Twenty years on from the end of war, the status of the north of Kosovo remains disputed. Ten years on from Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia, the north’s predominantly Serb population continues to resist integration. Education, health, and other vital services continue to be provided by Serbia. These latent tensions regularly surface through various forms of resistance, including protests and barricades (most notably those of 2011); resistance which has many historical precedents. Ian Bancroft provides an original ethnographic account of the reality in north Kosovo, mixing first-hand interviews and anecdotes with historical background and academic insight. He explores a diverse array of themes, including the Trepča mines, religious and cultural life, and the Main Bridge over the river Ibar, which has become a symbol of the divided town of Mitrovica. Bancroft examines memories of the war and 2004 riots, and the daily realities of local governance and politics in a post-war environment. The book also goes to the heart of the border/boundary regions, the multi-ethnic Bošnjačka Mahala, and mixed areas on the periphery to tell the stories of those caught-up on the front-lines of conflict. As such, it offers valuable insights for aspiring peacebuilders into the challenges of working in a context of considerable complexity.
"Reading Dragon's Teeth: Tales from North Kosovo gave me all the thrill of finding a new photograph of someone you love—a new perspective on familiar features you're fond of. This portrait of Kosovo through the eyes of those who live in its contested and complicated North introduced me to new ideas, new personalities, and new ways of seeing. It lingered lovingly on the Trepça/Trepča mines I'd been down as part of my research for my book on Kosovo's silver, but it taught me things (who'd have guessed at the mines' relationship with Djoković's tennis playing!) about them that I'd never known. I learned about the 1970s Big Band scene in Yugoslavia (only five Big Bands in the whole country, one of them being in Kosovo's Mitrovica, comprised of Serbs, Albanians, Bosniaks, Goranis, and Turks). It brought to life familiar scenes like the market in Bošnjačka Mahala and offered moments of sharp observation I savoured ('Our armoured vehicle rocks from side-to-side, Anders, the Dane with the impeccable skin, cradling the steering wheel like a baby, whilst Alex, the German with the impeccable hair, navigates the potholes'). It also gives a fair picture of the other kind of navigation necessary here, for all who live in North Kosovo's particular limbo with the careful negotiations between Belgrade and Prishtina that are conducted not only by the countries' leaders but by individuals trying to get on with their lives—as one of the book's characters says of the parallel structures' administration, ‘Serbs must be born twice, get married twice and die twice’. It's a book that will be helpful for anyone wanting to understand and learn from Kosovo's many stories and histories." Elizabeth Gowing, author of Travels in Blood and Honey: becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo, and four other books about the Balkans“The book is highly relevant from a political point of view, as the debates about the status of Kosovo and possible land swaps with Serbia are still ongoing and have grown more intense during the last years. The remarkable aspect of Bancroft’s work, though, is that it does not get bogged down in bureaucratic analyses of this seemingly eternal dispute, but provides great insight into the struggles of the people who actually live here. The writer and diplomat gives a human face to this volatile region.”—De Facto, April 2020