Balkan Criminology


A Max Planck Partner Group

Research Focus I

Research Focus I: Violence, Organized Crime and Illegal Markets

Research into violence, especially its causes, has been a traditional subject of criminological attention. Yet, little is actually known on why people inflict harm onto each other. One of the reasons for this lack of knowledge can be found in the mainstream etiological methodological approach used so far in violence research (in depth see v. Trotha 1997; see also Getoš 2012, 24-31; 2011a). The Balkans with its large-scale mass-violence could be a fruitful ground to test innovative methodological approaches in researching violence, by implementing the concept of “phenomenologically thick description of violence” (see the work of v. Trotha and Sofsky). The same methodological considerations apply to research into organized crime and illegal markets.The subject of “innovative violence research” and “phenomenologically thick description” in the area of organized crime are key interests of Dr. Anna-Maria Getoš Kalac and the future field of Karlo Ressler's scientific research specialization.

The fall of communism in the Balkans, ethnic conflict in former Yugoslavia, the new allocation of state-wealth and its accumulation by the ‘new elite’ usually strongly connected to or part of the criminal underworld, as well as weak states and corrupt justice systems, are just some of the conditions encountered in the region (for a very informative snapshot of this process see Baljak’s documentary). This seems to be fertile ground for organized criminal groups to operate in and for illegal markets as well as informal economies to grow. A wide range of various (non)governmental, political, economical, scientific and charitable, local, regional, European and international players are strongly involved in the Balkans, and are committed to bringing security and stability to the region (for in depth analysis see Albrecht & Getoš). One of their main concerns is organized crime and the danger it poses to the fragile state structures. However, and despite the sheer incomprehensible number of involved players, again we know little about the criminal actors, the phenomenology of the crimes they commit, or the illegal markets they operate (Albrecht & Getoš). Intelligence and security reports from the region frequently downplay the issue, while analyses from outside the region highlight its security impact. Conventional comparative research based on crime rates and quantitative methodologies does not seem to fit organized crime - qualitative research should provide for a clear structural picture of the organized crime scene in the region: What kind of groups can be found (traditional mafia like or professional) and who are the group members, how do they (co)operate on a transnational level (strong alliances with other criminal groups or case-by-case deals), what sort of criminal activities do they engage in and do they specialize in specific illegal markets (trafficking, smuggling, racketeering, prostitution etc.)? These are just few of the research questions regarding violence, organized crime and illegal markets the MPPG for ‘Balkan Criminology’ aims to answer. Special attention is hereby also given to the issue of criminal responsibility for severe economic crimes committed in the transitional periods, a topic covered by Sunčana Roksandić Vidlička.

MPPG contact for research focus I: Dr. Anna-Marie Getoš Kalac