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An Ethnography of Contested Return: Re-making Kozarac

SIVAC-BRYANT, S; (2012) An Ethnography of Contested Return: Re-making Kozarac. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This PhD dissertation looks at the experience of a small returnee community in Kozarac, North-West Bosnia. It is a longitudinal study of a group of people who set out to reclaim their homes and rebuild their community after expulsion and violence at the hands of their neighbours. The aim is to investigate how these traumatic experiences were utilised as a motivational vehicle for the return, and how they influenced the character of the post-return community. The study also looks critically at the “memory industry” and trauma studies that claim to put the victim at the centre, but sometimes, through their intervention and focus on narrative, actually deprive their subjects of agency. Returning home is explored as a journey in which social actors actively seek to re-establish social and individual relations as part of a process of recovery, focusing on how they use rituals of mourning and remembering to do so. The thesis centres around a qualitative case study based on several years of participatory observation. Avoiding interviews, my aim was to reach a deeper understanding of the communal everyday social practices and individual coping strategies in a place that continues to be burdened with the legacy of a violent past, embodied in its physical landscape and asymmetrical power relations. I also consider the international dimension to the locale, and the role of international actors, considering whether local power struggles are only the result of the war experience and a continuation of nationalist postwar politics, or whether the presence of international agencies may also have had “unanticipated consequences” in contributing to a lack of progress in Bosnian society. The study draws from various anthropological sources on memory and social reconstruction, but also clinical and cognitive psychologists’ analyses of what the experience of forcible expulsion entails for an individual and their health. Whilst some studies have concluded that people have relocated within the country in search for safety and economic advantages within their own ethnic group, my findings illustrate that emotional ties to the original home, for the inhabitants of Kozarac, remain the key driver for return. However, the study also suggests that post-return, the Kozarac community has moved on to focus on other issues that will ultimately determine whether the community can be sustained over time.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:An Ethnography of Contested Return: Re-making Kozarac
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Anthropology

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