"RESEN IS THE BIGGEST VILLAGE". Towards a Community Study

Jonathan Matthew Schwartz
2003 EthnoAntropoZoom  
Towards a Community Study All Foreground, No Background It was a young Turkish man from Resen who described at a Bayram party his hometown as "the biggest village". I have known Engin since he was two years old. He is eighteen now and has completed his training as a laboratory technician. He attended technical school in the large city, Bitola, instead of going to the secondary school in Resen, the Czar Samuil High School (formerly named the Marshall Tito High School). Engin thought it best to
more » ... hought it best to get an education which could lead directly to a good job, despite doubts that such jobs were available. The small public clinic in Resen, where he hoped to get a job, has a full staff of technicians, working in a small and poorly equipped laboratory. In their fathers' generation, said Engin, they could emigrate to Canada, the United States, or Australia, for employment in construction and industries was then in a boom period. Engin's father had worked in Australia and returned to Macedonia the year before Engin was born. Engin's is what I call the "post-pechalba" generation of contemporary Macedonia. Its life-style expresses the need to bring global culture to "the biggest village" when emigration to distant metropoles is no longer feasible. The (un) civil war in Bosnia, moreover, has resulted in Western European visum restrictions on Macedonian citizens. The Republic of Macedonia is probably more landlocked today than ever in its modern history. The maintenance of Prespa-centred global networks through the electronic media is supplanting the traditional culture of migration. Engin, like many of his contemporaries, has learned English, and he often confided in me, sometimes he even tried to correct me, as if he were the adult and I the teenager. This is how I now put the matter. Engin would rather say that when we talked together, it was man to man. Age-levelling is one of the puzzling surprises in the field. Young informants are pedagogues to aging anthropologists. This boy, whom I remember in diapers, was telling me the way things were in Resen, which meant I had to relinquish many naive ideas. The Turkish-sponsored party was being celebrated to end the month-long period of fasting during Ramadan. Our table was in the middle of the floor of the delapidated and abandoned movie theatre in Resen, "The First of May Cinema." Between two and three hundred people were present, most of them young. It was very chilly in the theatre, and Engin and I talked above the loud music from the band on the stage. It was my second week in Resen, and Engin asked me what I was doing here. I was interested in finding out how people "here" (now "there") thought about the world. "Too much politics!" a friend, Femi, interjected. Engin elaborated, turning "the world" into his generation's experience. His parents did not understand young people today. "They lived under Communism; they had to be home at 10 PM Resen is the biggest village." During most of his four-year education, Engin lived in the technical school's dormitory in Bitola, and he gladly came home on the weekends. He hoped to be able to find work in his hometown so he could continue to live there. There were many limitations in Resen, but these limitations were familiar and could be endured. The new coffee bars which had sprung up in every sizable Macedonian town, he said, are "mostly for Macedonians." While he at first was enthusiastic about the new coffee bars, he soon felt that they were cliquish and was uncomfortable in them. Listening to Engin tell about Resen at a Bayram party was a good context for understanding Resen "as a whole." Resen, Engin says, is "the biggest village," by which he means, among other things, that Resen * This issue is part from the book "Pieces of Mosaic : An Essay on the Making of Makedonija" written by anthropologists Jonathan Matthew Schwartz by Intervention Press 1996.
doi:10.37620/eaz0330189sh fatcat:bycb5evmordonojfn3mtn76n6u