Accepted Paper:

Coming home to the world: the remaking of Bosnian village life  


Andrew Dawson (University of Melbourne)

Paper short abstract:

This ethnographic paper explores some of the contextually contingent forms that the cultural interventions to village life that displaced Bosnians make in their homecomings. The villages themselves are conceptualised as 'non-places' rendered as such by domicide and the contradictions of post-war policy.

Paper long abstract:

The legacy of the Dayton Peace Agreement that brought an end to war in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been contradictory, simultaneously providing incentives for displaced people to reclaim property but not to 'sustainably' return. Rather, return is often a dynamic and open-ended process that may extend over long periods of time and may involve mobility between multiple places (Richmond, 1996). Consequently, in many cases villages have developed 'non-place' qualities. Resembling the airport lounge, they are more akin to sites of traveling than sites of dwelling. They are characterized increasingly by a deterritorialization of the relationship between place, culture and identity. And, the emerging social and material forms of village life are significantly extra-locally defined, as newly implanted 'historic' local cultural references compete alongside an array, or in Auge's terms, an 'excess' of the symbols of international aid donors, alien religious architectures and rememberences of diasporic communities. This ethnographic paper explores the Bosnian village homecomings of displaced Bosnian villagers, both Bosniac and Serb, now residing in Australia. In particular, it argues that the forms that the cultural interventions they make in contemporary village life are contingent upon the contrasting social conditions of their displacement. In this case a comparison is drawn between welfare dependent people subjected significantly to Australia's program of multicultural immigration management, participants in 'Bosnian Virtual Villages' and a young Bosnian middle-class that valorizes the cosmoplitanizing dimensions of the refugee experience.

Panel W083
Homecomings in transnational age: visible projects, forged practices?