Jovan Džoli Ulićević and Čarna Brković
Montenegro is the place of revolutionary trans struggles.
A conversation between a trans activist and an anthropologist
This text presents snippets of an ongoing conversation between two friends from Montenegro, Jovan Džoli Ulićević, a trans activist and biologist, and Čarna Brković, an anthropologist. We met many years ago, during the activist meetings that led to the creation of one of the first Montenegrin NGOs working on the LGBT issues, “Queer Montenegro”. Today, Jovan is one of the founders and director of Association Spectra, which is the only trans-led organization in Montenegro working on promotion and protection of human rights of transgender, gender diverse and intersex persons, and a member of the Trans Network Balkan, a regional trans and intersex organization. Čarna is a political anthropologist, who obtained her PhD in social anthropology from the University of Manchester. Among various research fields, her research topics include gender and sexuality, humanitarianism, the state, and the epistemology of humanities and social sciences. Due to shared interests in the relationship between social theory and social change, we have had various long, mutually inspiring, and diffi cult conversations over the years. The text in front of you is a compilation that includes an interview with Jovan conducted by Čarna on the meanings and practices of trans activism in contemporary Montenegro and the English translation of a blog post written by Jovan for the Montenegrin audience “To be loved and/or to be a part of the change”. How one’s identity can be a space of resistance is the subject of Jovan’s blog post “The space of resistance”, of which an English translation is additionally available on the kuckuck website.1 In this blog post, Jovan writes more about his personal background, being female assigned at birth and growing up in a society where being different meant to be excluded and treated cruelly. The desire to belong was strong and Jovan started to adapt and behave like girls around him. Doing so, he realized how much the system favours those who follow its rules and that in a patriarchal heteronormative society personal and bodily integrity and autonomy are threatened, and critical thought is restricted, for those who do not follow its rules. With questioning his identity and the rules, Jovan’s identity has become his space of resistance.
The text in front of you brings Jovan’s voice and thoughts on his own work to the kuckuck readership. He illustrates a range of questions on gender, sexuality, social change, the relationship between the EU and the Balkans, the place of love and self-awareness in activism, on what it means to be an activist in Montenegro, and many more. Some of those issues have been discussed in more length elsewhere (Ulićević and Brković forthcoming) and if you are interested in exploring further ethnographic research on LGBT activism in Montenegro and the former Yugoslav region, you can find a list of relevant literature at the end.