Kosovo is by now universally known as a conflict-ridden and segregated society, where ethnic division are reinforced by the religions ones between the Christian Orthodox Serbs and the (mainly) Albanians. This rift is usually perceived as hard and fist, but Kosovo has also a history of coexistence, with movement across ethno-religious barriers through social and economic ties, cultural diffusion, and religious exchange and conversion. Instead of two ethnic societies, it is possible to think of a single frontier society, in which intense contact and co-operation.
The tension conflict and symbiosis is at the core of this book, which studies ethnic and religious group in the region - Albanians, Serbs, Croats, and Gypsies - and the religious dimension in their efforts to construct or transform their identities. The chapters describe different, usually local, arenas and contexts, but all deal with interconnected themes: the ways identities are formed and transformed as a result of wider political developments, and how religion and ritual can help to establish forms of community across ethno-religious boundaries but can also create divisions. Although the focus is mainly on Kosovo, the scope is much wider, extending to developments in Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia and Serbia.
The author challenges the idea that ethnic and religious identity in Kosovo are clear-cut and fixed. Ver the long term, identity has been full of ambiguities, caused by processes of religious conversion, dissimulation, and other forms of manipulation of identity; these are important survival strategies where violence and existential insecurity are endemic. People have changed their ethnic identity or converted to another religion without completely abandoning the cultural legacies of previous identities. Identity is seen as multifarious phenomenon, with a range of categories (religion, gender, kinship, class, urban-versus-rural) that do not necessarily correspond to the modern national or ethnic ones.