telling you that their attempts will make us (und. I.E.) stronger rather than weaker”.[30]

All the above-mentioned examples of the manner adopted by the state TV in reporting on the civil and student protests reveal a narrative pattern which is based on traditional oral narratives and even the structure of mythical story-telling. TV news which presented the “story” of the protests most, are more than the ordinary sum of facts. They are, as noted by Bird and Dardenne (1988) a special symbolic system which is daily “fed” with diverse facts of various kinds, but arranged in such a way as to enable the reading of a lasting and recognizable story in its diverse manifest forms. They define the categories “good for thinking” (Levi-Strauss), and devise artificial boundaries to arrange the reality by creating “events” and determining their nature. In our case again, TV representation of the protests in the streets of Belgrade and other towns in Serbia tended to interpret the new and unknown events within a matrix already well-known to the audience, the one of eternal struggle for justice, purity, independence and simplicity, the struggle which “the small Serbia” had carried out for ages against the “foreign, haughty conquerors and their servants, domestic traitors”. In our context, this matrix which could be considered a variant of the universal story of the conflict between the “domestic” and the “savage” domains, culture and nature as the last in a chain of Levi-Straussian antithesis, corresponds to the St. Vitus Day myth, which may be considered one of the most essential patterns of socialization in the Serbian national culture.[31] In the Battle of Kosovo, which is the backbone of the national mythology, the Serbs crossed swords with the Turks, not wishing to give up their independence and freedom without fighting the enemy - numerically superior in this case. Remembrances of the Battle of Kosovo or the motives of the St. Vitus Day myth have always provided a suitable framework to actualize the problem of sacrificing for the collective and opposing a vastly superior enemy, the issues of loyalty to the leader and the community as well as the eternal problem of treason. In our case, the role of the traitor is “naturally” assigned to Vuk Drašković, who is a structural heir to Vuk Branković “the traitor of Kosovo”, as witnessed by slogans equating the two names, frequently voiced by the supporters of the authorities at their rallies.

Alice went timidly up to the door and knocked. “There's no sort of use in knocking,” said their Footman, “and that for two reasons. First, because I'm on the same side of the door as you are; secondly, because they're making such a noise inside, no one could possibly hear you.” And certainly there was a most extraordinary noise going on within.[32]

If the creators of TV-mediation used the epistemological properties of traditional patterns of narration and ritual, the students were extremely successful in harnessing the communication potential of the ritual action, by making it the dominant and decisive means to convey their own information to the public and respond to the messages from the TV screen.

In his study Ritual, Politics and Power which addresses the use and role of symbols in the political struggle for power, David Kertzer (1988) lists various functions of ritual in social strategies: to mark one's own political position and distinctive identity; to link the local with the national sphere of action; to invest, i.e. divest of power; to establish legitimacy.[33] Among the various possibilities for the use of ritual as culturally and politically efficient means, Kertzer opts for its communicative potential. He believes that ritual contributes to the “cognitive economy”, namely that it helps select the facts which are considered essential for the functioning of a community, especially in times of pronounced social apprehension.[34]

The use of rituals as communication channels largely enhances the receptivity of messages, since communicational research has indicated that people devote much more attention to the information they are presented in a clear, direct and vividly impressive manner.[35] Having the knowledge of it or merely sensing it by an intuition of political naturals, the students promoted their walks into daily ritual actions,[36] during which they used various constellations of space symbols[37] and diverse dramatisations to clearly respond to the messages addressed to them, but also to impart their own messages to the public. Thus, the walks became political declarations of a kind and prompt responses to daily challenges, while they simultaneously created the narrative tissue of the great “story” of the protest, seen through the eyes of alternative protagonists.

A survey carried out early on in the protest by the students of the 2nd and the 3rd year of ethnology/anthropology, revealed that the majority of respondents-students recognized the communicational potential of walks. Over half the respondents believed that walks were necessary to inform the public of the very existence of the student protest ("We walk to be seen, to draw the attention”, - student of mechanical engineering, 1st year; “People should see what we are fighting for, that we do not destroy” - student of philology, 3rd year), as they saw for themselves that the state TV failed to report on the events in the capital during the first days ("If you sit at the faculty no one can see you or know what is happening” - freshman at ethnology/anthropology). The second achievement of the walks is seen in their ability to reveal the number of protesters and the power of the protest ("We must show that we are physically and psychically fit”, student of stomatology, 4th year; “We have to show how many of us there are” - student of economy, 3rd year; “To show that were are not a handful” - student of political sciences, 2nd year), and then also to ensure the awareness of the lasting nature of the protest and the persistence of students ("We are strong and proud” - female student of political sciences, 2nd year; “We show that we are not alone” - student of philology, 4th year; “I feel powerful” - female student of philology, 4th year).

HM THE WALK, or: Students' “search for the Holy Grail"

In addition to messages sent to the public, ritual activity (in our case daily walk) gives the participants an opportunity to communicate among themselves, which largely contributes to their constitution as a group[38] and, instead of a monologue, also promotes the institution of discussion as a considerably more democratic form of communication. During the walks which represented the crown of daily activities and were awaited with anticipation and even called for, sometimes by cheers, the students toured all city points of importance in terms of power (seats of the institutions of the system, the road leading to the residence of the President of the Republic, regime-controlled media houses) as well as those which should convey the specific message (Central Committee building, city police, TANJUG, Ušće). Walks confirmed the claim on a territory which has already been “conquered”, on “one's own world” - the inner city centre and the Plateau as the centre of this symbolic universe - but they also included efforts to expand its range with more or less successful results.[39] Finally, on a few points in the town pyramids fashioned out of cardboard were placed, called the “Rubicon": a few dozen metres in front of multiple police cordons which banned moving in certain directions (mostly direct access to Dedinje) and, in the urban ambient, resembled multiplied characters from the “Star Wars”. The charismatic representative of the students Čedomir Čeda Jovanović[40] addressed the cordon positioned near the U.S.A. Embassy blocking the road to Dedinje, with the following words: “We want you to tell us whether you are here because of us at all? Maybe you are waiting for someone else? There is no need for helmets, truncheons, shields or flak jackets, these here are only the students of Belgrade. Can you tell us why we cannot go through and who ordered that? (...) We have set out to a protest walk today. We wanted to place the “Rubicon” on Dedinje, but we will put it here, and make it a border between us (und. I.E.) and them (und. I.E.)”.[41]

Within this limited space the students continued to publicly present their views and dramatize their political messages. They were not always content with simple declarations of discontent, e.g. with media manipulation or the rough manner of the police during their demonstration walks to the buildings of the TV or the city police, or even their circling. As the time passed, they supplemented the walks with other forms of activities, which additionally dramatized specific topics they thought deserved wider elaboration as was, e.g. the case with the already mentioned “heave ho!” construction of the wall in front of the Yugoslav parliament, the ritual giving of presents to the President of the Republic, the “rally of support” to the replacement of the university president or the car-rally on Ušće, alluding to the methods and technology of rule of the governing party (organizing “spontaneous” support and abusing the “institutions of the system"). Definitely noteworthy were the ritual actions which might be classified as “cleaning endeavours” in the course of which the “tools of this world” (detergents, brushes and brooms) were used for physical purification of certain spaces from moral disgrace which was emitted from or out of these and which symbolically polluted them (Terazije after the counter-rally, University Chancellery after the “disgraceful” session where a number of University Council members publicly voted for one thing and secretly for another, the building of the Serbian Assembly whose president would not convene the parliament). Finally, the actions which prevailed in the last stage of the protest were those of ritual recapitulation, settling of accounts within the protesting group, a kind of writing of their own history. The tour of the “places of holy pilgrimage"[42] to celebrate a hundred days of the protest established a continuity between the ongoing student protest and the former opposition protests and added to the post-war tradition of protests in Serbia. An action carried out in collaboration with the artistic group Led-art, intended to recall and locate the moments of violence during the three-month protest (including outlining the contours of the injured and the assaulted), represented a “moral investigation” of a kind.

STRUGGLE TO CONTROL THE MEANING, or: the biography of slogans

However different the manner of expression of the students and the messages they created and promoted, were from the official interpretation of events, the elements which served as the material to build their messages could not have originated outside the social-cultural context of which both confronted groups were a part. They derived from the collective experience of the community while the current situation and the relations established in it are merely one of the social constellations which may but may not be repeated. It is, therefore understandable that the messages were construed from a common stock of elements, and relied on the assumed common basis of generally acceptable meanings. In order to “specificate” a message and make it a distinctive mark of a social group, in this case of the young, one must resort to “dramatic variation”, change of context or another means which will ensure that the language it uses is impressive and special as well as recognizable.

Through continuing communication in the course of an event or in relation to it the actors actually, struggle to control the interpretation, to obtain the right to be the ones to ultimately determine the meanings. These continuing “struggles” are accompanied by instances of “theft of meaning”, i.e. processes of resignification of objects or procedures.[43] There are a few ways to do this, all of which were efficiently applied by the students in our context, including in particular:

1. Interpretation of the meaning “given” in the official culture through the codes created in the culture of the alternative group.

In case we accept that ironical switch and humour are essential stylistic features of the students protest, then this procedure offers the basis to create an exceptionally rich trove of rallying cries, slogans, mottoes and generally the verbal inventory of the protest. The most characteristic product of this “outwitting” may be the juggling with a sentence: “I love you too”, addressed by the President of the Republic to his followers at the counter-rally obviously in order to make them stop their tiresome cheering, so he could go on with his speech. Having been uttered once this sentence was reproduced in numerous variants, using different media (badges, slogans, banners, daily communication, dramatizations during walks) for the single purpose of making an ironical switch to demystify the nature of relations between the leader and his subject and to register this in many way unique demonstration of a ruler's moroseness materialized in a multitude of ways;

2. Modification of things produced and used within the official culture.

This was, for instance, the case of the action of offering the President bread and salt. On this occasion, the students used an inversion of the traditional custom which implied the inversion of its traditional meaning. Thus, the “traditional” message that a good host offers his guests bread and salt - obtained a new, reverse meaning - if the guests are the ones who bring the above-mentioned offerings, it means the host is not good.[44] Another interesting example is also the way in which the students linked the celebration of the World Day of Struggle against AIDS with their own protest action. Bearing in mind that this health campaign was promoted at state level, as a matter of public and general interest, the students built their message by creating an unusual bond between the judiciary and the generally accepted meaning of the Serbian word for condom (prezervativ - protector). That day, they demonstrated in front the building housing the Supreme Court of Serbia, which had, during the previous days, manifested its “dependence” on the authorities by confirming the validity of numerous objections by the governing party. The students carried banners spelling “Condoms for poltroons - to miss it when they kiss it” and a multitude of condoms of various colours and forms. They hung 100 of them on the building of the Supreme Court ironically reminding the judges of the “risk of promiscuity” thus showing what they thought of the judges' moral attributes.

3. Change of a “given” meaning through its intensification, exaggeration, or isolation.

This is also a widespread technique of building the messages. The operation to “disinfect” the Serbian parliament came in reaction to the statement by its president that he could not convene the parliament due to “regular disinfection” of the building to exterminate rats and bugs. The students reacted to this cynical explanation by organizing themselves to make a “constructive” contribution to the effort and set out to clean the parliament of “vermin” of all kinds.

Slogans like the ones “I am a feeble minded, underage manipulated fascist”, or “40,000 baby-sitters wanted” represent an intensified version of a statement by the above mentioned president of the parliament given to the RTS, that the demonstrations in the streets of Belgrade were “violent, destructive demonstrations bearing all the characteristics of profascist groups and ideologies (...)”. Mothers with children in their arms or in prams, sporting a lettering which said “I am a minor child of fascist parents who manipulate me” could be seen in the streets of Belgrade - a picture which rendered the off-handed and dangerous official qualifications completely meaningless.

Quite widespread were the “prison compound walks” promoted at the time when the police started to prohibit and physically prevent the walks. The students amplified the implicit meaning of this decision of the state authorities, clearly and visibly. “We are prisoners who may be and are subject to bans”, they said with expressive gestures, walking in circles, hands on their heads, in Knez Mihajlova st. The second part of the message they tried to convey by emphasizing the picture of their humiliating position was the following: “If we admit to being prisoners, then you are admittedly our jailers and despots”.

The students brought to the streets of Belgrade an entire world of their own images, preoccupations, fantasies, popular fictions which made the urban landscape of Belgrade occasionally resemble a stage set where they experimented with the laws of dramaturgy and stage direction of their own lives. During a week-long action “Cordon against Cordon”, Kolračeva st. with fires lit in the open resembled the American suburbs and scenes from the films of the urban delinquent guerillas. Or perhaps the scene from the film “Hair” where the hippies, gathered around a can darting tongues of flame burned their conscription orders. Screams during one of the first strolls by Brankos bridge could be a collective homage to Lisa Minelli in the “Cabaret” while numerous slogans which literally quoted the lines from dramas and films by Dusan Kovacević bear witness of the sensibility of this “age class” educated on new forms of art, with the knowledge and appreciation of the rock, comic strips and movies. The discotheque “Chez Blue Cordon” in front of the police cordon which for a whole week prevented the students from passing on to Terazije, turned into the largest and most numerous rave party[45] in Belgrade ever, while the daily walks invariably started with one of the slogans identifying protesters as the inhabitants of the “global village” and consumers of mass fiction: “I set the wheat on fire” (alluding to a line from a serial “Salaš u Malom ritu” - “The student set the wheat on fire"), “Sloba killed Laura Palmer” (hinting at the mega-hit serial Twin Peaks) or the drawing of the Lucky Luke a hero of a comic who tells the university president “This town is too small for both of us”. The students walked and while walking demonstrated their communicative competence in terms of globally known and accepted codes of mass culture.

"LONG LIVE OUR PARENT'S CHILDREN”, or: narrative consensus within a culture

The students protest appeared as a symptom of a social crisis which run much deeper than the crisis caused by the tampering with electoral results in the autumn of 1996. This crisis has already been systematically addressed[46], and the rebellion of the young and the student population is one of its manifest forms. It is experienced as a radical split with the thus far dominant systems of values and the surfacing of an alternative value system which should serve as the basis to build a new model of culture. The student protest has actually presented the possibilities to formulate alternative models of enculturation using the elements of cultural “tradition “ as well as parts of the official culture, but these were handled in a way which revealed that the public discourse the students advocate is characterised by irony, self-criticism, and continuing reexamination of the achieved. It promoted plurality and dialogue, legitimized the diversity of the simultaneously existent, using a repertoire of expressive means available to all members of the community. In this sense, communication of the students could be considered conservative in its formal structure as it operates within an array consisting of a “widely acceptable 'language', the heritage of common stories, ideas, types of characters, cultural symbols and narrative conventions” which form the very core of a culture and its “narrative consensus” and generate central mythologies (Thornburn, 1988:57). The lighting of candles, symbolism of religious holidays, the implications of Christian relics, bread and salt, brandy, hawthorn stake and a string of garlic[47], elite work brigades, motives of defenders of the domestic hearts and traitors and the related symbols, the holiness of signs, are but a few of mythologemae of the Serbian folk and historical tradition upon which all participants in the communication draw on, seeking to make use of the change to preserve the symbolical pledge of their own identity. Thus, the students in different ways try to “negotiate” with their own social position and the desired social projections and, despite an apparent radicalism, try to find compromise solutions for their contradictory needs: to develop their own specificity and to show they are different from the generation of their parents and ancestors along with a simultaneous need to identify with their parents and generations of their predecessors whose support they, nevertheless, wish to obtain. This is perhaps the best expressed by the slogan “Long live our parents' children”.

I will conclude this attempt at reconstructing the complexity and multidimensionality of events as well as the narrative layers of the student and even civil protest, as revealed through a multitude of messages, images and performances which have through different channels been communicated in the protest itself and in relation with it by recalling the characteristics of the ritual process, in Victor Turner's terms, which may lead us to gloomy prognoses. The communitas of the students protests has for months inspired the participants and researchers to turn to this energy in search of the prime movers of the spiritual and social transformation of Serbia. But, Turner himself noted that the more intensive and livelier the ideal and practice of the communitas is, the more it requires the inevitable structuring to rest on greater hierarchy and firmer foundations. Maximization of the communitas leads to the maximization of the structure, and then again to the need for the creation of the new communitas. Not one society could function without this dialectics, says Turner.[48] The experience of the constitution of the students' parliament and the first reports on the manner of its work and its sessions which in every way resemble the functioning of the totally compromised official parliament, only confirm this view of Turner's. Does this mean that we are in for a new protest?

Now I don't know what is going on here at all, said Alice with a sigh. When I used to read stories, I never thought that things so complicated could happen, and now I am up to my chin in them. One could write a story about it, and what a story it would be! And I will write it. One day.



Babović, Marija et al., 1997 Ajmo, ajde svi u šetnju, Medija Centar i ISI FF, Beograd

Carey, W. James (ed). 1988: Media, Myths and Narratives - Television and the Press, Sage Publications

Cohen, Abner, 1974: Two-Dimensional Man, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London

Djordjević, Jelena (ed.), 1986: “Praznici, svetkovine, rituali”, Kultura 73-74-75, Beograd

Djordjević, Jelena, 1996: Političke svetkovine i rituali, Dosije, Beograd

Hall, Stuart & Jefferson, Tony (ed.), 1993: Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-war Britain, Routledge

Ketrtzer, David, 1988: Ritual, Politics and Power, New Haven & London: Yale University Press

Lane, Christel, 1981: The Rites of Rulers - Rituals in Industrial Society : the Soviet Case, Cambridge University Press

Naumović, Slobodan, 1995: “Ustaj seljo, ustaj rode: Simbolika seljaštva i politička komunikacija u novijoj istoriji Srije”, Godišnjak za društvenu istoriju, Beograd


[1]        Parts of the texts in italics are either quotes from “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland” or modern variants of the original text, which although adjusted to our context preserve the same structure of narration. Quotations are used in cases when they correspond with the text of the study, and in suchinstances there are also references to their source. However, in other cases when too many imaginary characters would unnecessarily burden the text of the study I resorted to devising passages according to Lewis Carroll's model. Such passages in the text are merely italicized.

[2]     More details on the systematization of the slogans created and used during the Student Protest '96/97 are given in a paper by Petar Dekić, student of ethnology/anthropology (second year), titled “How the protest thinks - banners in a space of constructed ideology - literary-philosophical references”. His paper is part of a project “Ethnography of the Student Protest” carried out by teaching fellows and students of the Department for Ethnology and Anthropology of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade. I had the opportunity to read this paper, as well as papers of students Vesna Gajović ("Student Protests in the Light of Transition Rite") and Vesna Madžoski ("New Mass and New Leader") in manuscript, for which I am sincerely grateful.

[3]     The victory of Coalition “Together” (consisting of three opposition parties: Serbian Renewal Movement headed by Vuk Drasković, Democratic Party with its leader Zoran Djindjić and Civil Alliance of Serbia with Vesna Pesić) on the local elections in 14 large towns in Serbia (Belgrade, Niš, Kragujevac, Čačak, Novi Sad, Užice, Pančevo, Vršac, Zrenjanin, Kikinda...) was followed by mass objections concerning the regularity of vote, mostly by the governing party. The largest number of objections was submitted precisely in towns where the opposition was victorious, and the courts controlled by the governing party, passed judgements of electoral irregularities and annulled victories of the opposition even in places where the original records of elections, signed by multi-party commissions, clearly indicated to the contrary. The surge of civic protests throughout Serbia and a strong pressure by the international community, forced the Serbian president to request arbitration of the OSCE Commission headed by Felipe Gonzalez, which verified the authenticity of the records and declared the results of the second round of elections regular. This was in the local context, legalized by the passage of the specific act called Lex specialis.

 [4]    VIN, studio B, 29 March 1997, 19.30.

 [5]    The survey was an introduction to a research into the “Ethnography of the Student Protest” and was conducted in order to obtain the general data on the motives of the participants and their views of the Protest but also in order to mobilize the students of ethnology and anthropology and encourage them to think about the possibility of a field research in a complex social situation. I wish to express my gratitude to interviewers Ivana Blagojević, Danijela Filipović, Jelena Erčić, Vesna Gajović, Vesna Madžoski, Vladimir Ribić, Maša Vukanović and Djoša Zlatanović, as well as my colleague Gordana Gorunović.

 [6]     This is a conclusion of Snježana Milivojević, a communication expert, in a study which offers an analysis of the '92 preelection campaign and the manner it was pursued and formatted by the media, specifically the RTS and Studio B; Milivojević, S. Matić, J., Ekranizacija izbora, Vreme knjige, Beograd, 1993.

[7]     Quoted from S. Naumović, “Ustaj Seljo, ustaj rode: Simbolika seljaštva i politička komunikacija u novijoj istoriji Srbije”, Godišnjak za društvenu istoriju, god. II, sv. I, Beograd.

[8]     Ibid.

[9]     The difference emphasized in this paper derives from a specific social-political context of our situation where the separation of the two channels of communication has become paradigmatic of the balance of power in society, as reflected in the uneven approach to official media. In a situation like that the official television becomes the “privilege” of the ruling stratum, while the action in the streets is left to marginalized groups. This dichotomy also has its historical dimension. The beginning of the process could be located in the late eighties and early nineties, For more details on structural similarities of myths, rituals, folklore patterns and media (TV and press), see: Carey W., James (ed), Media, Myths and Narratives - Television and the Press, Sage Publications, 1988.

[10]    Silverstone, Roger, Television Myth and Culture, Media, Myths and Narratives, Sage Publications, 1988.

[11]    For more details on this function of the media see: Silverstone, Roger, Television Myth and Culture, Media, Myths and Narratives, Sage Publications, 1988, 20-48; Thornburn, David, Television as an Aesthetic medium, Media, Myths..., 48-67; Bird, S. Elizabeth and Dardenne, W. Robert, Myth, Chronicle and Story; Exploring the Narrative Qualities of News, Media, Myths...,

[12]    Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Penguin Books, 1994, p. 98.

[13]    The protests started on 18 November in Niš, where the manipulation became obvious the same night the polling stations were closed, to continue in Belgrade; the number of protesting towns increased on daily basis: Kragujevac, Čačak, Užice, Vranje, Leskovac, Šabac...

[14]    Excerpt from a commentary in the RTS Second Daily News as taken over from VIN programme broadcasted by Studio B on 29 March.

[15]    A young man who said he was a student, stated in front of the Belgrade TV cameras that he had thrown a stone at the glass front of Politika newspaper house, because he was “impoverished and had no money to purchase eggs”.

[16]    The motto of this action of sticky “bombardment” of the state-controlled media was “Eggs for egg thieves”. The term “egg thieves” in our tradition  denotes petty thieves, ready to pull a fast one for a small gain, and the choice of means (eggs), in addition to a convenient pun, might also imply some of the natural characteristics of this product - a broken egg, whether good or not, begins to smell after a few-days time (as was the case of the above mentioned building) associating of a “bad egg” also synonymous of corruption by tradition. Moreover, once broken, the egg reveals its slimy inside, which could be considered a message in itself.

[17]    Terms and syntagmata under quotation marks have been taken over from the usual rhetoric of TV commentators and surveyed citizens.

[18]    A syntagma used by President Milosević in his TV announcement of early elections in 1992, in order to designate the mass popular requests for early elections.

[19]    RTS Second Daily News, 14 December 1996, 19.30.

[20]    Gorica Gajević, an SPS executive announced the arrival in Belgrade of 10,000 buses from all over Serbia, presumably full. This gave rise to estimates of half a million ralliers. However a “treacherous” frame from the rally which “sneaked” into the direct transmission of the rally by the official television denied the reporter who commented that there actually were half a million citizens in Terazije. Had there really been so many people, the experts believe that each square meter of the space “covered” by the mass would have  held 33 men.

[21]    The wording used by the presenters of “Telefact”,  programme of privately-owned BK TV, which clearly reflects the persuasive and ideological function of every news programme. That is a programme which “produces sense” and fixes meanings.

[22]    This action was inspired by a scene from  the film “Network” where citizens produce noise manifesting their solidarity with a journalist who dared tell the TRUTH. The domestic variant of the action, conceived by the Serbia Renewal Movement is based on the inversion of the action in the film: the citizens are invited to create noise to protest against the LIES presented by TV journalists. I am grateful to colleague Dr Ivan Kovačević for this piece of information.

[23]    Slobodan Naumović, op.cit., p.46, gives the typology of political myths of Raoul Girardeaux classifying these into the myths of the golden age, unity, conspiracy and saviour. Naumović in his paper quotes the examples of our recent political practice applicable for each of the listed types.

[24]    This problem, the problem of “double consciousness” of the young is indicated by Edgar Morain especially among the students he classifies as an “age class”. He believes that the students are structurally highly important for society since they incorporate individual and class consciousness and must continuously “negotiate” in their double role. This makes them doubly interested in the future of society but also, ambivalent, categorially “polluted”, “dangerous” but also extremely important elements of the social structure (Moren, Edgar, Duh vremena II, BIGZ, Beograd, 1979, 184).

[25]    "Part of students”, “a handful” according to the RTS largely consisted of party activists “disguised as students”. During the first days of December the TV reported on a rush on Belgrade bookshops selling students' booklets, a students ID and one of the symbols of the student protests “purchased by the Coalition for distribution to secondary school children, pensioners and all others who thus take the guise of students”, Naša Borba, 10 December 1996.

[26]    RTS Second Daily News, 10 December, 1996, 19.30.

[27]    Statement by an elderly citizen, RTS Second Daily News, 14 December 1996, 19.30.

[28]    RTS Second Daily News, 17 December 1996, 19.30.

[29]    Some analysts believed that this formulation included a “Freudian” error. Namely, the linguistically correct term would be “foreign hand” (tudjinska ruka in Serbian), it referred to someone who does not belong to our country or nation. By contrast, “alien hand” (tudja ruka in Serbian) denotes any other hand but one's own. In that case the affirmative variant of this statement would read “Serbia will be ruled by my hand”.

[30]    Speech by the President of the Republic delivered at the rally “For Serbia” on 24 December 1996. After these words, the mass “recognized” the marked negative characters and started chanting: “Arrest Vuk!"

[31]    For the symbolical layers of the Kosovo myth, the characters - which, being the bearers of specific virtues, are a model for early socialization -, basic motives, ideas, ideals and values embodied in this myth see: Trebješanin, Žarko, “Značaj kosovskog mita za socijalizaciju u srpskoj patriarhalnoj kulturi”, Etnološke sveske X, Beograd, 1989, 113-117; more on the use of tradition in modern political processes in Serbia in: Naumović, Slobodan, “Upotreba tradicije - politička tranzicija i promena odnosa prema nacionalnim vrednostima u Srbiji 1987-1990”, Kulture u tranziciji, Beograd, 1994, 95-119; Naumović, Slobodan, “Srpsko selo i seljak: izmedju nacionalnog i stranačkog simbola”, GEI SANU XLIV, Beograd, 1995, 114-128; Prošić-Dvornić, Mirjana, “Modeli retradicionalizacije: put u budućnost vraćanjem u prošlost”, GEI SANU XLIV, Beograd, 1989, 293-309; Čolović, Ivan, “Vreme i prostor u saveremenoj politickoj mitologiji”, Kulture u tranziciji, Beograd, 1994, 121-128; Erdei, Ildiko, “Medijska konstrukcija realnosti koriscenjem razlicitih vremenskih modela i perspektiva”, Kulture u tranziciji, Beograd, 1994, 129-136.

[32]    Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, op. cit., 67.

[33]    Kertzer, David, Ritual, Politics and Power, Yale University Press, 1988.

[34]    This view of Kertzer's corresponds with the definition of ritual offered by Steven Lukes in his critical interpretation of Durkheim: “Rituals (...) make the society and social relations understandable (...) they serve to specify what is particularly important for a society and draw the attention of people to certain forms of relations and activities (...)”.(Quoted from “Politički rituali i društvena integracija”, Kultura 73-74-75,  Beograd, 1986, 156.

[35]    Kertzer, op.cit, 82.

[36]    For the purpose of this paper a wide definition of the ritual will be used as a highly stylized, symbolical activity which transmits a certain social message. This generality and openness enable the use of the concept both in religious and in secular contexts, and within different social strategies (e.g. confirmation or reflection of the social status quo, or else social change). Ritual action marks ritualized social activity aimed at transmission of political messages. It is repetitive in form, but of changeable contents which follow the dynamics of social events.

[37]    This pattern of protest walk was promoted already during the '92 Student protest, and subsequently accepted by opposition protesters (during the St. Vitus Day convention) and widely elaborated during the most recent students and civic protests. Their “rationale” was to mark the “space of repression” (institutions of the system, television) as well as in the detection of hidden, non-explicit sources of power. The method included simple walk through certain spaces, passing by certain institutions or going in their direction, while the police cordons banning movement along certain lines (Dedinje, television) represented the signs which delimit the boundaries of the permitted and prohibited. The students formulated that as a boundary between “us' and “them”. In this context was also the well known walk of 7 July 1992 when the students (within their action called “Picnic on Dedinje") tried to reach the residential area where the president of the republic lives. They were prevented by a demonstration of power on entry of the president's street. They made a few just as unsuccessful efforts to do that again during 1996/97 Protest.

[38]    This function of the ritual is also elaborated in: Cohen, Abner, Two-Dimensional Man, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1974, 75.

[39]    For the space-wise symbolic of walks and te attempt to interpret them in the light of the rite of passage see: Gajovic, Vesna, “Studentski protest u svetlu obreda prelaza”, in manuscript.

[40]    The emerging of the leader of a new type which suits the “new mass' is explained in more detail by Vesna Madžoski, II year student of ethnology/anthropology in her paper “Nova masa i novi vodja”, in manuscript.

[41]    VIN, Studio B, 29 March 1997, 20.00.

[42]    The term is used by Christel Lane in her analysis of establishing the calendar of “new rituals” in the USSR, The Rites of Rulers - Rituals in Industrial Society: The Soviet Case, Cambridge University Press, 1981.

[43]    These procedures are identified by authors of a collection of papers dealing with the subcultures of the young in post-war Britain, Resistance Through Rituals (ed. by Stuart Hall & Tony Jefferson, Routledge, 1993).

[44]    This reading is also offered by Branimir Stojković, “Retorika civilnog otpora”, Naša nedeljna borba, 14-15 December 1996, Beograd, VII. He notes that the “main logic of the image of protest is 'debasement' and inversion of symbols of the authorities and oppression”.

[45]    This form of entertainment of the young appeared in Western Europe in mid-eighties, to come here in the early nineties. The characteristic of this form of entertainment is organization of mass parties to dance until exhaustion, to the music produced by DJs on the spot by mixing various systems.

[46]    See a collection of papers Society in Crisis, Mladen Lazić (ed.), Filip Visnjić, Beograd, 1995; Popović, M. et al. Srbija krajem osamdesetih, ISI FF, Beograd, 1991; Bolčić, S. (ed.), Društvene promene i svakodnevni život: Srbija početkom devedesetih, ISI FF, Beograd, 1995; Mirjana Prošić-Dvornić (ed.), Kulture u tranziciji, Plato, Beograd, 1994.

[47]    According to a Slavonic superstition the only weapon to destroy or fend off a vampire.

[48]    Turner, Victor, The Ritual Process: Structure and Antistructure, Cornell paperback, 1982, 129, quoted from: Djordjević, Jelena, Političke svetkovine i rituali, Dosije, Beograd, 1997, 66.