DINARKVIR examines gender and sexual diversity in the Western Balkans prior to the twentieth century's intense modernization. The project sheds new light on the lives and daily practices of regional gender non-binary people (tobelijas, also known as "sworn virgins") and same-sex-loving individuals by examining written historical sources (male pobratimi and female posestrime).

The project's primary focus is on early South Slavic and German language ethnographic materials (ethnographies, travelogues, journals, missionary reports). The goal is to identify cases of tobelijas and pobratimi/posestrime and to further explore the life circumstances of these individuals by reconstructing their everyday realities using regional archives (Zagreb, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Cetinje, Zadar).

In addition to disseminating project results through channels that reach specific disciplines, communication will focus on the societies studied (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia) to shed light on local traditions in which non-heterosexual community members were visible and respected.

Both phenomena were extensively documented in early South Slavic ethnographies, with no mention of sexuality, sex, or gender, the project establishes a two-tier hypothesis supported by two sets of archival sources.

The study is guided by the hypothesis that premodern gender categories in the Dinaric region did not have a binary construction to men/women, and that the existence of tobelijas confirms the existence of a third category in the gender system, not necessarily positioned "in-between," and decoupling the ideological juxtaposition of gender and sex. The second tier of the hypothesis directs research to investigate the existence of same-sex love in premodern rural communities through rituals of brother/sister making practiced by tobelija individuals, as well as monks, hajduks, and common rural folk.

The project is being carried out in collaboration with the University of Göttingen’s Institute of Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology.


Dr. Robert Pichler (Supervisor)
Dr. Milorad Kapetanović (Project Leader)

Project Term

1. April 2022 – 31. Marz 2024 (24 Monate)


Dr. Čarna Brković


This project has received funding from Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions (MSCA) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 101032413).