After suffering years of war, Bosnia is now the target of
international efforts to reconstruct and democratize a culturally
divided society. The global community's strategy has focused on
reforming political institutions, influencing the behavior of elite
populations, and cultivating nongovernmental organizations. But
expensive efforts to promote a stable peace and a multiethnic
democracy can be successful only if they resonate among ordinary
people. Otherwise, such projects will produce fragile institutions
and alienated citizens who will be susceptible to extremists eager
to send them back into war.
Paula M. Pickering challenges the conventional wisdom that
common people are merely passive recipients of peacebuilding
projects. Instead, in Peacebuilding in the Balkans, she
shows how ordinary people, particularly minorities in Bosnia,
understand elite rhetoric and actively shape reconstruction.
Pickering's years of fieldwork-direct observation, interviews, and
analysis of many surveys-has yielded a precise understanding of how
ordinary citizens react to and influence peacebuilding programs in
their neighborhoods, workplaces, municipal agencies, and other
real-life social settings.
The evidence suggests that international efforts to rebuild an
inclusive Bosnia will be futile unless they pay sufficient
attention to citizens' varying ties to ethnic groups, indigenous
forms of civic activity, and the development of nondiscriminatory
employment and responsive political institutions. Pickering's
insights from reconstruction in the Balkans have important
implications for peacebuilding elsewhere in Eurasia.
Subjects: Political Science
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