Valleys, Myths and Territories: Bosnian town of Gacko between Cosmology and Violence
(SOAS University of London)
Paper short abstract:
In Gacko, a small town on the south-eastern border of Bosnia, layers of history and cosmology operate towards the imagination of two markedly different places - of landscaped-memories and memorialised landscapes. This paper questions the vitality of non-humans in the reconstruction of a post-war society.
Paper long abstract:
'Human places become vividly real through dramatization', Tuan notes (2005: 178). Everyday lives of people in the Bosnian valley-town of Gacko are drawn into a repetition of sacral and political rituals. Their performance is not completely separate and they customarily rely on points in mythical time and space. However, the critical difference lies in the direction of their communication with the land. The nationalist modus operandi is territorial. By taking the human individual as its starting point and projecting fears of uncertainty, it subdues land into bastions of exclusivity. The cosmological approach functions in reverse. As neither certainty nor uncertainty originate from people, the agency of land-God appears as the life-moulding force inclusive of the totality of human experience. The associated ritual practices and oral history celebrate and revere this vernacular lex terrae, as the cohesive element of both synchronic and diachronic plurality. The sacral calendar of Gacko's Christians, Muslims and Roma is a shared knowledge of immersed placedness which stands in stark contrast to the violence of modern divisions. The rituals extend through a range of relationships, from weddings and funerals to traditional forms of medicine, economic exchange and athletic competitions. The paper builds upon my ethnographic explorations in the town of Gacko and raises questions on the vitality of non-humans in the reconstruction of a post-war society.
Listening landscapes, speaking memories