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.
Everyday Peace and the Other in Bosnian Mixed-Ethnicity Families
Reflections in and out of Fashion
James D. Faubion
‘Misfits’ are proof positive that the anthropological chestnut of ‘the psychic unity of mankind’ glosses over the actual psychic disunity of the anthropic. The proof militates against rendering misfitness merely as a social construction even as it militates in favour of rendering it as a ‘polythetic class’, the unity of which is not based in the common features of all tokens of a given type but instead in their ‘family resemblance’. Members of the family include those who are deemed incompetent, but also those deemed best suited to specific social stations. Misfitness may also be sought and not merely ascribed. In every case, misfitness has an ethically ambiguous status – and so offers us a lesson of the systemic place of the ‘irritant’ within but also at the edge of and beyond the bounds of any current anthropology of ordinary ethics.
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