This article explores the gendering of reconciliation initiatives from the perspective of Bosniac women active in women's NGOs in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina. I illustrate how established patriarchal gender relations and socialistera models of women's community involvement framed the ways in which some women's NGO participants constructed essential ethno-national and gender differences, in contrast to dominant donor discourses. This leads to exploration of how gender patterns embedded in the institution of komšiluk (good-neighborliness), particularly women's coffee visits, provided both obstacle and opportunity for renewed life together among ethnic others separated by wartime ethnic cleansing. Distinguishing between the two concepts, I show how, from the perspective of women's roles and experiences, “life together” may be all that displaced women want or expect out of “reconciliation” initiatives, and that even this may be beyond the capacity of many displaced people to forego talk about injustices and guilt stemming from the war.
Women and reconciliation initiatives in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina
Muslim Women and Public Writing in Habsburg Bosnia and Herzegovina (1878–1918)
This article focuses on the public writings of Muslim women in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Habsburg period. From the beginning of the twentieth century, several Muslim women, mainly schoolgirls and teachers at Sarajevo's Muslim Female School, started for the first time to write for Bosnian literary journals, using the Serbo-Croatian language written in Latin or Cyrillic scripts. Before the beginning of World War I, a dozen Muslim women explored different literary genres—the poem, novel, and social commentary essay. In the context of the expectations of a growing Muslim intelligentsia educated in Habsburg schools and of the anxieties of the vast majority of the Muslim population, Muslim women contested late Ottoman gender norms and explored, albeit timidly, new forms of sisterhood, thus making an original contribution to the construction of a Bosnian, post-Ottoman public sphere.
Co-existence, co-operation, and communication in post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina
Anders H. Stefansson
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.
Clientelism and Civic Engagement as Relational Modalities in Contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina
This article analyzes clientelism and civic engagement as two relational modalities adopted by the residents of Mostar to obtain state-funded housing assistance in the face of rapid political transformation, economic insecurity, and post-conflict reconstruction. Couched in historical and contemporary discourses of deservingness and harking back to spatial imaginaries that evolved during the socialist era, both modalities converge in the notion of raseljeni, a post-war administrative category denoting an internally displaced person. Despite their apparent differences, the ultimate goal of both modalities is to establish sustainable channels of communication and productive relations with state authorities. Such relational modalities not only facilitate citizens' access to public resources, but also lend continuity and coherence to a fragmented state apparatus. In the process, they give rise to distinct political subjectivities and notions of political community.
Everyday Ethnic Identity in Bosnia-Herzegovina
Structurally inspired anthropological analyses of war and violence tend to claim that conflicts have an inherent potential to create unambiguous identities. Based on ethnographic data from everyday life among the Muslim population of Stolac in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina the article shows that this is not necessarily the case. Instead of resorting to the politically created dichotomous categories of ethnic exclusion, the Muslims of Stolac favored ambiguous identifications highlighting coexistence and interethnic respect. In this way of refraining from exclusive ethnic antagonistic identifications they experimented with ways of inhabiting the world together with the ethnic others; mainly the Croat population of Stolac.
The Politics/People Dichotomy in the Ethnography of Post-Yugoslav Nationalization
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. Th is article identifies anemic 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.
Postwar reconciliation and the gender of inter-national encounters
This article confronts the grammar of liberal reconciliation discourses with the gendered practices of post-war encounters. After violence that is considered national, meetings between people of different nationalities, and the reconciliation of which they are seen to be a vanguard, tend to be considered as morally good in and of themselves. This article subjects such liberal reconciliation discourse to a double ethnographic intervention: first, by privileging the practice of non-elite inter-national encounters over abstract notions of reconciliation, and, second, by tracing the particular gendered subject positions of sameness that shaped and were shaped by such encounters. The article explores how, after the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, men who met across former frontlines evoked “normal life” through mutual recognition of performative competence of motifs of hegemonizing masculinities.
Reconciliation, reconstruction, and everyday life in war-torn societies
This special section of Focaal explores processes of social recovery and peace-building in the aftermath of radical violence and political upheaval. The articles draw on detailed ethnographic case studies from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country that was shattered by war and ethnic cleansing in the 1990s, and raise issues of relevance to other post-conflict situations. Challenging “reconciliation” as a moral discourse with universalist claims, the articles highlight the dynamics of its localization in different contexts of intervention in post-war society. The four contributions explore different facets of this dynamic as it is played out in the key areas of justice, the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and NGO peace-building activities. They illuminate what happens when the global paradigm of reconciliation encounters and filters through meanings and motivations of actors in local contexts. They also note that everyday interactions between former adversaries take place not as a moral engagement with reconciliation but as part of rebuilding a sense of normality. The findings point to the need to critically investigate the conditions under which such encounters may empower or prohibit the rebuilding of social relations and trust in post-war societies.
Life narratives in postwar Mostar
In situations in which an entire population is affected by war and great political-economic transformations, as was the case in Bosnia and Herzegovina, generational differences exist regarding the extent to which people experience these events as disruptions to their lives. Even in a nationally divided city like Mostar after the 1992-1995 war, generational experiences-of past and present times as well as of future prospects (or the lack thereof)-are crucial for the way people rethink the past and (re)position themselves in the present. In the case of the generation of the "Last Yugoslavs", I argue that the disruption of their life course and the resulting loss of future prospects prevent people from narrating the local past and their lives in a meaningful and coherent way.
Invisible Citizens and Consociational Democracy in Post-war Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
One of the most important goals of peace-building programs around the world is the establishment of a social order that would lead to stability. In the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), this includes a spatial reorganization of people and territory that assumes a fixed relationship between them. This spatial governmentality relies on a set of rigid assumptions about belonging, territoriality, and politics that make ethnically 'mixed' citizens spatially unmappable, bureaucratically invisible, and socially undesirable. Spanning more than 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in BiH, I focus on the transformation of Yugoslav mixed citizens into 'invisible citizens' in the context of post-war democratization. The experiences of these people provide a fruitful site from which to understand and critique the peace-building efforts in BiH and beyond.