From War to Fragile Peace in Bosnia: The Quest for Statehood and National Identity

    • Cover Conference Prague
    • Presentation speakers
      • Klejda Mulaj, University of Exeter, United Kingdom


    The quest for statehood and national identity remains a hot pursuit in Bosnia two and a half decades after the official ending of the war (1992-1995). Centered on contested narratives pertaining to the causes of—and parties’ conduct in—the Bosnian War, as well as the redistribution of power and the re-organisation of the postwar polity, the quest for statehood and the national identity exposes interesting dynamics of alterity making both without and within the Bosnian polity. This paper unpacks these dynamics with particular reference to the effects of war violence on the constitution and contestation of Bosnia’s statehood and its fragile national identity. It shows that representations of war violence remain active in the efforts to construct, or contest, the Bosnian polity and its political community. Such representations particularly with reference to genocide are part of a broader struggle over issues of identity, authority, legitimacy and security. This broader struggle—expressed by diverse viewpoints of the Bosnian Muslims and Serbs—constitute an intense contest over the re-imagination of the Bosnian political community that have produced serious fractures in national unity. Although a glance at the Bosnian flag—designed in the image (same colours) of the EU flag, with the white stars on a yellow and blue background—may give the impression that Bosnia is more EU-orientated than are member states themselves, this clearly is not the case. National fractures in Bosnia are virtually unparalleled in the European continent. Bosnia’s political community is fractured both from without not least due to the Serb contestation of dominant war narratives—including denial of the Srebrenica genocide—and also from within, amongst other factors, due to lack of allegiance to the state by all ethnic groups and failures to fully recognise and address the needs of war/genocide victims. In particular, misrecognising victims, failing to recognise their suffering and provide redress, produces for them a form of social subordination which is responsible for their disconnect with the community of the nation which ought to embrace them. These fractures do not bode well for Bosnia’s societal cohesion and statehood.