Voice and exit after socialism
University of Manchester
This paper assesses the perceived causality of the sudden migration of a number of Roma from Kosovo in Autumn 2014. Simultaneous to these migrations were large political protests in Kosovo, attended primarily by young Albanian men. Based on ethnographic research among those who were soon to leave, and those who stayed behind, I ask why some people respond to problems by protesting, while others emigrate. I frame this in terms of Hirschman’s discussion of voice and exit, where exit is a response to economic decline, while voice is a form of political protest. I argue that while the causes of both protests and migration are never solely economic or political, at an ethnographic level this division is pervasive. The Roma I worked with perceived the problems in their daily lives to be economic ones, while protesters were responding to political problems. Urban Roma understand their current predicament in terms of a loss of stable employment, and of entitlements, and thus as primarily an economic decline. Albanians on the other hand saw the current situation in terms of betrayal and mismanagement by the post war political elites. Therefore the two groups respond to extreme political and economic mismanagement in two very different ways. For Roma, the experience of economic decline seen as natural and beyond control, leads to the conclusion that exit is the best way to secure a better future. For Albanians, the perception of problems as political and man-made, means they can be changed and opens the possibility of protest.