Rough justice: an ethnography of property restitution and the law in post-war Kosovo
Mora, Agathe Camille
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This thesis is an ethnography of the practice of property restitution in post-war Kosovo. The site of the largest European Union rule of law mission (EULEX) outside its member states, Kosovo is a paradigmatic case of liberal interventionism and state building under the banner of human rights. The thesis is based on 14 months (May 2012 to July 2013) of multi-sited, ethnographic fieldwork in and around the Kosovo Property Agency (KPA), the administrative, mass claims mechanism put in place by the UN to adjudicate war-related property claims between 2006 and 2016. Working with claimants and respondents, administrative clerks, national and international lawyers, commissioners and Supreme Court judges, this study presents novel insights into the everyday workings of the law from within an institution that remained largely closed to the public eye. I investigate the ways in which property, and property rights were reconfigured in post-war Kosovo through the processing of claims at the KPA. To understand how restitution worked, I probe the practices of technical-legal knowledge production by examining key moments of mass claims adjudication: the reframing of grievances in the language of the law, the making of institutional, legal knowledge, the legal analysis of files, and the implementation of decisions. Through this, I look at the consequences of the juridification of normative ideals (human rights and the rule of law) on the restitution process, its protagonists, and the law itself. My ethnographic material suggests rethinking the value of binary analyses of victims and perpetrators, the universal and the vernacularised, ‘law of the books’ and ‘law in action’, the extraordinary and the ordinary, and traces the everyday production of ‘rough justice’. Building on current debates in anthropology of law on the bureaucratisation of human rights, transitional justice, and legal practice, my research reveals the tensions between the ideals of human rights that underpin the process of property restitution and the legal and political realities of transition.