Keith Brown Professor of International Studies (Research)

Keith Brown works primarily in the domain of culture, politics and identity. As well as extensive research on ethno-nationalism and the role of national history in the Balkans, his more recent work explores how different transnational processes--including labor migration, democracy promotion, and commodity production--contribute to people's sense of long-distance connection, and new forms of citizenship and belonging. He is committed to collaborative research and learning that involves scholars and practitioners working in different professions and academic disciplines, and has served since July 2010 as Director of the Brown International Advanced Research Institutes (BIARI).

Keith Brown holds degrees from Oxford University and the University of Chicago, and taught at Bowdoin College and the University of Wales before joining the Watson Institute in 1999 as an assistant research professor. He spent 1999-2000 as a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC, 2005-6 as a visiting fellow at the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute, and September 2012-March 2013 as a Fulbright Fellow in the Republic of Macedonia.

Research Areas

scholarly work

 

Loyal Unto Death: Trust and Terror in Revolutionary Macedonia. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013.

‘Wiping out the Bulgar race:’ Hatred, Duty and National Self-Fashioning in the Second Balkan War. In Omer Bartov and Eric Weitz (eds.) Shatterzone of Empires: Coexistence and Violence in the German, Habsburg, Russian and Ottoman Borderlands. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013:

.Makedonskite Deca-Dedovci: Transnacionalnata Politika na Memorijata, Egzilot I Vrakjaneto 1948-1998. Skopje: Foundation Open Society Macedonia, 2012. (Macedonian translation of Macedonia’s Child-Grandfathers).

Everywhere and Everthrough: Rethinking Aidland. In Heather Hindman and Anne-Meike Fechter (eds.) Inside the Everyday Lives of Development Workers: The Challenges and Futures of Aidland. Stylus/Kumarian Press, 2011: 107-130.

" From the Balkans to Baghdad (via Baltimore): Labor Migration and the Routes of Empire." Slavic Review 69/4 (December 2010): 816-839.

Minatoto pod prašanje: moderna Makedonija i neizvesnostite na nacijata. Skopje: Euro-Balkan Press, 2010. (Macedonian translation of The Past in Question).

"Sovereignty After Socialism at Europe's New Borders" in Luise White and Douglas Howland (eds.) The State of Sovereignty: Territories, Laws, Populations. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009: 196-221.

"Evaluating U.S Democracy Promotion in the Balkans: Ironies, Inconsistencies and Unexamined Influences." Problems of Post-Communism 56/3 (May/June 2009): 3-15.

"Do We Know How Yet? Insider Perspectives on International Democracy Promotion in the Western Balkans." NCEEER Working Paper: online at http://www.ucis.pitt.edu/nceeer/2009_822-02g_Brown.pdf

"All They Understand is Force: Debating Culture in Operation Iraqi Freedom." American Anthropologist 110:4 (November 2008: 443-453).

"Archive-work: Genealogies of loyalty in a Macedono-Bulgarian colony." History and Memory 20:2 (Fall/Winter 2008: 60-83)

"The After-Life of Projects: Mapping Democracy Promotion in the Western Balkans and Beyond." EES News, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, May-June 2008: 1-4.

"An Interview with Milcho Manchevski." World Literature Today 82:1 (2008): 12-15.

"Grunt Lit: The Participant Observers of Empire." Co-authored with Catherine Lutz. In American Ethnologist 34:2 (May 2007): 322-328.

Transacting Transition: The micro-politics of democracy assistance in the former Yugoslavia. (edited). Bloomfield CT: Kumarian Press (2006)

The Usable Past: Greek Metahistories. (Co-edited with Y. Hamilakis). Lexington Books (2003).

Macedonia's Child-Grandfathers: The Transnational politics of memory, exile and return 1948-1998. Donald W. Treadgold Papers series, No. 38: University of Washington (2003).

The Past in Question: Modern Macedonia and the Uncertainties of Nation. Princeton University Press. (2003).

Ohrid and Beyond: A Cross-ethnic investigation into the Macedonian Crisis. Co-edited with Paulette Farisides, Saso Ordanoski and Agim Fetahu. (Institute of War and Peace Reporting, 2002).

"Seeing stars: Character and identity in the landscapes of modern Macedonia." Antiquity 68 (1994) pp. 784-96. Selected for reprinting in Landscapes from Antiquity, 2001.

research overview

Areas of Interest:
Nationalism and ethnicity; democracy promotion and citizenship; Military, war, and society; transnational and global ethnography; labor migration; South-Eastern Europe.

research statement

Keith Brown works primarily in the domain of culture, politics and identity. As well as extensive research on ethno-nationalism and the role of national history in the Balkans, his more recent work explores how different transnational processes--including labor migration, democracy promotion, and commodity production--contribute to people's sense of long-distance connection, and new forms of citizenship and belonging. He is committed to collaborative research and learning that involves scholars and practitioners working in different professions and academic disciplines.

His research into how different communities construct history in Macedonia, Greece, and Bulgaria led to his book The Past in Question: Modern Macedonia and the Uncertainties of Nation (2003) which  challenged conventional narratives of the Balkans by illustrating how resilient communities come to terms with past trauma, and fashion alternatives to the totalizing agenda of nationalist states. A major focus of this book was on the role of monuments in the construction and maintenance of communal memory. Subsequently,  Loyal Unto Death: Trust and Terror in Insurgent Macedonia (2013) analyzes revolutionary activism in early twentieth-century Macedonia to examine how non-state, illegal organizations enlist and retain members, especially by building a sense of collective purpose and establishing control over people’s freedom of individual speech and action.  Based on the Evans-Pritchard lectures Brown delivered at All Souls College, Oxford, the book is explicitly comparative. It draws connections to anti-imperial movements in Africa, Asia and Europe, and also tracks the pathways by which revolutionary ideas and military hardware reached the Macedonian organization.


At the Watson Institute, Brown established the interdisciplinary Muabet project, which brings together scholars and practitioners to reflect on the dynamics of international intervention in the former Yugoslavia. This work led to the edited volume Transacting Transition: The Micropolitics of Democracy Assistance in the Former Yugoslavia, as well as a series of other publications tracking U.S. initiatives to foster the development of civil society in the region. With an IREX policy connect grant, he worked with civil society practitioners and activists, Brown undergraduates and Macedonian film-makers, to track one USAID-funded civil society program from idea to impact. Most recently, with support from a Fulbright award and from the NCEEER, Brown is using oral history methods to explore the 1980s roots of a nascent “civil society” in Yugoslavia—including dissident movements, peaceful protests, and insider-driven reform initiatives—and their potential relevance for contemporary debates over democratic practice.


In 2004-5, in collaboration with colleagues at Brown and the Naval War College, Newport, Brown launched the Watson Institute's research project on the phenomenon of military cultural awareness, exploring in particular the linkages between U.S. experience in the Balkans and interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the interplay of doctrine and experience in the evolution of counter-insurgency as a field of study and practice. Committed to facilitating dialogue between constituencies, the Institute has twice hosted the American Anthropological Association's commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the U.S. Security & Intelligence Communities, as well as the conference "Front Line, First Person: Iraq War Stories." As an extension of this activity, Brown has presented his work to audiences at the Marine Corps University at Quantico and the University of Foreign and Military Cultural Studies at Fort Leavenworth, and discussed work from the Commandant's Professional Reading List with Marines on station in Skopje, Macedonia.

Beyond this research, Brown also seeks to bring the methods and perspectives of socio-cultural anthropology to hear on pressing global issues through innovative teaching. He is currently collaborating with Ian Cook, a geographer based at the University of Bristol, to encourage undergraduates to explore the social, cultural and economic lives of everyday things and to ask whether and to what extent knowledge of their production and distribution processes drives new forms of social identity, belonging and empathy.

Since July 2010, Brown has served as director of the Brown International Advanced Research Institutes (BIARI).

funded research

Fulbright Award to Macedonia for Project entitled "Democracy in Macedonia: Oral History, Civil Society and the Practices of Pluralism." 2012-13.
National Council for Eurasian and East European Research – Contract for Project entitled "Roads not taken: an Oral History of Macedonian Democracy since 1980."July 2012-June 2013.

Completed grants:
IREX Policy-Connect Grant for "From Idea to Impact: Studying Through a US Civil Society Program in Macedonia." September 2007-August 2008: $30,000. Principal Investigator.
NCEEER Grant for "Evaluating Intervention: Knowledge Production and Democracy Promotion in the Western Balkans." October 1006-October 2008: $38,000. Principal Investigator.
Award from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund for continuation work on project "Local Dimensions of Sustainable Democracy-Building in the Southern Balkans," May 2005-July 2008. $40,000.

Brown University Salomon Award for collaborative project "Cultural awareness in military operations: The production of knowledge through doctrine, training, education and simulation." December 2005-December 2007: $30,000. (With Professors James Der Derian, Catherine Lutz, and Matthew Gutmann).
University of Connecticut Humanities Institute Residential Fellowship, August 2005-May 2006, for book project "Manifest Loyalties: The Routes of Modern Nationalism." $40,000.
Award from the Mott Foundation for continuation work on project "Local Dimensions of Sustainable Democracy-Building in the Southern Balkans," January 2005-December 2006. Principal Investigator: $50,000.
Scholarly Technology Group Faculty Grant, Brown University, for assistance with design and construction of website "Murder in Marseille." Fall 2004.
Joint award from the Mott Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund for project entitled "Local Dimensions of Sustainable Democracy-Building in the Southern Balkans" 2002-3. $100,000.
United States Institute of Peace grant for project entitled "Interethnicity in Macedonia": for research and writing, 2001-2003. $38,000.
United States Institute of Peace Senior Fellowship, 1999-2000. $42,000.
British Academy Conference Grant, to support foreign attendance at "Intersecting Times" conference in Swansea, 2000. $2,500.
British Academy Elisabeth Barker Fund Award for research in Macedonia, 2000. $1,500.
University of Wales Collaboration Fund grant for the establishment and activity of a Centre for South-East European Studies, 1999-2000 (with Y.Hamilakis, P. Finney, M. Kenna, M. Pluciennik). $27,000.
University of Wales Collaboration Fund grant for seminar series and symposium, Negotiating Boundaries, 1997-8 (with Y.Hamilakis, P. Finney, M. Kenna, M. Pluciennik). $10,000.
Woodrow Wilson Center East European Studies Research Scholarship, 1996. $9,000.