This article outlines how the good life and a decent death in contemporary Bosnia are underwritten and undermined by informal forms of debt. Such debts finance pursuit of a pleasurable life in a post-conflict, post-socialist economy but inspire daily anxieties, not least about dying indebted. The article runs through household budgeting, everyday splurges, bodily discomforts, ordinary death and a funeral marketplace, suggesting a 'finite economy' of vernacular practice incited and limited by an habitual fixation on existential finitude.
On a Finite Economy in Bosnia
Everyday Peace and the Other in Bosnian Mixed-Ethnicity Families
In Bosnia, 20 years aft er a war of ethnic cleansing, mixed-ethnicity families swim against the stream of nationalist separatism that insists all Bosnians should be neatly sorted into ethnic categories. When asked about their experiences, however, mixed families in Sarajevo during fieldwork from 2011 to 2012 repeatedly insisted that they were just “ordinary,” “normal” families. In this article, I look closely at an ordinary evening in the life of one such family, examining how they achieve this atmosphere of everydayness within which ordinary kin relationships are sustained despite the volatility of differences in ethnic and religious affiliation. Using a conversation analytic approach and building on the work of ordinary ethics theorists, I argue that the sense of being an ordinary family is an accomplishment constituted through active intersubjective work.
British Military Travelers in the Balkans since 1992
Tens of thousands of British military personnel traveled in former Yugoslavia as peacekeepers between 1992 and 2007. The settlements where British forces established their military presence and supply chain were conceptually far from former Yugoslavia's tourist sites, but military travelers made sense of them by drawing on the commonplaces of previous travel accounts and the lessons of pre-deployment training. British military travelers constructed themselves as often frustrated helpers in Bosnia who struggled with political limitations on their activities but found satisfaction in improving socio-economic relations at the level of the immediate community. For troops, long otiose periods in a stabilizing and startlingly cheap country engendered a touristic sensibility. This article draws on published memoirs and more than fifty new oral history interviews with British peacekeepers and their Bosnian employees to illustrate how British military travelers drew on, perpetuated, and changed the patterns and representation of British travel to the Balkans.
Political realism remains a powerful theoretical framework for thinking about international relations, including the war on terrorism. For Morgenthau and other realists, foreign policy is a matter of national interest defined in terms of power. Some writers view this tenet as weakening, if not severing, realism's link with morality. I take up the contrary view that morality is embedded in realist thought, as well as the possibility of realism being thinly and thickly moralised depending on the moral psychology of the agents. I argue that a prima facie case can be made within a thinly moralised realism for a relatively weak ally like Bosnia to enter the war on terrorism. An inflationary model of morality, however, explains how the moral horror of genocide in an ally's past may lead to a thickened moralised realism such that allied policy-makers question their country's entry into the war.
Voice, audience, and the political in psychotherapeutic practices with refugees
This article explores the relationship between psychotherapeutic practices with people with refugee backgrounds and “the political”. The relationship between voice and audience in psychotherapeutic practices is explored; through such an analysis the relationship between psychotherapy, history, and the political is considered. The theoretical questions are approached through a case study, a Bosnian man with refugee background living in Finland and attending psychotherapy there who invited the anthropologist to attend his therapy sessions. The analysis of the single case is situated within long-term ethnographic research on the Bosnian diaspora. Situating the personal in historical and moral plots, as well as seeking larger audiences beyond the confines of the therapeutic relationship, is seen as crucial in producing therapeutic effects. Simultaneously, the case enables a theoretical discussion about the relationships between voice, audience, and the political.
If the first step in developing an ethnography of everyday diplomacy requires rescaling analytical focus on the forms of mediated exchange beyond the realm of the nation-state, this needs to be followed by an exploration of the ‘sites’ where everyday diplomacy actually takes place. One such ‘site’, which epitomizes the quintessence of diplomatic practice, is dining and commensality. By re-scaling this axiom beyond state-level diplomacy, I explore how the notion of sofra [table/dining etiquette] is deployed by a Muslim Dervish brotherhood in a post-cosmopolitan town in post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina. I suggest that the notion of sofra embodies both a mode of being diplomatic as well as a site of everyday diplomacy. The sofra thus enables the brotherhood to stage ‘events of hospitality’ to forge and mediate relationships between various ‘others’, locally and transnationally.
Dress Practices and the Islamic Revival in Post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina
This essay observes contemporary Islamic dress practices in Bosnia-Herzegovina as a catalyst throwing into relief various tensions within Bosnian society – not only between Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, but among Bosniaks themselves. Based on fieldwork carried out in Sarajevo, it looks at how people employ notions of culture and tradition when justifying what types of Islamic dress, if any, are compatible with Bosnian modernity. The essay analyses how people selectively draw on fragments from the historical and ethnographic record when they argue for or against veiling, and shows how, even though many denounce veiling and particularly face veiling as foreign to Bosnia, women who veil themselves equally draw on notions of culture and tradition when justifying their dress choices to others. The essay highlights how competing visions of Islam play a role in the transformation of religious, ethnic and gender identities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and argues that dress as a gendered bodily practice does not merely mark assumed essential differences between an imagined Bosnian and foreign Islam but serves as a crucial means of their construction.
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.
The emergence of translocal dervish cults in Bosnia-Herzegovina
In postsocialist and postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina, popular dervish cults are re-emerging after several decades of (semi)clandestine existence due to official bans and repression imposed by the Yugoslav state socialist governmentality. This article explores how an absence of divine knowledge ensuing from this disruptive history—strongly felt among various Bosnian dervishes today—is transformed into spiritual creativity and an improvisatory dynamic mediated by charismatic sheikhs. It traces “creative moments” leading toward the formation of a Bosnian dervish cult and its realignment with translocal networks of dervish lodges to explore the dynamics of divine knowledge and its creation inside these networks. The ethnography presented here suggests that we move a step beyond mere sociological descriptions of how translocal cults are organized across distance to explore in a more nuanced way the historicity and the dynamics of how divine knowledge is (re)created and idiosyncratically appropriated within these networks.
The 2013 Babylution protests and desire for political transformation in postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina
In June 2013, a breakdown in the routine functioning of state bureaucracy sparked the largest and up to that point most significant wave of protests in postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina, named the Bosnian Babylution. The protest centered on the plight of newborn babies who, because of this particular administrative problem, could no longer be issued key documents, even to travel outside the country for life-saving medical care. These events exposed the profound nature of the representational crisis gripping this postwar, postsocialist, and postintervention state that has emerged at the intersection of ethnic hyper-representation and the lived experience of the collapse of biopolitical care. Yet, as this analysis shows, this crisis has also helped unleash new forms of political desire for revolutionary rupture and reconstitution of the postwar political.