The ASN discussion

Bosnia Remade was the subject of a book panel discussion at the 2011 ASN. Below is a cursory summary of the arguments made by discussants:

Andrew Gilbert, University of Toronto.

1. He argued that the book is largely the story of international officials, local politicians, war leaders/criminals and less so the story of the displaced themselves. We don’t get a sense of the meaning of displacement for refugees and the internally displaced themselves.

2. The question of the legitimacy of the role of the international community is largely elided in the book. It presents those working on the returns process is a quasi-heroic manner. The figure of the refugee is a legitimation subject for a ‘moral mission’ by the IC in BiH.

3. The question of employment is central, and does get some treatment in the book but only in the end.

Gordon Bardos, Columbia University

1. The authors hold a constructivist position that under estimates the power of ethnicity. While ethnicity was not the primordial axis of life in BiH it was the primary one. Ethnicity predicts two-thirds of the time who one will marry, what attitudes one will have, etc.

2. The authors suggest that Serbia was mobile and fluid historically. This also hold for Bosnia. The contention that it is a ‘distinctive geopolitical space’ tends to fall to close to BiH as an exceptionally tolerant place which is not historically supportable.

3. The timeline on polarization is off; it happened earlier during the period 1975-86.

4. There are four separate visions of BiH:

(I) Donia and Fine’s ‘tradition of tolerance’

(II) Bougarel’s tolerance and hatred

(III) Robert Hayden’s ‘antagonistic tolerance’

(IV) the primordialist vision

Bosnia Remade is between 1 and 2, and tends to ignore the deep historical roots of discourses of genocide. BiH is doomed to be dysfunctional.

Tanya Domi, Columbia University.

Tanya served as public affairs spokesperson for OSCE after Dayton. She confirmed the books portrait of these years and praised the ‘Building Capacity’ chapter which, she indicated, brought back a rush of memories. The goal was to try to reverse ethnic cleansing but the 1996 elections failed. Poverty reduction was a neglected goal and the achilles heal of the return process. She shared the book’s largely pessimistic conclusion on the state of contemporary Bosnia.

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About Gerard Toal

I am an Irish born DC based Political Geographer researching territorial conflicts and the dynamics of geopolitical competition in post-Communist Europe.
This entry was posted in Bosnia, Bosnian war, Dayton agreement, Ethnic conflict, Ethnic war, Forced displacement, Homelands, Post-conflict, Returns process and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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