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Everyday Ethno-National Identities of Young People in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Jessie Hronesova

This book examines the salience and role of ethno-national identities of young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina fifteen years after the end of the Bosnian War. The underlying argument is that ethno-national identities and boundaries in Bosnia are not constituted and maintained through intensive social contact as constructivists such as Fredrik Barth and Thomas Eriksen have argued, but rather through a lack of it. The author shows that cross-ethnic contact is a critical mechanism that helps, rather than hinders, the building of multiple and complimentary identities. She proposes that contrary to the constructivist arguments, the actual content of identities such as descent and religion matter for the intensity and malleability of identities. The fieldwork material demonstrates that identities can become multilayered in situations where the «other» is personalized and experienced.

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6 Chapter 7. In Search for Bosnians(-Herzegovinians)����������������������������������� 7.1. Imagining the Nation.............................................................................79 7.2. Victimizing the “Self” and Demonizing the “Other”............................83 7.3. Similar, or Different? ............................................................................87 7.4. Conclusion.............................................................................................89 Conclusion������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� Index ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� References ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ � 7 List of Figures Figure 1. The Level of Inter-Ethnic Trust in BiH ..........................�����������..........12 Figure 2. Map of Research Areas..........................................�����������...................19 Figure 3. Demographic Changes During and after the Bosnian War ....�����������..42 Figure 4. Social Trust Among BiH Citizens ...................................�����������.........49 Figure 5. Demographic Changes in Podrinje .....................�����������......................76 9 Introduction Fifteen years after the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina1, young people live in the shadows of a violent conflict that abruptly put an end to the previous long-lasting inter-ethnic coexistence. Once a country where a clear ethnic boun- dary was impossible to establish, multi-ethnic and multi-religious communal life remains only in the memory of the older generations. The Bosnian “unity in di- versity”2, i.e. peaceful coexistence of various ethnic groups, was reverted by “the most devastating conflict in Europe since the end of World War II”3, the Bosnian War from 1992 to 1995. In Bosnia, the scars left by the terror of the war are clearly exposed and transmitted through national symbols, divergent narratives, nationalist ideologies presented by political elites and media, and conflicting versions of history. The war and the political manipulations with the history of the war have also shaped people’s identification with an ethnic group and a nation. Bosnia to- day is considered “a deeply divided society”4, an “ethnic democracy”5,...

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