Video: (Inter)National Reconstruction: Revising Poststructuralist Encounters with the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Video: (Inter)National Reconstruction: Revising Poststructuralist Encounters with the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina

By Tomáš Dopita

In this paper I assemble empirical material on the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and ask the following question: How come the international intervention established in ‘Dayton’ is still not concluded, and what we can do to finish the process? I argue that what can help us answer this question is focusing on the relational constellations of the key political Subjects, as these emerged with key historical moments, and learning more about how the meanings of these collective Subjects in Bosnia and Herzegovina developed into what they ‘are’ in the encounters with one another. I depict three key constellations of Subjects and look for the encounters between them.

I developed this framework of encounters and constellations while reading and re-reading two books that have become basic reference texts in poststructuralist inquiries into international security: David Campbell’s National Deconstruction: Violence, Identity, and Justice in Bosnia (1998), and Lene Hansen´s Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis of the Bosnian War (2006). I agree with many ideas articulated in these books, but I point out several issues that need to be corrected if one wants to effectively intervene into the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here, I will briefly mention three such issues.

Firstly, by drawing exclusively on the sources produced by the representatives of the International or Western Subject both Campbell and Hansen are unable to identify the key Subjects articulated in the politics of Bosnia and Herzegovina. For instance, they treat ‘Bosnians’, ‘Bosniaks’, and ‘Bosnian Muslims’ as basically identical, and thus they overlook important political differences between these categories and Subjects. Secondly, their empirical detachment from the ‘local’ Subjects actually prevents Campbell and Hansen from seeing that the International/Western Subject not only responded to, but was directly involved in the outbreak of the war. Just before the outbreak of the war in 1992 the representatives of the International Subject applied to Bosnia and Herzegovina a difference-blind liberal understanding of this state, even though this country had a long-established practice of a political co-existence of three major national and political Subjects. This difference-blind and liberally biased approach brought fatal consequences because the representatives of the excluded Subject in this case were by far the best armed, and they reacted to their exclusion with a large-scale military attack. Thirdly, neither Campbell nor Hansen takes note of how and why the Bosnian Muslims came to understand themselves as Bosniaks. The reasons for this transformation and its implications are, however, important for our understanding of the current Bosniak politics, as well as of the politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina in general.

The main message of the paper is that in our endeavour to conclude the international intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina we should avoid using difference-blind policies because there are salient cultural and political differences in this case that need to be recognized. This is exactly what happened to the representatives of the international Subject at the beginning of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and what Campbell and Hansen do not take note of in their analyses. My point is that the political stability and conclusion of the international intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be achieved through a meaningful combination of the existing political differences without unnecessary fear of situating these differences in their respective collective subjectivities.