Her work focuses on the international interventions and the external relations of the European Union. She is co-editor of Routledge Studies in Intervention and Statebuilding and an assistant professor at the Department of Political Science at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). Previously, Vjosa has been postdoctoral of the Flemish Scientific Foundation, lecturer at Ghent University (Belgium) and Kent University in the United Kingdom. In 2019, in co-authorship she published her edited volume Unravelling Liberal Interventionism. Local Critiques of Statebuilding in Kosovo (Worlding Beyond the West Series).
Her second book, Europeanization and state-building as everyday practices. Performing Europe in the Western Balkans (Routledge Studies in Intervention and Statebuilding Series) has been published in 2021.
She was born and raised in Kosovo. During 2008-2009 she worked as a journalist at BIRN Prishtina.
According to her, Vjosa Shala’s two journals give an honest and raw depiction of the seemingly abrupt change of the political and social realities in Kosovo at the brink of the war. In the collection of newspaper clips, her notes, and drawings, you notice the disruption of the life of someone who is growing up amidst wars, the police terror in Kosovo, federative dissolution in Yugoslavia, the booming underground culture in Prishtina and the global changes of the 1990s.
Me and my siblings are at the back of our car. My father had just picked us up from the kindergarten and we were going to go to pick up my mom. She was a teacher at a school nearby “Selami Hallaçi”. We soon realized that the road to the school had been blocked by police vehicles and about thirty police officers were in the school yard. For the first time, I saw a helicopter circling around on top of the school. We turned back and went home. Mami came home very late that night. She and her colleagues were taken for an “informative talk” by the Serbian administration, in the presence of police officers. Soon after, Albanian schools in the city would be closed and the premises of “Selami Hallaçi” would host hundreds of pupils who had nowhere to go. The rest of them got accommodated in “house schools” around town.
It was September 1, 1992. My first day at school as a first grader. Ready with my backpack I was waiting in our yard for my parents were getting ready. We were first going to go to the local photo studio to take some mandatory pictures and then they were solemnly going to take me to school. While I waited, my aunt entered abruptly into our yard all teared up inquiring for my parents. Her 17-year-old son had been called the day before to enlist for the military service. Unwilling to respond to the call he had left earlier that morning with the little money he had left. He spent weeks getting to Hungary, then spent around two weeks in Check Republic until he arranged a fixed to take him to Germany where he lives to this day.
For me, the image of a young girl/boy sitting in the middle of the street with the two-finger sign on both hands, is the quintessential image of our 1990s. Whenever I ditched the classes to join the protesters in 1998-1999, imitating this posture had became e well learnt reflex. This image and the 1990s more generally gave me a dichotomous view of the country I was living in: we, Albanians were the ones sitting on the ground asking for freedom and an end to repression and violence. The Serbs were the armed others in military and police uniforms controlling and looking at us from above.
The war that I was watching on TV as it unfolded throughout the country was depicted in heavy masculine and militaristic lenses. Reports on warfare were followed by images of bulky tanks, military uniforms, followed by reports of different (international) men in suits talking about options of ceasefire. Women and children in war reporting were mainly given as static subjects: they were either crying while sitting or they were accommodating little children and babies. What is more, the day to day image of warfare was largely absent if you were to watch the war on TV alone. I remember when watching the news about this protest, the chanting of these women as they each held a loaf of bread, I was provoked not only to think of women and children as an active part of the warfare but also of the very basic element of survival for our people – bread – which was the first to disappear in times of war.
The attack of the Serbian (Yugoslav) forces against the Jashari extended family which resulted in the death of 46 people. The discussion that the family did not leave their house but decided to stand their ground until the last person standing gave a new totemic importance to ‘home’ and the civilian resistance against the military attacks. Not leaving thy home took whole elevated meaning in the face of aggression. Not leaving our homes became our defiance. Our act of warfare. We are here! This is our home; this is our land!
Throughout 1998, many of my classmates left Kosovo and sought refuge with their families abroad. Arta was my first classmate to seek asylum in Germany with her parents and her two siblings. We used to sit in the same bench since the first grade. After Arta left, Kaltrina was sitting in the same bench with me. After several months Kaltrina also sought asylum with her family and lives in Sweden to this day. Though the classes were shrinking each and every week, our teachers maintained a stoic yet strange ability to continue with their lectures as if nothing was happening. The fact that our classmates were leaving, that we were still around while the war was progressing, hardly ever featured in our class discussions.
When such news started to be more common both in newspapers and in day-to-day conversations, I got to learn about displacement being a core element of warfare. When my parents also started to prepare emergency backpacks we could take with in case we had to move, as an 11-year-old I started to think differently about my own clothing and unconsciously rethink the whole point of possessions. What do I need to take in a backpack to run away with? What could I possibly not leave behind but would rather take it to the woods?
I remember having a similar poster when I went protesting with my sister. It read "Am I terrorist?" in English only and in the middle of the poster there was a cut out face of a crying girl around 6. This theme was prevalent for weeks in the protests to counter the narrative from the Serbian media and authorities about "the Albanian terrorists".
Throughout the 1990s, this message "Kill the Albanians" had become part of the urban grafitti around Gjilan. It was casually sprayed everywhere right next to other dominant graffiti "Ceca, volim te" and "Sex".