9 Conclusion in:

Tobias Greiff

Violent Places, page 303 - 320

Everyday Politics and Public Lives in Post-Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina

1. Edition 2018, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-4092-8, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-6938-7, https://doi.org/10.5771/9783828869387-303

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
9 Conclusion Leaving Bosnia As there are currently no international flights leaving from Banja Luka’s airport, everyone who wants to fly internationally is left with no other option than commuting to one of the nearby airports. ‘Nearby,’ however, can mean up to 300 kilometers of driving to Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport, or, insteadheading toBosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, only 190 kilometers away, which is the route we will take. The shortest route between entity capital and entity capital today still goes over tiny and curvy mountain roads. We turn right at the Ferhadjia, onto Bulevar cara Dušana, until we reach the second large circle of M16 in Banja Luka, at which we turn left to continue on the M16 to the southern city lines. Here on the left we can see, on a hill, the famous picnic place and partisan memorial on Banj brdo. Meters outside the city lines, motorway 16 becomesmore and more narrow as it runs alongside the bends of Banja Luka’s river Vrbas, over which we cross using a small bridge that appears to still be one of the immediate post-war enforced army bridges, to start the climb on R414 into the central part of Bosnia towards the Vlašić and Borja mountain ranges. These mountain plateaus of the wider central Bosnian area were held by Serb VRS and JNA forces during the war, overlooking the Bosniak and Croat held cities and towns, including Jajce to the West of our street, and Travnik through which we soon will pass further South. The last war has left its marks along the sides of this remote mountain street and we once again, as with our decent to Pale, see gravestones along the road, occasional RS flags outside houses and Jelen Pivo advertised at a small bar and store named ‘Liberity’ in the mountain town today called Kneževo. Kneževo is still remembered by its pre-war name Skender Vakuf on the other side of the IEBL, which we now cross for the last time in this journey. After yet another couple of steep slopes and narrow curves, we leave the mountains and enter the Laša Valley in the town of Turbe. The Laša lies between the Vlašić and Vranica mountains and is the geographical 303 heart of BiH. As such, the valley was of historic importance, connecting the Bosnian Royal Court in Jajce with Travnik, the first modern diplomatic center of Bosnia, which hosted the consuls of France andHabsburg Hungary in the early 19th century. Connecting eastwithwest Bosnia, the LašaValley later became a central battle ground in the lastwar. With Serb VRS troops holding the Northern mountain ranges, while Croat HVO and Bosniak ARBiH fought over the Valley itself, the war in this part of the country was accompanied by severe massacres of the civil population – which have been forgotten by most international observers, but until today define life in the valley. Only meters before the city line of Travnik, we can see a newly constructed Catholic Church, met on the other side of the street with a large graffiti reminding everyone in passing to “Never Forget Srebrenica.” One wonders whether Srebrenica here refers to the atrocities in East Bosnia or to the local suffering of Bosniaks? While Travnik today has a large Muslim majority – not only including Muslims from Bosnia, but, since the opening of one of the country’s largest madrasas, also children sent by their parents from other Muslim communities and countries, in particular from Turkey – other towns and cities in the Laša valley publically declare themselves as Croat. HVO and Croat flags and crests replace ARBiH and BiH flags and vice versa as we drive along M5. We soon pass no-name brand gas stations with shady pensions andmotels attached in the back – an indicator that we are close to Bosnia’s first and only highway, the A1. This important north-south highway is a part of the human trafficking route, bringing anyone from refugees to underage sex slaves through the Balkans. A lack of police control, or lack of enforcement of rules, in this area becomes visiblewhen entering theA1 a littleway outside the city of Zenica. Under the highway entrance ramp, Roma prostitutes and drug dealers publically operate in the middle of the day. Meters after we enter the A1, we have to stop and take a ticket from the tollbooth, which wewill have to pay upon exiting. A single trip from Zenica in the middle of Bosnia to Sarajevo costs around 4KM, making this new highway, built by international investors, not only a symbol of progress but also a symbol signifying the large economic gap between those who can afford this road and those who have to take the bumpy dirt road next to it. When the asphalt came to Bosnia in the 1960s, something many of the elder generations still recount as a milestone in progress and comfort, asphalt roads were open for everyone and a 304 sign of Yugoslav Bosnia entering modern times. New highways in the Balkans today, as idolized in the famous pop song “Gas, gas” byCroatian artist Severina Kojić, in which sparsely dressed girls dance on a highway over which American sports cars and trucks race, are signifiers of the region’s transition to a liberal free market and value order, an order which publically accepts and promotes economic differentiation. The smooth and straight highway, however, feels good after hours on mountain roads and we can allow our attention to wander off into the scenery flying by: houses, mosques, factories, burning garbage heaps and ruins with ‘for sale’ signs. On first glance, none of this seems new; we have grown accustomed to Bosnia. But this sense of familiarity could be problematic, and we have to ask ourselves what exactly our observations in Mostar, Sarajevo, Goražde, and Banja Luka tell us, or allow us to say, about the lives and conflict potentials of these now familiar looking places left and right of the highway, about all the other places in Bosnia we have not visited. Taking our observations in the four cities we visited seriously, remembering that we not only saw that agency depends on very specific local contexts and that each place has its own, very unique, composure of competing agents, but also that the agency of one and the same agent, for example of the federal Bosniak elite, is different in Sarajevo than it is in Goražde, has to caution us away from making any assumptions about other places. This means that, while people from towns close to our central cities under observation may have some relationship to these regional centers – maybe they work there, have family there, or need to buy products there, and in doing so are exposed to, and become a product of, the positionings that appear in these central places – the impact of these positionings on the local realities of life is still largely unclear. In the end, we have to expect that, while we grew familiar with the scenery, we actually do not know enough about these places left and right of us to be able to understand local intergroup relations; and that each place promises equally unique intergroup relations and conflict potentials. But what about what lies ahead of us at the end of the new highway – is Sarajevo, at least, still the same as we left it? Sarajevo Airport Instead of having to cross through the center of Sarajevo in order to reach the airport, a new tunnel directs us to Novi Grad. On the M5 now, 305 through this newer municipality of Sarajevo, we soon enter familiar territory. At least for a spell we can see to our left the large Bulevar Meće Selimovića, on which we entered Sarajevo the last time and, in the distance, the first of the larger inner city buildings. Crossing the boulevard and continuing to the South, we soon reach the airport, which welcomes us with old white steel roadblocks in the parking lot and its old airport building still coated in the light blue color of the UN. On the second floor of the building, which once hosted a UN canteen, one can find good and cheap coffee together with a great view to the other side of the airfield and Mount Igman through large windows overlooking the tarmac. From here we can guess where the entrance to the Tunnel of Life must have been, the once vital route supplying Sarajevo and its commanders during the siege of the city. These images and histories of suffering connected with the Sarajevo airport wear off once we enter the new airport building with its glass and steel construction, white stone floors, rental car and check-in counters and kiosks. Sarajevo today is not the same as it was in 1995, and not even exactly the same aswhat itwasduring our last observations: on the onehand,we saw that intergroup relations are dynamic and that, while some positions might be relatively stable for a certain time, opportunities to negotiate new distributions of one’s rights, duties, and obligations will arise and agents will seek them; on the other hand – and this is the curse of being a foreigner, a short-time guest and observer – every time I visit Sarajevo, life there becomes more colorful andmore complex. It is this experience, that the more you know about the intricacies of intergroup relations, the ways and symbols through which places and positions are claimed, the more you see the next time. The more you are primed to look for a certain pattern, for example a certain graffiti, the more likely it becomes that you will see and recognize this graffiti. While this is exciting, and adds layer to layer, ultimately enabling a thick description of life and an approximation of what certain things mean in the local realm, it is these patterns and familiarity that make one wonder, at the same time, how much onemisses due to this learning process, this particular journey, one has embarked upon. It appears that maybe the opposite of what is often assumed is actually true, that we do not become more open-minded the more we see, but instead that it becomes harder and harder to remain in a relaxed and exploratory mindset the longer our journey goes on. Regardless, it remains crucial that we accept that all our observations 306 and interpretations of life and social conflict in Bosnia, once again, are limited by the very way we started to explore them. These observations and experiences most certainly cannot be bracketed; and while they provide us with ideas and leads to follow and explore in the future, they require caution and continuous challenging before being applied. The contribution our story of conflict in Bosnia makes to the myriads of other stories of conflict and Bosnia, rests on exactly this foundational understanding of the guiding limitations that first allowed us to critically challenge traditional concepts, theories, and methodologies, and then encouraged us to start on a new path. The moment this study was set in motion was when, during the Bosnian Spring, it became clear to me and many other observers that abstract, alien, and reductionist concepts from afar – remote desks and times – of ethnic conflict in Bosnia are not enough when attempting to understand the current intergroup relations and the foundations of conflict potentials in the country today. Once the prevailing ethnic conflict paradigm started to dismantle, due to its incapacity to explain new conflict potentials and alternative groupings, the necessity of a fresh engagement was clear. This newroute for exploringBosnia’s intergroup relations and conflicts was modeled on a concept of conflict and dormant conflict potentials influenced by Positioning Theory, and a set of methodological approaches ultimately aimed at utilizing central spaces and the competition of their interpretations, as manifested in various kinds of symbolic usages, as gateways into the local meaning-making matrix. Both theoretical and methodological concepts were derived in interaction with observations, reflections, and theorizing initiated through various research trips to Bosnia. This overall approach, while it is not without its flaws – which will be discussed later – was able to capture highly dynamic intergroup positioning processes and, through doing so, uncover and explain previously hidden local conflict potentials, some of whichmay be so powerful that they can shape the future of Bosnia as a whole. What we saw The design of this study exposed us first and foremost to four cities, one of which – Goražde – has so far received very little attention in research on Bosnia’s social relations and conflicts, and three others which, while more prominent in research literature, have to my knowledge not been 307 systematically examined – and in recent years freed from ethno-national concepts of conflict – in regards to their local uniqueness in terms of intergroup social relations and conflict potentials. In all four cities then, the majority of places visited during this research project have also not been examined as important stages for intergroup positioning, and those that attracted attention before often only did so because of historic events (of violence and the memorialization thereof) and not as current political stages and gateways to understanding current intergroup relations. Further, changes that have occurred recently in public spaces have only occasionally been recognized, most famously when international donors have been involved in the reconstruction of places with highly recognizable symbolic meaning, like the Old Bridge in Mostar or the Ferhadjia Mosque in Banja Luka. While the Old Bridge and the Ferhadjia are important tools and stages in post-war politics, places like the Croat culture center in Mostar or Krajina Square in Banja Luka today play an equally if not even more important role in inner group positioning processes impacting life in both cities today. The relationship between different public spaces in one city – of for example Krajina Square and Mladen Stojanović Park, or Sarajevo’s Stari Grad versus Ilidža – in terms of intergroup relations is also something we could observe, but which so far has attracted little attention in both academic and popular literature. Both of these examples show that the local meanings associated with people living in, coming to, or leaving these places are connected with several other attributes used in positioning processes, linking and differentiating new-comers, old city heritage, peasants, farmers, intelligentsia, moderates, radicals, isolationists and various interpretations of nationalists, and so many more, into the complex web defining agency and opportunities for people in BiH. Equally as complex as the relationship between different places in one larger city space, is the relationship of landmarks, like the IEBL, and the everyday experience. The study has shown that one and the same political border can have different meanings, not only depending on which side one is looking from, but also that meanings change from location to location, and that sometimes multiple local meanings compete at the same time. Aside from the main places and cities under observation, the very design of this study further created additional exposure for some overlooked and under-researched places throughout Bosnia. Next to creating more impressions, or at times delivering important context or contrast, 308 and triggering new ideas, the drive was ultimately an attempt at combating any emerging notions of useful abstraction and generalization. The many miles, villages, mountains, and valleys we crossed are a constant reminder of how limited this exploration was – and only could be – and how much lies outside this route, right in front of our eyes but in many cases never examined in studies focusing on social conflict in Bosnia. The moments spent in the valleys of the rivers Drina, Laša, or Neretva, or on the mountain slopes of the Romanija have left me with the feeling that positionings here, in areas with low population density but higher ethnic homogeneity, might be driven by other cultural tropes and memories. Whether this is the case, and what these positionings hold in terms of conflict potential, we yet have to discover. Agency in BiH Even while trying to exclude all previous categories used to explain social conflicts in Bosnia, which included a concerted effort not to start with any assumptions about which social groupings exist, we began to encounter actors from the moment we entered Bosnia. From the first border guards and tourists, to the complicated texture of social positioning that soon unfolded in Mostar, the spectrum of agents and groupings continued to expand and grow more and more complex and diverse. Next to key politicians and local celebrities, ranging from turbo folk stars to war heroes and tycoons, we encountered numerous additional agents on this trip. Veterans unions, soccer hooligan firms, local religious leaders and municipal level politicians and company owners competed with the federal political, financial, and religious elites, as well as international agents and companies, for influence in local spaces. Equally as diverse and plentiful as the spectrum of agents we encountered were the measures through which their competition was carried out. From changing the color or a street sign to renaming cities, from cutting trees to planting memorial parks, from sponsoring school projects to building universities, and so forth. While some practices, like the construction of memorials – which allows for the celebration of one group’s victories or losses while pointing a finger at others responsible for the enormity of suffering and the war all together – appeared in most places, we saw that the meanings communicated by these practices unfolded differently in each locality and that these interpretations and the importance associated with them are not set in stone for eternity, but instead remain fluid. 309 Even not changing a symbol became a strategy often deployed, leading to a weathering away of the Old Partisan Graveyard in Mostar’s West, even while the city holds on to its Marshal Tito Street. Although it is tempting to see some larger pattern in the survival of Marshal Tito as a patron of the main streets in three of the four cities, and his replacement by a Serbian King in the fourth, we have come to see that each of these decisions are first and foremost made to manifest certain interpretations and positions in their respective local spaces. The efforts conducted to maintain agency show us once more how dynamic and multi-facetted positioning processes are in Bosnia today. From changing political party affiliations several times, to maintaining the ability to speak for Goraž de’s local Bosniak community, to larger inter-ethnic party coalitions on the federal level intended to support federal elites in their local positioning processes, as we observed with SNSD and SDS and their Croat and Bosniak allies in Banja Luka, competition for influence and the expansion of agency is very high throughout all field sites. Competition on this level more and more often led to the classification of those with the most agency as elites. Elites in BiH Elite and agency became in some ways synonymous, and in this sense, ‘elites’ became the opposite pole to forced and frozen positions. Such a concept might be interesting for future theorizing. In the local realms of Bosnia, elite as a position is bound to certain spaces – elite in one place again does not necessarily mean elite in another, it does not mean one has the same range of agency, the same rights, duties, and obligations. This goes beyond the expected notion that, for example, an Imam has less influence in the parameters of a Christian community and more in a Muslim one. This became clear in Sarajevo, for example, where newcomers and war profiteers compete with old families positioning themselves, their networks, and all others in a fierce competition within the Bosniak community. Further, the range of agency some elites have established for themselves in Sarajevo does not now translate to the same range of agency in other places. We saw this when federal Bosniak elites competed with local Bosniak elites in Goražde. In general, we came to observe a very diverse group of individuals who are positioned as elite, and who compete for economic resources, 310 spaces, and influence over different groups, whose moral orders, relationships and ultimately position they define. Competition within and over the ideal self-position of larger groupings in many cases appears to be more prominent than actual intergroup positionings between one’s own group and other groups outside the immediate influence of the elites. This of course does not mean that the inner group positioning processes do not create positions for all other groups as well. On the contrary, inner group differentiation processes, between old town and new town Sarajevoan Bosniaks, between pro EU and pro Independence Banja Lukan Serbs, between pro Franciscan and pro diocese Mostarians, included positionings of all other groups in these spaces and often led to forced positionings, the rejection of outside positionings, or even a complete freezing of agency. However, elite competitions over grouppositions are not the onlypositioning processes determining life in BiH today. At the same time, locals position themselves and others mainly by aligning with one of the larger definitions that are introduced and controlled by elites. Here, proximity efforts, or the goal of getting closer to and being seen as closer to, the interpretations enforced in the public space, now becomes a strategy for potentially enhancing agency. These efforts can range from flags in one’s front yard to securing spots in the central graveyard closest to those accepted as elite. Closeness to celebrated heroes, and headstones in styles and shapes that resemble the values of hero graves, reflect promises that ensure more influence and protection. These actions are as much a positioning act as accepting a more conservative interpretation of Islam as a foundation for one’s life as a widow, or marching under banners glorifying SNSD or SDS leadership for Bosnian Serb army veterans. How far these decisions are driven by opportunism, fear, or shared and deeply believed values, remains equally as opaque as the truemotivations of the elite. The message of these acts, however, is clear to all others operating and competing for the same public space. Public space in Bosnia, of course, is not only sought after and utilized by local actors and elites; an equally diverse group of international actors are also part of the positioning processes. Today the spectrum of positions international actors strive towards appears to be extremely diverse, ranging from attempts at restoring geo-political influence and leadership – such as the case with Turkey and several other Muslim nations involved in inventing the Bosniak position, but also the influence 311 of several international brands and companies – to partial withdrawal from previously enforced positions, as in the case of Serbia and other international powers (some of which we have only seen through their memorials and occasional embassy buildings). Withdrawal and apathy can, as we saw in Banja Luka with the removal of Serbian influence, catalyze inner group positioning conflicts just as much as attempts at extending presence and influence. What this study also demonstrated is that both interest and apathy can have positive or negative impacts on inner group positionings: In the case of Goražde, the absence of outside agents gave local agents more control and power, which in this case increased local stability while also softening previous conflict lines, ultimately fostering regional cooperation beyond ethnic divides and the IEBL, and economic improvement and employment opportunities. This success story of Goražde is now under threat due to the actions of the very same international agentswho hope to promote this example and reproduce it in other places. Once the attention of international and local elites was drawn back to the stage of Goražde, it catalyzed competition for success and economic resources, potentially jeopardizing local stability. Both international presence and absence have the potential to influence local intergroup relations. In this light, international interventions, even thosewith the best intentions, can create and manifest already forced and frozen positions and undo local successes. Local positionings can be very fragile in Bosnia today and any type of international intervention could risk creating further conflict and instability. Conflicts in BiH We discovered that competition for agency has created deep ruptures between and within positions created and enforced as part of it. In some cases, these ruptures led to large-scale expressions of dissatisfaction and sometimes even open violence. Looking back, we can now differentiate between two types of positionings that resulted in acts of public repulsion and efforts in repositioning. The first case includes instances in which local elites’ new selfpositionings challenged the rights, duties, and obligations that local individuals understood for themselves, as created through past interactions. The protests at the Picin Park in Banja Luka are a great example 312 of this case. Here, previous interactions had created, on the part of the people of Banja Luka, a sense of entitlement to this green space, aswell as an understanding that it was the responsibility and duty of the local elite to maintain and protect it. Selling, repurposing, and destroying of the Park were acts outside of this previously accepted moral order, leading to strong reactions against the new self-position that would allow these acts. The second case in which we saw protests, and even violence, were moments in which two or more potential positionings existed, each with exclusivemoral orders. Violence against gay right protestors in Sarajevo, the competition between Turkish andBosnian forms of Islam inGoražde, or the tensions pulling the Bosnian Serb Veterans in different directions, are all examples in which people associated, or associating, with certain values were faced with multiple, competing options. What unites both cases is that we have seen that economic disadvantages, the extreme poverty of many people, and in particular the youth, throughout BiH today, play an important role in many positioning processes and – this is probably the most important finding of this study – both cases of conflict have nothing to do with ethnic differences. Looking at these conflicts, it now appears that the concept of ethnic group as a category used to understand current social conflicts in Bosnia is far too abstract to explain current tensions. Ethnicity and religion continues to matter today of course, but what it means to be a Catholic Bosnian Croat in Mostar is not defined by some abstract concepts of Catholicism and Croathood, but by local elites, personal experiences, and opportunities in the local realm, by local positions and positioning processes, and by local interpretations and adaptations of any of these abstract notions and visions. What it means to be Bosniak, Croat, or Serb, and how much agency each of these groupings bear, is different in different places, and often, several competing interpretations exist in one and the same place. Since these local competitions sometimes include references to, and abstractions of, larger ethno-national concepts, we might question whether the increasing abstraction and purification of group positions, not only in terms of demonization of outsiders, but in particular in terms of a group’s own moral frameworks and positions, has the potential to become an early warning indicator for rising conflict potentials, not only between, but in particular within, each of the larger self-positions. 313 Regardless ofwhether the increasedusage of ethno-national references lends itself as an early warning indicator, this study shows that it is important that actual conflict potentials, the actual positionings that might lead to public repulsion, are always dependent on local intergroup relations. Abstract positionings, even when promoted through a national elite and from the capital, cannot any longer be expected – as this study highlighted – to reduce the agency of everyone included under one of these concepts in the same way, in every place, at the same time. On the contrary, the local adaptations and interpretations, and the local competitions over the right to interpret local space and control intergroup interactions – whether they include larger abstract moral frameworks of ethnicity and nationhood or not – are the interactions in which the most severe reductions in agency, and arguably some of the most dangerous conflict potentials, in the form of forced and frozen positions, are created in Bosnia today. Marginalized in BiH Beneath and within some of the larger positioning conflicts this study highlighted, we were also able to recognize and detect some positionings that carry little to no opportunity for repositioning within the realm of established moral orders. Marginalization, and forced and frozen positions, again are local products. Even when we saw that Roma in all four cities lacked opportunities, their actual position is one that is continually forged by local interactions, laws, regulations, and prejudices. While many Roma were cleansed from the public space in Banja Luka, and chased from the tourist places in Old Town Sarajevo, their protest at the Eternal Flame was tolerated in Sarajevo’s center city, and we seemany Roma children throughout Sarajevo’s pedestrian zone. Additional forced and frozen positions we discovered included those associated with certain pre-war/post-war statuses, such as being an IDP or widow, or those created through local and specific associations with certain regions and the ways and forms of life associated with these locations: the hillbillies, mountaineers, peasants and so forth from the Sandžakwho are less intelligent, more easily corrupted, and lean toward a more radical and orthodox, un-Bosnian, form of Islam. In addition, many are marginalized through economic or employment status, age, or because of life choices and sexual orientation. The majority of these 314 types of forced and frozen positions were again created within, and not between, ethno-national and religious groups, while enforced and reinforced through similar positionings held by people associatedwith other ethno-national and religious groups. In noting the diversity of those who are marginalized, or hold forced and frozen positions, today, we must also finally note that ‘Ostali,’ the term used in the constitution for everyone who is not identified as a member of one of the three constituent groups, might be equally as problematic and abstract a term as those denoting the other three ethnic groups. By design, this notion includes many different groups of minority, and potentially marginalized, individuals. However, the meaning of the term is also highly context dependent. Ostali appears, in everyday life, to cover everyone outside one’s ownpositioning, whether associable along ethnic lines or not. This may include immigrants, converts, those married to foreigners, or second wives, LGBT individuals, those from other religious groups, Yugoslavs, or even Bosnians. It would be wrong to assume, therefore, that all Ostali hold a forced and frozen position. We could take the example of someone from a Bosniak family in Sarajevo who, for personal reasons, decides not to associate with the local concept of being ‘Bosniak,’ but instead wishes to be seen only as a citizen of Bosnia, and therefore identifies as Ostali on the census and other legal documents. As long as, due to current positioning processes, this individual is still identifiable by name, heritage, and possibly economic status, as Bosniak, an attempted self-positioning as Ostali might not be hugely successful. Here, as agency is only partially limited, we may then have a forced position, but not frozen. However, this example does serve to remind us that everyone we have encountered is affected by local moral orders, and that, regardless of the reasons behind attempts at positioning and repositioning, no one can escape being positioned. What the case of Ostali shows us, in instances in which this form of identificationmight be takenup as a protest against existing frameworks, is how difficult it can be for new frameworks to gain traction amid dominant local moral orders. This understanding might give an idea of the complications we can expect to follow the introduction of abstract, new, outside frameworks like one of a consociational multiethnic BiH, or of EU citizenship, or Salafi Islam. While the resilience of oldmoral orders might, especially in regards to the last category, be seen as something favorable, this resistance to new adaptations is also part of what drives 315 Western frustrations with current day Bosnia and its unclear path into the future. Overall, the findings this study produced so far point towards several conflict potentials that have the possibility of shaping the future of BiH as awhole. We encounteredmany newagents, positions, and struggles that may shape the future of Bosnia, but we also undoubtedly missed many aspects, through the route we chose, the places we visited and those we missed, as well as the study’s very design and underlying assumptions. What we missed While this approach was highly productive in terms of being able to detect conflict potentials and emerging actors and groupings, it was also challenging at times to work under the developed framework. Reviewing these challenges, and highlighting some of the shortcomings of the approach in order to support its improvement for future research on this case and others, is therefore important. The first of four larger challenges encountered originated from the concept of central place developed at the outset of the study. While the definition of central places was created to ground our observations, to define the locus on which intergroup interactions were to be observed, while also allowing entrance to themeaningmatrixes used tomake these interactions meaningful for those engaged in these particular places, the definition itself limited the scope of the study to public and physical spaces, while at the same time not accounting for the variable of time. The initial hope was that public spaces would at least show some traces of all, or most, of the groups interacting upon them. Given the huge role loyalty networks play in intergroup interactions in Bosnia, and the possibility that certain elites abstain fromusing public spaces, ormay not even be present in BiH while they still compete for local loyalties from afar or from behind closed doors, suggests that future observations private spaces, or spaces with limited access for certain groups, might hold additional information important in completing the picture of intergroup relations. It further became clear, while walking through the Old City in Sarajevo at night, that the concept of time and its relationship to interpretations of space could further enrich the study. Controlling a place by day does not mean one controls it at night; different competitions can be expected at different times on the same place. And finally, the reduction 316 in the scope to physical spaces, a reduction initially thought necessary to be able to pin down local interpretations as exactly as possible, by design excluded virtual spaces. Attempts of controlling virtual space, through legislation and police in Banja Luka, highlighted that virtual space matters, and that expanding our focus to include virtual spaces might help with the second problem encountered with this approach, the remaining difficulty of capturing truly marginalized groups. As many approaches struggle with finding marginalized groups, partially because their agency is so limited that overlooking them is easy, this study’s proposed concept of triangulating forced and frozen positions, through examining positionings created for them in the dominant discourses, was designed to counter this problem. Nevertheless, is became clear that the approach only worked as long as some indications of marginalized groups could be found in the public space during the observation phase. This was further complicated by this study’s approach of starting fresh, and assuming that we do not, and cannot, know what groups we ought to expect to find in any given location. This meant that we could only look for traces of certain grouping in dominant positioning processes once we had discovered some traces of them in the public space. If we did not encounter anything pointing to certain groups, then these groups became this approach’s missing persons. Loosening the strict condition of having to see some trace in order to analyze certain positions might, under additional precautions, be well advised and would allow us to assume the existence of certain groups, like physically disabled war veterans, even without having seen any reference to their existence, sincemany public spaces are not handicap accessible in Bosnia today. The approach’s third issue has to do with its dependency on visible ruptures. The clean and well-maintained spaces in Banja Luka highlighted this difficulty very well. It was only through detours and accidental encounters during the recent protests that wewere able to decode the deeper meanings positioning people in Banja Luka today. In light of these difficulties, it remains unclear how useful the current version of this approach can be for the analysis of social relations in smaller towns and villages. Perhaps the introduction of private spaces might address this concern as well, and allow us to encounter spaces of rupture even in smaller towns and rural and mountainous terrains. Examining these smaller places will become even more important now, since we have to 317 expect that the positionings created in regional centers may not easily transform the positioning processes in more remote areas. Center and periphery relations will need to be examined more thoroughly in the future, in order to close the gaps on the map of Bosnia that this study has created. Finally, the approach of utilizing public spaces and symbols as gateways into positioning processes turned out to be more time-consuming than expected. There was a high need for contextualization, for continuous diving into the local past to unpack the complexity behind certain positioning acts – allowing us to dig deeply into local interpretations and understandings of these – which made the act of re-visiting, the act of writing this manuscript, into a long term effort. While many forced and frozen positions may lay dormant for long stretches of time, rather than erupting into immediate open violence, if this approach is to be effective as an early warning framework capable of reliably detecting tensions in a timely manner, it may need further revisions. So what? The aim of this study was to start fresh, to come from a different angle, and to honor the complexity of social relations in post-war Bosnia. This was not intended as a voyeuristic endeavor, but founded instead on the belief that through making implicit social workings explicit, uncovering hidden conflict potentials, and diving into complexity, we could gain a level of respect and sense of urgency that would challenge us to rethink, adjust and invent new ways of fostering agency, and in so doing, reducing violent conflict and future conflict potentials. While this study by design did not directly seek to find ideal pathways toward enhancing agency – always recognizing that engaging in any type of intervention may not be the right thing to do at this time – this is still understood as an objective that has the potential to create stability and increase the quality of everyday life in BiH today. As a final takeaway, then, we might consider the data produced through this exploration and allow ourselves to question whether, for example, BiH ought to be forced to reform its constitution as a condition of final membership negotiations with the EU. Maybe EU membership negotiations that come without the fear of drastic changes to the political system will reduce the kind of elite competition we saw currently 318 positioning, for example, Bosnian Serb EU supporters as traitors to the very concept of Serbdom, and strengthening the positioning power of anti-EU sentiments in the hands of certain nationalist elites. At the same time, offering temporary EU citizenship for all BiH citizens may allow for local adaptations, and the integration of EU values and ideas without nationalist elite control and interpretation. Whatever the next steps are, this study has shown that interventions that enhance agency – even if this means allowing people to re-position themselves outside of BiH like in the case of Goražde – for everyone involved should be favored over any approach that contributes to the freezing of certain groups. And, if the latter is not preventable, then the question of whether any intervention can be justified at all has to be asked. Even the sincerest attempts toward memorializing the suffering of victims of violence run the risk of creating frozen positions: of positioning individuals who may have done nothing wrong as belonging to the overarching groups of perpetrators, while freezing others as permanent victims, continually dependent now on outside support and unable to divorce their lives and futures from the deaths of their peers and families. Perhaps this study’s largest takeaway is therefore that we should be extremely cautious about any future outside interventions into Bosnia, while more research into specific local intergroup interactions should be encouraged, in order to understand, and hopefully reduce, future local conflict potentials. 319

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Abstract

In this multi-sited ethnography, the author explores how political agency is shaped through interactions on public places across four central Bosnian and Herzegovinian cities. The author shows that everyday life on public places in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina is fundamentally political: either by design or by default, and that no one can escape the highly dynamic negotiations of rights, duties, and obligations that occur in every public interaction. These positioning games are far from innocent; they create elites, manifest political power, and in the same moment cut out more and more citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the promises set by market economy and democracy. Through examining hundreds of interactions on public spaces ranging from soccer stadiums and market halls to graveyards, this study not only shows how post-war political agency in Bosnia and Herzegovina is bound to the public realm, but also that options for defining one’s personal future are less linked to ethno-national group membership than widely assumed. Instead local, generational, and economic differences play a significant role in determining everyday livelihood. These factors – unique in their composition in every observed place – highlight a new realm of conflict potentials that will shape the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina over the next decade.