War Through Other Means: Examining the Role of Symbols in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Symbols make visible the abstractions of social relationships, and are therefore a useful barometer of inter-ethnic relations. In the post-war period in former Yugoslav states, ethnic conflict is often carried out through symbols which replicate and reinforce ethnic antagonism. During the wars of the 1990s physical destruction was often focused on highly symbolic (non-military) targets such as mosques, churches, museums and libraries in order to erase the symbols of the enemy group while plastering the area with symbols of the victorious group in order to claim the territory, symbolically as well as physically. The post-war situation, particularly in Bosnia–Herzegovina, is fraught with symbolic conflict. The tensions surrounding the flag of Bosnia–Herzegovina is a prominent example where complete disagreement over pre-existing arsenal of symbols resulted in a complete new design with no resonance for anyone. Minarets and churches are erected not so much in an effort to serve their respective religious communities as much as in an effort to symbolically claim contested territory. This chapter will examine how the conflict has continued to be played out in the symbolic sphere in former-Yugoslav society, while also seeking to identify potential for symbols to unite and heal.
KeywordsCulture Symbols Violence Remembering Healing
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