The weight of survival: trauma, resilience, and the family complex in post-war Sarajevo
Peter Locke (Princeton University)
Paper short abstract:
In this paper, I explore the experience of a single Sarajevo family from the early 1990s through the present to understand what it means—and what it costs—to be resilient in the face of two decades of war, violence, and routinized crisis.
Paper long abstract:
Ethnographic engagements with survivors of war and disaster consistently trouble reigning social scientific and clinical approaches to trauma, resilience, and memory. In this paper, I explore the experience of a single Sarajevo family from the early 1990s through the present to understand what it means—and what it costs—to be resilient in the face of two decades of war, violence, and routinized crisis. What does it take to sustain and negotiate relationships of care, to endure the destruction of treasured imaginaries and values, and to keep on living in the midst of unimaginable loss, brutality, and betrayal? Through the life-or-death perils of the siege of Sarajevo to the chronic insecurity and fear of Bosnia-Herzegovina's post-war period, the family and its constituents have struggled through a physically and emotionally devastating gray zone: on the one side, bottomless melancholia, rage, and mourning; and on the other, the bittersweet promise of new social roles and repertoires of meaning, cobbled together out of necessity from the ruins of a lost world and the piecemeal resources left behind by humanitarian interventions. As they find precarious ways of sustaining life and relationships through interactions with health and psychiatric services, social support NGOs, government bureaucracies, and irregular and inadequate forms of employment, Sarajevans challenge us to ground our approaches to the psychosocial impacts of war in the complexity of lived experience over time—and to advocate for the value of this ethnographic knowledge, over and against technical analyses, in contemporary economies of truth- and policy-making.Download the full paper
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