First as Tragedy, Then as Teleology

The Politics/People Dichotomy in the Ethnography of Post-Yugoslav Nationalization

in Conflict and Society
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  • 1 University of Manchester stef.jansen@manchester.ac.uk
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ABSTRACT

Ethnographers working in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been at the forefront of the struggle against the identitarianism that dominates scholarship and policymaking regarding the country. Tirelessly foregrounding patterns of life that exceed, contradict, complicate or are oblivious to questions thus framed, we have—unsurprisingly—paid a price for this contribution: explorations of the appeal of nationalism are left mostly to others. This article identifies an emic and etic politics/people paradigm that facilitates our timidity to register the ways in which “ordinary people” may enact nationalist subjectivity. Seeking to retain the paradigm’s strengths, I call for a recalibration of how we understand it to function and explore conceptual tools to make this work. Starting from two cases of “foot soldier narratives,” I suggest that hegemony theory can help us trace not only how people are subjected to nationalization but also how they may seek subjectification through it.

Contributor Notes

STEF JANSEN is senior lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Manchester. Based on ethnographic research in Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1996, he seeks to contribute to a critical anthropology of the making of home and hope with regard to place, nation, and postsocialist state transformations. In addition to a series of articles and chapters he has published Yearnings in the Meantime: “Normal Lives” and the State in a Sarajevo Apartment Complex (Berghahn Books, 2015), Struggles for Home: Violence, Hope and the Movement of People (Berghahn Books, 2008, coedited with Staffan Löfving), and Antinacionalizam: etnografija otpora u Zagrebu i u Beogradu (XX Vek, 2005).

Conflict and Society

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