UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


“A Nation of Love": Affective Solidarities & the Pravda za Davida Movement

12 December 2022, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

Protest from Pravda za Davida Movement

A SSEES Research Student seminar with Dana McKelvey

This event is free.

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Masaryk Room
UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies
16 Taviton steret

The disturbing case of the state-led murder of 21-year old David Dragičević in 2018 gave way to the largest social movement in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina—Pravda za Davida or Justice for David. The incident and subsequent protests took place in Banja Luka, the capital of the politically insecure Republika Srpska or Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and perhaps the space most illustrative of Maria Todorova’s concept of the Balkan “bridge-like existence,” or, “a very beautiful place, but not a place to live.” Now, while war profiteers continue to dominate nationalist administrations and corporations, Pravda activists offer a vision of extreme care and hope, uniting regularly in formal and informal capacities to sing lyrics written by the late David himself: “It looks like I'm not gonna get away/Because I'm just another peon in this story/I’m not going anywhere, I’ve done the damage/I’m just another kid in the ghetto.”

In this talk, I will present my research on Pravda za Davida, as well as some interrelations with life in Banja Luka during the pandemic. My decade-long engagement with the city has seen the body as a site of contestation, from deaths and funeral arrangements to minor injuries and the frustrations of planning routine exams. What emerges here in parallel to Pravda za Davida is the success of informal solidarities and the failure of institutions—or, the blurring of how we can define corruption in a corrupted system.

In both the cases of David’s death and of everyday Banjalukans’ intimate encounters with healthcare, I seek to complexify the typical, top-down approaches that usually ossify Banja Luka and its inhabitants, negating their agency. I will offer an alternate illustration of how the people of post-socialist, post-war, and post-Dayton Republika Srpska are not “stuck” in transition, but rather have radical potential that, while usurped by the state, also uses friendship and love to resist.


Dana McKelvey is a PhD candidate at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Central European University and a visiting scholar at UCL School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies. Her research interests include social movements, affect and the body, music and sound studies, and everyday experiences of the state in the Balkan context. Dana has lived off and on in her field site of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2013, where she originally worked as a Fulbright scholar and journalist for Balkanist magazine, and later completed M.A. fieldwork on the youth experience of turbofolk music.

Image credit: Dana McKelvey