Exploring Transitional Reforms and Civil Society in Serbia through the Role of the Expert
The acceleration of transitional reforms after 2000 in Serbia involved attempts to reform institutions and policies according to global models, and the emergence of civil society as a key state partner in ‘reform efforts’. In such a context, the figure of the expert as a professional guiding complex transformational projects has gained prominence. Experts occupy an intermediary position in reform and policy relationships, as they have knowledge of two ‘worlds’, i.e. donors and abstract policy models on the one hand, and beneficiaries and particular local contexts on the other (Mosse 2005; Sampson 2002). They also acquire multiple professional roles in different sectors and skilfully mediate between them (Wedel 2009; Stubbs 2013).
In this light, expert communities active in Serbia can be regarded as crucial agents in the diffusion, translation and contestation of global policy ideas in a transitional context. My research focuses on the ways in which experts produce and perform expertise, and act as intermediaries in everyday practice. Specifically, it investigates how they translate between different social worlds and interests, produce official representations of reform projects and their success, and reconcile the contradictions inherent to policy relationships. This paper presents the initial research findings of several months of fieldwork on one civil society project that is currently being implemented in Serbia. As the processes I focus on are delocalized, I deploy a multi-sited approach and use an interdisciplinary framework based on discourse analysis, interviewing, document analysis and fieldwork ethnography.
Exploring the practice of expert communities can shed light not only on how global policy ideas are translated within local context, but also provide insight into the complexities of global changes in the modes of governing, the proliferation of new institutional spaces as well as the rise of policy as an organising principle of contemporary world (Shore and Wright 1997).