Accepted Paper:

Individual and collective appropriations of loss in post-war Bosnia  

Author:

Laura Huttunen (Tampere University)

Paper short abstract:

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995 meant enormous personal and collective losses for most, if not all Bosnians.There are various discourses and practices within post-war Bosnia that seek to harness such losses for political ends. In this paper, the focus of investigation will be on tensions between private, narrated memories of loss and public commemorative practices. The collective appropriations of loss are compared with private practices of grasping loss and imagining future.

Paper long abstract:

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995 meant enormous personal and collective losses for most, if not all Bosnians. Many lost their loved ones, their family houses and other material belongings, and further their previous occupational positions and the like. The violent nature of the war meant also that many people lost their neighbourly relations, and the social fabric of most local communities was damaged or destroyed altogether. The social, cultural and political repercussions of the war changed social life to the extent that many Bosnians claim that they have lost "the world as they used to know it".

There are various discourses and practices within post-war Bosnia that seek to harness such losses for political ends. Memorial sites commemorating various events of the war are among such practices. In this paper, based on ethnographic fieldwork, I will look at specific memorial sites within Bosnia, such as a burial site of victims of shellfire in Tuzla, and the ways in which they are commented upon by Bosnians, both by locals and by Bosnians visiting from diaspora. The focus of investigation will be on tensions between private, narrated memories of loss and public commemorative practices. The collective appropriations of loss are compared with private practices of grasping loss and imagining future, such as writing poetry in the diaspora.

Panel W082
It's gone - an anthropology of loss