This dissertation is a study of the reconfiguring and reconstruction of ethno-national identities, memories and belonging in the immediate aftermath of war. It is based on an ethnographic study that explores the everyday lives of Sarajevans two years after the Bosnian War (1992-1995) was concluded and the Siege of Sarajevo lifted.
The experience of surviving war is responsible for dramatic shifts within individual and group perceptions of self, other and belonging, the memories of which are embodied, inscribed into readings of past, present and future, and passed on from one generation to the next. Individuals make sense of such dramatic events and the emotions attached to them, whilst enacting everyday lives, especially through the stories they tell one another in daily social interactions and encounters and friendships. In doing so, they perform and rework memories, identities and belonging largely shaped by dominant political ideologies and their commensurate narratives of group and place belonging.
Navigating and negotiating belonging is a common aspect of the restoration of everyday lives in the aftermath of war. Which belongings are enacted – sustained, contested or reconfigured – is largely dependent on which politics of belonging continue to give shape to the post-war social and political landscape. Importantly, as Yuval-Davis (2006) points out, various politics of belonging articulate with various scales of belonging and not belonging, and impact differently on various individuals, groups and communities within (but also across) nation-state boundaries.
In this dissertation, the author explores which memories, notions and scales of belonging are important for Sarajevans in the aftermath of the Bosnian War (1992–1995), which killed and displaced people on the basis of ethnonational and religious belonging. Set against the backdrop of ongoing shifts in public conceptualizations of self and other as a result of – armed conflict and war, the involvement of the international community in steering the postwar Bosnian state, and the drastically altered demography and geography of both the city of Sarajevo and country of Bosnia and Herzegovina – the ethnographic study provides insights into the significance of the violence and trauma of war in the reshaping of ethno-national identities and feelings of belongingness as well as of exclusion in its aftermath.