Citizens of an Empty Nation

Citizens of an Empty Nation: Youth and State-Making in Postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina

Azra Hromadžić
Tobias Kelly Series Editor
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt14btgsb
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  • Book Info
    Citizens of an Empty Nation
    Book Description:

    In the wake of devastating conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the polarizing effects of everyday ethnic divisions, combined with hardened allegiances to ethnic nationalism and the rigid arrangements imposed in international peace-building agreements, have produced what Azra Hromadžić calls an "empty nation." Hromadžić explores the void created by unresolved tensions between mandated reunification initiatives and the segregation institutionalized by power-sharing democracy, and how these conditions are experienced by youths who have come of age in postconflict Bosnia-Herzegovina.

    Building on long-term ethnographic research at the first integrated school of Bosnia-Herzegovina,Citizens of an Empty Nationoffers a ground-level view of how the processes of reunification play out at the Mostar Gymnasium. Hromadžić details the local effects of the tensions and contradictions inherent in the processes of postwar state-making, shedding light on the larger projects of humanitarian intervention, social cohesion, cross-ethnic negotiations, and citizenship. In this careful ethnography, the Mostar Gymnasium becomes a powerful symbol for the state's simultaneous segregation and integration as the school's shared halls, bathrooms, and computer labs foster dynamic spaces for a rich cross-ethnic citizenship-or else remain empty.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9122-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    On July 23, 2004, eleven years after the destruction of the famed Old Bridge in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina,¹ and after a decade of painstaking international diplomatic efforts and more than thirteen million U.S. dollars invested in the reconstruction,² the new “Old” Bridge was reopened to the public. Together with thousands of “internationals” and “locals,” I witnessed the opening ceremony. Numerous speeches were given by key international and local leaders who spoke about the significance of the event for the city’s divided people and the country’s future. Popular singers and actors gave inspiring speeches and sang patriotic songs. Boats passed under the...

  4. Part I. Integrating the School
    • Chapter 1 Right to Difference
      (pp. 29-62)

      After the declarations of independence by Slovenia and Croatia from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, Bosnia-Herzegovina found itself faced with a choice between independence (supported by the majority of Bosniaks and Croats) and remaining in the Yugoslav federation (supported by the majority of Serbs). In February 1992, a referendum for independence from Yugoslavia took place, which was boycotted by the Serb leaders. Regardless of the boycott, Bosnia-Herzegovina became an independent state on April 6. On the same day Bosnia-Herzegovina was officially recognized, Serbian paramilitary units and the Yugoslav People’s Army (Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija; JNA) attacked Bosnia-Herzegovina’s capital, Sarajevo, and started...

    • Chapter 2 Cartography of Peace-Building
      (pp. 63-85)

      As the previous chapter demonstrated, the school reunification policies embodied ethnic divisions and reemployed ethnic categories in order to examine and fix the social reality at the Mostar Gymnasium. For instance, in the aftermath of the negotiations with the ethnonational leaders and community that led to the transformation of “integration” into “reunification” of the school, the OSCE and the other international actors included in the reunification efforts have continually relied on the ethnic ideologies of identity as an a priori condition for the reunification of the school. What this means in practice is that management, evaluation, and regrouping of teachers...

    • Chapter 3 Bathroom Mixing
      (pp. 86-102)

      On a beautiful day in spring 2006, Amna comes up to me, hiding one of her fists behind her back: “Hajmo se miješati” (Let’s go and mix), she says. She opens her fist and I see a cigarette, its long, elegant body rolling up and down her palm. She grabs my hand and leads me to the bathroom at the end of the crowded hallway, away from the teachers’ views. We open the door and find ourselves enveloped in smoke so overwhelming it blocks the smell of urine.

      I stop, unable to see or breathe, letting my eyes adjust to...

  5. Part II. Disintegrating the Nation
    • Chapter 4 Poetics of Nationhood
      (pp. 105-138)

      In early October 2005, I attended a three-day workshop organized by the Mostar branches of OSCE and the Nansen Dialogue Center.¹ The workshop brought together a large number of student representatives in an attempt to initiate a Union of Student Councils in Herzegovina.² For many of these seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds, this was a rare opportunity to spend a prolonged period of time with students from other ethnic groups.

      The location of the workshop was Neum, once a nice coastal town on the Adriatic Sea. Today, Neum is the only noteworthy town on the Bosnia-Herzegovina coast. Bosnia-Herzegovina encompasses twenty-three kilometers of...

    • Chapter 5 Invisible Citizens
      (pp. 139-155)

      On a rainy day in October 2005, I visited my favorite Bosnian pie shop located in the heart of Mostar’s famed Old City. Davorka, the bright-faced and fast-talking owner of the shop, was there. Since I was the only customer at the time, Davorka kept me company. Soon, we started talking about her life.

      I am in a mixed marriage—my husband is Muslim and I am Croat. When I got pregnant, it was just at the beginning of the war. I was on the Croat side then, and I gave birth there in 1993. When I gave birth, they...

    • Chapter 6 Anti-Citizens
      (pp. 156-180)

      Since the first day of my fieldwork I was struck by how frequently the theme of corruption cropped up in the everyday conversations of my informants, revealing how an empty state became implicated in the texture of everyday minutiae (Gupta 2006:211). More specifically, I realized how discourses of corruption and morality here function as a diagnostic of anti-citizenship—a stance emerging at the intersection between transnational political economy, international practices, and local discourses (213, 226). When coupled with the war-produced ethnopolitics that seeks popular legitimacy in the name of “ethnic people,” the related discourse and practice of immense corruption, and...

  6. Conclusion
    (pp. 181-187)

    Numerous international observers of Bosnia-Herzegovina still refer to the reconstruction of the new “Old” Bridge as one of the most important symbols of reconciliation in the country. For the majority of Mostarians, however, the bridge failed to fulfill the reconciliatory role envisioned by these discourses and projections. Rather, the Mostar Gymnasium has become a more representative symbol of the internationally directed programs of peace-building and state-making in Mostar and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Therefore, symbolically speaking, the Mostar Gymnasiumisthe new bridge—this school, its spatial governmentality, and its organic everyday life powerfully capture and reflect the spirit, the techniques, and the...

  7. Epilogue: Empty Nation, Empty Bellies
    (pp. 188-192)

    It is mid-February 2014 and I am sitting in my office at Syracuse University. Husein’s words, “but wait and see, Azra,narod će se dići(people will rise),” with which I concluded this book, are echoing in my mind while I am reading numerous reports, analyses, and predictions about the unfolding “Bosnian Spring.” This movement of marginalized, disillusioned, angry, and hungry “ordinary” people—mainly unemployed workers and students—began on February 4 in Tuzla, once a prosperous Yugoslav industrial center located in the FBiH. The industrial potentials of this town were devastated during the war and destroyed by the shady...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 193-210)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 211-224)
  10. Index
    (pp. 225-236)
  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 237-239)