Would-be Guardians of Memory: An Association of Camp Inmates of the 1992–95 Bosnian War under Ethnographic Scrutiny

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In the fall of 2010 a public debate arose on Bosnian war victims’ spokespersons.1 It was sparked by what some remember as the ‘Angelina case’. Hollywood actress and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ambassador Angelina Jolie was about to shoot her first movie on the Bosnian war. The press caught wind of the fact that it would be a wartime love story between a Bosnian Muslim woman detained in a rape camp and one of the Serb camp guards. Soon enough, the spokesperson of an association of women victims of wartime rape, Bakira Hase?cić, expressed her outrage with the idea that Angelina Jolie might portray ‘a victim in a rape camp falling in love with her rapist. That’s not only impossible,’ she said, ‘but the idea is insulting’ (Meikle, 2010). She subsequently tried and succeeded in having the film permit withdrawn. In some of the independent Sarajevo media, this move stirred up strong criticism against Bakira Hase?cić. A journalist from Sarajevo weekly Dani harshly criticized the association leader on three main grounds: first, according to her, Bakira Hase?cić had turned her activism as a victim into a professional ‘business’; second, she was exploiting the victims for her own interest and for political manipulation; and third, she was claiming an exclusive right over the interpretation of the victims’ memories of war rape.2

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What explains the variety in victim-centric state policies of redress in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)? Rather than analysing BiH as a special case of a divided ethno-national state, this article studies domestic victimhood politics as a phenomenon with wider comparative applications for post-conflict contexts. Redress, a set of policies that legally recognize victims/survivors of wartime atrocities and provide them with in-kind and financial support, has increasingly entered the demands of victims/survivors. Many have sought to expand their rights through new legal frameworks at the state and subnational levels. However, in the Bosnian case only some have succeeded (or partially succeeded) with their demands. Why? Using fieldwork data and relying on literature in transitional justice, identity and peacebuilding, I argue that the differences go beyond ethno-national divisions and identity politics and are explained by how victims/survivors utilize their victim capital that combines mobilization resources, moral authority and international salience.
This final concluding chapter fulfils several goals. It first re-assesses the key concepts used across the book and discusses the long-term legacies of conflict with regards to victims’ redress. Symbolic recognition and material redress are presented as some of the key demands of the diverse Bosnian victim population, especially after the realization that no redress would be delivered from the outside. It also revisits the concept of victim capital and how to understand it more broadly. The chapter then highlights some of the key findings of this book by contrasting the analysed victim groups’ achievements in Bosnia and potential alternative explanations. It then offers brief applications to other countries to demonstrate its external validity. The final section of this chapter is dedicated to the wider lessons of this book. It argues that the traditional portrayal of victims as powerless and at the mercy of politicians is misguided even if victims’ playing field is by no means even. It proposes to re-evaluate approaches to transitional justice that often prefer only some victim groups over others. An equitable treatment of victim groups and how to achieve it, the chapter concludes, should be at the centre of our enquiries into victims’ struggles for redress.
The last building-block empirical chapter of the book discusses the cases of victims of sexual violence and torture. It contrasts and compares the different types of victim capital of these two groups and demonstrates how it resulted in varied changes in recognition and redress. While victims of sexual violence were recognized in the larger Bosnian entity in 2006, victims of torture remain unrecognized until today. In Republika Srpska, recognition came only in 2018. The gradual increase in women’s international salience and mobilization resources prior to 2006 combined with the rise of their moral authority explains the change in 2006. In contrast, victims of torture have leveraged their existing connections and organizational skills while their domestic authority and external salience fluctuated. The success of survivors of sexual violence in FBiH illustrates the ‘Activist Route’ while the partial success of victims of torture and sexual violence in RS conforms to the ‘Domestic Pressure’ scenario—however, in an increasingly closed political system. This chapter pays special attention to legal activism of both victim groups as well as the latest developments in access to redress.
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This chapter explains the different compensation outcomes for two categories of war victims in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)—victims of sexual violence and victims of torture. Unlike victims of torture who have no formal rights vis-à-vis any authorities in BiH, survivors of sexual violence have since 2006 been recognized as a victim category with compensation rights. This chapter explains these outcomes using rationalist arguments and shows that compensation for victims is mainly determined by whether and how victim associations leverage their moral authority and mobilization resources, as well as the international salience of their demands to convince domestic political authorities that compensation is expedient. Acting as policy drivers, this chapter presents victims through the prism of activism but also explores some tensions in the growing debates about the politics of victimhood.
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The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) struggled to apprehend and try high-profile defendants including Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević, often receiving more criticism than praise. This volume argues that the court has made a substantial contribution to Bosnia and Herzegovina's transition to democracy. Based on over three years of field research and several hundred interviews, this study brings together multiple research methods - including surveys, ethnography and archival materials - to show the court's impact on five segments of Bosnian society, emphasizing the role of the social setting in translating international law into domestic contexts. Much of the early rhetoric about the transformative potential of international criminal law fostered unrealistic expectations of institutions like the ICTY. Judged by more realistic standards, international law is seen to play a modest yet important role in postwar transitions. These findings have implications for the study of international courts around the world and the role of law in contributing to social change. Based on over three years of field research Offers interdisciplinary research and methods First single authored book on the impact of the ad hoc court
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Marie Jose Lallart explore la terrible exclusion des enfants de la rue d’Afrique ou d’ailleurs, victimes de la guerre, de la misere, et surtout du regard apeure ou deshumanisant que leur porte le monde des adultes. Elle temoigne, sur le terrain, de l’importance du jeu et du sport pour ceux qu’on traite souvent de sorciers ou de bandits, et qui desirent etre reconnus comme personnes, en attendant que les gouvernements exercent une reelle coercition en matiere de droits de l’enfant.
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The problem of commemoration is an important aspect of the sociology of culture because it bears on the way society conceives its past. Current approaches to this problem draw on Emile Durkheim and emphasize the way commemorative objects celebrate society's former glories. This article on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial deals with the way society assimilates past events that are less than glorious and whose memory induces controversy instead of consensus. The Vietnam War differed from other wars because it was politically controversial and morally questionable and resulted in defeat; it resembled other wars because it called out in participants the traditional virtues of courage, self-sacrifice, and honor. The task of representing these contrasting aspects of the war in a single monument was framed by the tension between contrasting memorial genres. Focusing on the discursive field out of which the Vietnam Veterans Memorial emerged, this analysis shows how opposing social constituencies articulated the ambi...
In the aftermath of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, the discovery of unmarked mass graves revealed Europe's worst atrocity since World War II: the genocide in the UN "safe area" of Srebrenica. To Know Where He Lies provides a powerful account of the innovative genetic technology developed to identify the eight thousand Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) men and boys found in those graves and elsewhere, demonstrating how memory, imagination, and science come together to recover identities lost to genocide. Sarah E. Wagner explores technology's import across several areas of postwar Bosnian society-for families of the missing, the Srebrenica community, the Bosnian political leadership (including Serb and Muslim), and international aims of social repair-probing the meaning of absence itself.
The war for the memory The nature of the relationship with Algeria is still important in France, as well as the relationship with France in Algeria. At a time where memory is becoming more and more a kind of political and diplomatic tool, the author proposes a series of measures for breaking the deadlock.
La notion de "devoir de mémoire" est aujourd'hui en France un lieu commun, un poncif de l'évocation du passé dans l'espace public. En deux ans, 180 articles dans Libération et 209 articles dans le Figaro font mention d'un "devoir de mémoire".
Despite substantial work in a variety of disciplines, substantive areas, and geographical contexts, social memory studies is a nonparadigmatic, transdisciplinary, centerless enterprise. To remedy this relative disorganization, we (re-)construct out of the diversity of work addressing social memory a useful tradition, range of working definitions, and basis for future work. We trace lineages of the enterprise, review basic definitional disputes, outline a historical approach, and review sociological theories concerning the statics and dynamics of social memory.
‘In the midst of injustice: the ICTY in the perspective of some victims associations The New Bosnian Mosaic. Identities, Memories and Moral Claims in a Post
  • I Delpla
Justice et genre Mobiliser les survivantes de guerre bosniaques
  • E Helms
Acteurs nationaux du politique: Introduction
  • M.-C Lavabre
  • D Tartakowsky
  • M-C Lavabre
Bosnian government denies Jolie permission to film in country
  • J Meikle
Une identité blessée
  • M Pollak
La mémoire, l’histoire, l’oubli (Paris: Seuil)
  • P Ricoeur