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Grinnell College

Publication Date

Spring 2011

Program Name

Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo: Peace and Conflict Studies in the Balkans


Over half of Bosnia’s population was displaced by the war from 1992-1995. One of the political objectives of the war was the separating of Bosnia’s ethnically intermixed population into homogenous spaces. This was achieved through ethnic cleansing of communities. Broadening the discussion of ethnic cleansing, authors, such as Gearoid O Tuathail and Carl Cahlman, have analyzed ethnic cleansing, as it occurred in Bosnia, within the framework of ‘domicide,’ or the ““he intentional exercise of violence to destroy a particular type of spatiality: homes. It is ‘the deliberate killing of home’” (O Tuathail and Dahlman, 244). Assuming ‘domicide’ rather than just ethnic cleansing, how and why have more than a million Bosnians returned to their pre war home?

I explored this question through participant observation in the town of Sanski Most, Bosnia and Herzegovina, at the Centar za Izgradnju Mira (CIM), as well as in the village of Hrustovo, where I lived with a host family. I conducted seven semi-structured interviews with members of the community about their experiences of displacement, and of returning to Sanski Most, as well as numerous informal conversations.

In analyzing the data, I discuss the process of return on three different levels: physical, social and personal, examining the various reconstruction processes which are occurring at all three levels. I explore the dynamics between returnees and the Diaspora community, especially how that pertains to the sustainability of returnee communities. I conclude that return occurs as a process, on a variety of levels. At each level, personal as well as situational characteristics can promote or hinder the progression of reconciliation with the past.


Demography, Population, and Ecology | Eastern European Studies | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Peace and Conflict Studies | Politics and Social Change


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