Advanced search
1 file | 32.45 MB

(Re)constructions: armed conflicts, cultural heritage, (inter)national policies and local practices of memorialization in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Maja Musi (UGent)
(2015)
Author
Promoter
(UGent)
Organization
Abstract
In the early 1990s, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia collapsed into a set of wars dominated by aggressive nationalist ideologies, that crucially reinterpreted ‘history’ and ‘memory’ to recollect past sufferings and intergroup animosities and corroborate ethnic distinctiveness in essentialist terms. In the mixed area of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the conflict (1992-1995) entailed the use of systematic violence to eradicate and/or eliminate the ethnic “Other” from contested territories, bringing about massive destruction and causing a total displacement of more than 2 million people. As the rhetoric of war produced monolithic juxtaposed constructions of “Serbs(/Orthodox)”, “Croats(/Catholic)” and “Bosnjaks(/Muslim)” as distinct ethnies animated by reciprocal “ancient hatreds”, the onslaught against people was complemented by the deliberate targeting of the built environment and its cultural and religious symbols. Such targeting obliterated the image a pluralist and heterogeneous shared cultural space to annihilate traces of past coexistence and prevent future claims over (“cleansed”) territories, highlighting the meanings and functions ascribed to monuments/heritage as signifiers and physical markers of memories and identities. This research investigates memorialisation processes in today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a focus on the ways in which the recent experience of armed conflict is recollected through (official) monuments and commemorations. Because the war entangled with the processes of transition and regime change – constituting a milestone in the affirmation of BiH as an independent state, configured as a consociational power-sharing system – the study explores how (official) memories of the conflict entwine with the definition of a shared identity of the polity, the articulation of claims for or against its legitimacy, and the delineation of ethno-cultural group identities at the sub-state level. The research endeavours to map out the implications and uses of divergent accounts of the war within an environment of dissent and contestation over its causes and unfolding, through the analysis of the meanings and functions assigned to monuments and commemorations as part of symbolic politics and in the reiteration of ethnicised identities. Reflection concentrates on the mutually constitutive character of memory and identity constructs, adopting a perspective that integrates the study of the local (i.e. national) “politics of memory” with the analysis of a global “politics of heritage” encouraged by international actors and developed in line with what I call the international heritage doctrine based on UNESCO and Council of Europe’s documents. This doctrine mainly informs processes of heritage reconstruction, endowing them with crucial functions in post-war recovery and stabilisation. The study thus examines the impact of global notions on the heritage of mankind on specific contexts (like BiH) where the formulation of collective identities in essentialist and exclusivist terms appeals to memory and culture, and the implications of discourses on diversity, reconciliation and intercultural dialogue on the conceptualisation of cultural identity as (incommensurable) difference and in the aftermaths of first-hand experiences of intergroup violence perpetrated upon rigid constructions of groups as “nations”. The research is based on the analysis of legal and official documents concerning monuments, heritage and commemorations at various administrative levels of BiH and the examination of UNESCO and CoE texts on heritage, and relies on personal observation of commemorative events over a prolonged permanence in the country (2010-2012), taking the institutional and symbolic functions of Sarajevo in its role of capital city as a case study. The corpus of the work approaches memorialisation from various angles, starting from the observation that ongoing processes of erection of new monuments and processes of heritage reconstruction seem to develop along parallel planes. Investigation on BiH’s multifaceted politics of memory/heritage is undertaken through four stages: an overview of the formal/legal system of heritage care and management at various administrative levels (municipal, cantonal, entity and state), and the work of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments; the analysis of the central memorial sites dedicated to armed conflict in Sarajevo (Vraca Memorial Park for WWII and the Kovaci Shahid Cemetery-Memorial for 1992-95 war); the observation of three commemorative performances celebrating the state (Day of Statehood and Day of Independence) and city (Day of the City of Sarajevo); and the presentation of a contested commemoration (Dobrovoljacka Street) and two initiatives promoting alternative modes of memorialization (the SCCA project De/Construction of Monument 2004-2007 and the Museum of the Siege presented in 2012). Analysis of these instances of memorialization shows that public memory is endowed with pivotal functions in the reproduction and maintenance of (ethnically connoted) collective identities. Recollections of the recent war are inflected in ethnic terms through the articulation of accounts that reflect divergent views, developed antagonistically by the institutions and political representatives of the three ‘constituent peoples’. Anniversaries marked with official celebrations provide the opportunity to display contestation of the recent past and publicly reassess responsibilities for the outbreak of the war. Opposition to a common national calendar of public holidays, and the establishment of parallel ritual performances, symbolically recollect and construe distinct polities for different segments of the population (e.g. Entity of RS v. State of BiH). Observation of the main memorial dedicated to the war in Sarajevo (Kovaci Shahid Cemetery-Memorial) and commemorative celebrations of state import attended by the highest authorities, suggest that the symbolic recollection of the overall state is also embedded in dynamics of ethnicisation, especially through the articulation of accounts that conflate the perspective of one particular ethnocultural community (Bosnjak) with the interests of the overall polity. The symbolic interweaving of opposed (re)interpretations of the conflict with distinct polities of belonging in ‘national’ (as opposed to civic) terms, produces the effect of translating antagonism over the interpretation of the recent conflict into irreconcilable group difference. Ultimately, processes of memorialisation of the 1992-95 war partake in broader processes of institutionalisation of ethnicity, where little or no space at all is left for recollections of memories and identities in non-ethnic terms. The ethnicisation of recollections of the recent conflict is further accomplished through the reinterpretation of the legacies of previous conflicts (i.e. WWII and antifascism) and the appropriation of elements of the built environment recognised as ‘heritage’. Among the instances of memorialisation that propose alternative views, those who achieve greater visibility seem to partake in the ethnicisation of memories (e.g. Dobrovoljacka Street counter-commemoration), while initiatives that question the conventional patterns of top-down memory politics remain largely unnoticed by the institutions (e.g. SCCA project De/Construction of Monument 2004-2007), or get promoted at the local level (e.g. Museum of the Siege, 2012). The realm of heritage care remains separate from this environment only in principle. The formalisation of ethnic groups as constituent peoples with inalienable rights pertaining to “culture, tradition and cultural heritage” in post-Dayton BiH provides the legal basis to oppose collaboration in those fields and claim and achieve independence in their management at the level of the Entities/Cantons, which in turn enables the construction of culture and tradition as defining traits of the ethnic community. In this context, notions of heritage and culture contained in the body of UNESCO and CoE’s texts stand in an ambiguous relation with the declination of citizenship and identity in collective (ethnic) terms, as they fail to distinguish neatly the notion of ‘culture’ from that of ‘ethnicity’, and remain marked by an inner contradiction between a relativistic understanding of identity and the promotion of a global ethics. I argue that definitions of cultural identity and diversity as articulated by the international heritage doctrine are prone to be used as instruments of self-legitimation by (collective) subjects fostering particularistic accounts of the past and thus risk to reiterate essentialist approaches to identity.
Keywords
memory studies, Bosnia and Herzegovina, heritage studies, war memory, memory and identity

Downloads

  • MajaMusi Reconstructions.pdf
    • full text
    • |
    • open access
    • |
    • PDF
    • |
    • 32.45 MB

Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

Chicago
Musi, Maja. 2015. “(Re)constructions: Armed Conflicts, Cultural Heritage, (inter)national Policies and Local Practices of Memorialization in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina”. Ghent, Belgium: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy.
APA
Musi, Maja. (2015). (Re)constructions: armed conflicts, cultural heritage, (inter)national policies and local practices of memorialization in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent, Belgium.
Vancouver
1.
Musi M. (Re)constructions: armed conflicts, cultural heritage, (inter)national policies and local practices of memorialization in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. [Ghent, Belgium]: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy; 2015.
MLA
Musi, Maja. “(Re)constructions: Armed Conflicts, Cultural Heritage, (inter)national Policies and Local Practices of Memorialization in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.” 2015 : n. pag. Print.
@phdthesis{6914951,
  abstract     = {In the early 1990s, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia collapsed into a set of wars dominated by aggressive nationalist ideologies, that crucially reinterpreted {\textquoteleft}history{\textquoteright} and {\textquoteleft}memory{\textquoteright} to recollect past sufferings and intergroup animosities and corroborate ethnic distinctiveness in essentialist terms. In the mixed area of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the conflict (1992-1995) entailed the use of systematic violence to eradicate and/or eliminate the ethnic {\textquotedblleft}Other{\textquotedblright} from contested territories, bringing about massive destruction and causing a total displacement of more than 2 million people. As the rhetoric of war produced monolithic juxtaposed constructions of {\textquotedblleft}Serbs(/Orthodox){\textquotedblright}, {\textquotedblleft}Croats(/Catholic){\textquotedblright} and {\textquotedblleft}Bosnjaks(/Muslim){\textquotedblright} as distinct ethnies animated by reciprocal {\textquotedblleft}ancient hatreds{\textquotedblright}, the onslaught against people was complemented by the deliberate targeting of the built environment and its cultural and religious symbols. Such targeting obliterated the image a pluralist and heterogeneous shared cultural space to annihilate traces of past coexistence and prevent future claims over ({\textquotedblleft}cleansed{\textquotedblright}) territories, highlighting the meanings and functions ascribed to monuments/heritage as signifiers and physical markers of memories and identities.
This research investigates memorialisation processes in today{\textquoteright}s Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a focus on the ways in which the recent experience of armed conflict is recollected through (official) monuments and commemorations. Because the war entangled with the processes of transition and regime change -- constituting a milestone in the affirmation of BiH as an independent state, configured as a consociational power-sharing system -- the study explores how (official) memories of the conflict entwine with the definition of a shared identity of the polity, the articulation of claims for or against its legitimacy, and the delineation of ethno-cultural group identities at the sub-state level. The research endeavours to map out the implications and uses of divergent accounts of the war within an environment of dissent and contestation over its causes and unfolding, through the analysis of the meanings and functions assigned to monuments and commemorations as part of symbolic politics and in the reiteration of ethnicised identities.
Reflection concentrates on the mutually constitutive character of memory and identity constructs, adopting a perspective that integrates the study of the local (i.e. national) {\textquotedblleft}politics of memory{\textquotedblright} with the analysis of a global {\textquotedblleft}politics of heritage{\textquotedblright} encouraged by international actors and developed in line with what I call the international heritage doctrine based on UNESCO and Council of Europe{\textquoteright}s documents. This doctrine mainly informs processes of heritage reconstruction, endowing them with crucial functions in post-war recovery and stabilisation. The study thus examines the impact of global notions on the heritage of mankind on specific contexts (like BiH) where the formulation of collective identities in essentialist and exclusivist terms appeals to memory and culture, and the implications of discourses on diversity, reconciliation and intercultural dialogue on the conceptualisation of cultural identity as (incommensurable) difference and in the aftermaths of first-hand experiences of intergroup violence perpetrated upon rigid constructions of groups as {\textquotedblleft}nations{\textquotedblright}.
The research is based on the analysis of legal and official documents concerning monuments, heritage and commemorations at various administrative levels of BiH and the examination of UNESCO and CoE texts on heritage, and relies on personal observation of commemorative events over a prolonged permanence in the country (2010-2012), taking the institutional and symbolic functions of Sarajevo in its role of capital city as a case study. The corpus of the work approaches memorialisation from various angles, starting from the observation that ongoing processes of erection of new monuments and processes of heritage reconstruction seem to develop along parallel planes. Investigation on BiH{\textquoteright}s multifaceted politics of memory/heritage is undertaken through four stages: an overview of the formal/legal system of heritage care and management at various administrative levels (municipal, cantonal, entity and state), and the work of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments; the analysis of the central memorial sites dedicated to armed conflict in Sarajevo (Vraca Memorial Park for WWII and the Kovaci Shahid Cemetery-Memorial for 1992-95 war); the observation of three commemorative performances celebrating the state (Day of Statehood and Day of Independence) and city (Day of the City of Sarajevo); and the presentation of a contested commemoration (Dobrovoljacka Street) and two initiatives promoting alternative modes of memorialization (the SCCA project De/Construction of Monument 2004-2007 and the Museum of the Siege presented in 2012).
Analysis of these instances of memorialization shows that public memory is endowed with pivotal functions in the reproduction and maintenance of (ethnically connoted) collective identities. Recollections of the recent war are inflected in ethnic terms through the articulation of accounts that reflect divergent views, developed antagonistically by the institutions and political representatives of the three {\textquoteleft}constituent peoples{\textquoteright}. Anniversaries marked with official celebrations provide the opportunity to display contestation of the recent past and publicly reassess responsibilities for the outbreak of the war. Opposition to a common national calendar of public holidays, and the establishment of parallel ritual performances, symbolically recollect and construe distinct polities for different segments of the population (e.g. Entity of RS v. State of BiH). Observation of the main memorial dedicated to the war in Sarajevo (Kovaci Shahid Cemetery-Memorial) and commemorative celebrations of state import attended by the highest authorities, suggest that the symbolic recollection of the overall state is also embedded in dynamics of ethnicisation, especially through the articulation of accounts that conflate the perspective of one particular ethnocultural community (Bosnjak) with the interests of the overall polity. The symbolic interweaving of opposed (re)interpretations of the conflict with distinct polities of belonging in {\textquoteleft}national{\textquoteright} (as opposed to civic) terms, produces the effect of translating antagonism over the interpretation of the recent conflict into irreconcilable group difference. Ultimately, processes of memorialisation of the 1992-95 war partake in broader processes of institutionalisation of ethnicity, where little or no space at all is left for recollections of memories and identities in non-ethnic terms. The ethnicisation of recollections of the recent conflict is further accomplished through the reinterpretation of the legacies of previous conflicts (i.e. WWII and antifascism) and the appropriation of elements of the built environment recognised as {\textquoteleft}heritage{\textquoteright}. Among the instances of memorialisation that propose alternative views, those who achieve greater visibility seem to partake in the ethnicisation of memories (e.g. Dobrovoljacka Street counter-commemoration), while initiatives that question the conventional patterns of top-down memory politics remain largely unnoticed by the institutions (e.g. SCCA project De/Construction of Monument 2004-2007), or get promoted at the local level (e.g. Museum of the Siege, 2012).
The realm of heritage care remains separate from this environment only in principle. The formalisation of ethnic groups as constituent peoples with inalienable rights pertaining to {\textquotedblleft}culture, tradition and cultural heritage{\textquotedblright} in post-Dayton BiH provides the legal basis to oppose collaboration in those fields and claim and achieve independence in their management at the level of the Entities/Cantons, which in turn enables the construction of culture and tradition as defining traits of the ethnic community. In this context, notions of heritage and culture contained in the body of UNESCO and CoE{\textquoteright}s texts stand in an ambiguous relation with the declination of citizenship and identity in collective (ethnic) terms, as they fail to distinguish neatly the notion of {\textquoteleft}culture{\textquoteright} from that of {\textquoteleft}ethnicity{\textquoteright}, and remain marked by an inner contradiction between a relativistic understanding of identity and the promotion of a global ethics. I argue that definitions of cultural identity and diversity as articulated by the international heritage doctrine are prone to be used as instruments of self-legitimation by (collective) subjects fostering particularistic accounts of the past and thus risk to reiterate essentialist approaches to identity.},
  author       = {Musi, Maja},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {XXV, 325},
  publisher    = {Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy},
  school       = {Ghent University},
  title        = {(Re)constructions: armed conflicts, cultural heritage, (inter)national policies and local practices of memorialization in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina},
  year         = {2015},
}