Accepted Paper:

Beyond marginal: “the city” as a political actor in a context of long-term ethnic conflicts  

Author:

Ana Aceska (Humboldt University Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

The city as such, as a specific spatial scale of human settlements, played a significant role in the big national narratives about the ethnic relations in postwar Bosnia. In this paper I focus on how policy makers constructed a powerful narrative in which “the city” is defined not as a marginal space, but rather as an important political actor in the ethnic relations in the post-war divided state.

Paper long abstract:

The city as such, as a specific spatial scale of human settlements, played a significant role in the big national and international narratives about the ethnic relations in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the period after the Yugoslav wars (1992-5). Based on interviews with policy makers and city officials, as well as ethnographic observations, this paper will give an insight on how national and international policy makers constructed a powerful narrative in which “the city” is not just a marginal player in the post-war reconstruction processes, but rather an important political actor and contributor to the ethnic relations in the post-war divided state of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Indeed, since the earliest studies on cities it is commonly understood that ethnic and religious diversity is inherent to cities. The ideal city is always seen as ethnically and religiously diverse, and consequently, segregation in cities is always seen as a problem that needs to be solved. And yet, the case I will outline point to the need to understand how the city as such becomes bigger than the state and in which ways the political and ethnic fields of tension within the city relate to the big national narratives in places of long-term ethnic conflicts. I will try to answer what makes the city different from other spatial scales of human settlement, like the village, the neighborhood, or the region, in this particular context. Why planners chose cities as the most adequate spatial scale to address problems caused by ethic tensions? And most importantly, in what ways did the ethnic problems that are state-related or regionally based become just “urban”?

Panel P090
Urban margins: new perspectives on the city