Accepted paper:

Chronotopic debris: saints, archives and the invention of absence


Safet HadziMuhamedovic (SOAS University of London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is an anthropological postscript to the work of the ICTY. Drawing on long-term fieldwork in Bosnia, I trace in the Tribunal's archives the strange afterlives of two syncretic Bosnian saints, George and Elijah, their feasts and the religiously plural landscapes they encapsulated.

Paper long abstract:

After a violent impact, debris may scatter into multiple directions. Scrambled shards of landscapes, relations, bodies, buildings and forms of time-reckoning travel towards recipients unaware of their prior meaning. What kinds of time and space does debris draw into itself? The religiously plural and syncretic feasts of George and Elijah, which traditionally framed the warm season and its agricultural labours, appeared after the 1990s war in Bosnia as part of a wider chronotopic theme. The alliance of landscapes with their past worked to ward off the unwanted present. This paper scavenges through the debris of the George-Elijah chronotope in the labyrinthine archives of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Displaced and disarticulated, the two saints offer here a possibility of reading both along and against the grain of archival expectations. They unsettle the legal chronotopes (the bureaucratic velocity of the courtroom and the landscapes made legible through war). I analyse the chartings of ethno-religious distinctions and the discourse of 'historical enmities' between Bosnian communities, with particular attention to the iterations of these arguments in the reports of ICTY's expert witnesses. The sustained invention of the absence of shared tradition, although productive of debris, is, I argue, continually countered by the emplacement of remnants into rekindled wholes.

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Chronotopic materialities