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Coffee after cleansing? Co-existence, co-operation, and communication in post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina

Anders H. Stefansson

Keywords: BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA; CO-EXISTENCE; ETHNIC MINORITY RETURN; RECONCILIATION; SOCIAL RELATIONS

Abstract

This article critically addresses the idea that ethnic remixing alone fosters reconciliation and tolerance after sectarian conflict, a vision that has been forcefully cultivated by international interventionists in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the town of Banja Luka, it presents a multi-faceted analysis of the effects of ethnic minority return on the (re)building of social relations across communal boundaries. Although returnees were primarily elderly Bosniacs who settled in parts of the town traditionally populated by their own ethnic group, some level of inter-ethnic co-existence and co-operation had developed between the returnees and displaced Serbs who had moved into these neighborhoods. In the absence of national reconciliation, peaceful co-existence in local everyday life was brought about by silencing sensitive political and moral questions related to the war, indicating a preparedness among parts of the population to once again share a social space with the Other.

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