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Violence and Identification

Everyday Ethnic Identity in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Torsten Kolind

The aim of this article is to account for some of the consequences of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995 on matters of identification in everyday life among the Muslims of Stolac. 1 Or, to put it a little polemically, the lack of

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The gender of coffee

Women and reconciliation initiatives in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina

Elissa Helms

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.

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Daughters of Two Empires

Muslim Women and Public Writing in Habsburg Bosnia and Herzegovina (1878–1918)

Fabio Giomi

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.

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Coffee after cleansing?

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.

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First as Tragedy, Then as Teleology

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

Stef Jansen

account for the appeal of nationalism in the early 1990s, allowing others to dominate knowledge production on this issue. Focusing on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), this article identifies an emic and etic dichotomous paradigm of “politics” and “ordinary

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Contingent Statehood

Clientelism and Civic Engagement as Relational Modalities in Contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina

Larissa Vetters

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.

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Of wolves and men

Postwar reconciliation and the gender of inter-national encounters

Stef Jansen

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.

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Shakespeare's Fools

A Piece in a Peacebuilding Mosaic

Maja Milatovic-Ovadia

In November 2017, Ratko Mladic, a war-time leader and a commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, was sentenced by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal to life imprisonment for the genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the 1992–1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the region the verdict was received with conflicting reactions, emphasising yet again how extensive the ethnic division is within the society. Through close analysis of the theatre project Shakespeare’s Comedies performed by ethnically segregated youth in Bosnia-Herzegovina, this article aims to understand how Shakespeare’s work functions as a vehicle to address the consequences of war and to support the complex process of reconciliation under circumstances in which the issues of war crimes cannot be tackled in a straightforward and direct manner. The study takes a cross-disciplinary approach to research, drawing from theory of reconciliation, applied theatre practice and comedy studies.

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Introduction

Reconciliation, reconstruction, and everyday life in war-torn societies

Marita Eastmond

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.

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Between Trauma and Resilience

A Transnational Reading of Women's Life Writing about Wartime Rape in Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Agatha Schwartz and Tatjana Takševa

Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina during a month-long stay. Prior to the interviews, Takševa had contacted individuals and organizations who worked with survivors. Open-ended interview questions were provided beforehand, drafted by the research team for