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Prayer as a History: Of Witnesses, Martyrs, and Plural Pasts in Post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina

David Henig

Keywords: Bosnia-Herzegovina; critical events; historical consciousness; Islamic Community; martyrdom; plural pasts; prayer; violence

Abstract

This article explores how Muslims in Central Bosnia engage with the violent past through acts of prayer to make history. It traces two idioms expressed in prayers whereby Bosnian Muslims affectively apprehend, remember, and temporalize the past: witness (šahit) and martyr (šehit). These two idioms, I argue, allow Muslims to reanimate recent critical events as the realms of personal moral-cum-temporal orientations rather than unreflectively participating in an ongoing nationalization of the past in the public discourses. This article thus suggests to take seriously an act of prayer as a mode of historical consciousness— an assemblage of divergent sensibilities, materialities, practices, and ethical conduct—in order to develop a more nuanced perspective on the past as actively and ethically in-the-making in the present.

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