‘Bosnia Remade’ and beyond

by Gerard Toal

Thank you Rhodri for giving me the opportunity to post on Terra Nullius. You’ve created a great resource here and I look forward to exploring the archives further. There’s much to write so I’ll be brief:

1. Rhodri has already pointed to the European Affairs pieces; I hadn’t read TGC’s piece before the interview but I have to say I’m somewhat baffled at how the ‘partition is the solution’ storyline can emerge from a libertarian think tank supposedly dedicated to individual not group liberty. I think there’s an explanation but it has more to do with US domestic politics and very little to do with any deep understanding of BiH (much of US foreign policy discourse is like this). STRATFOR piece on BiH was a shaky as their whole ‘geopolitical analysis’ enterprise: I had to point out to European Affairs that what they had written as ‘high commissioner’ should be ‘high representative.’

2. The book Bosnia Remade which I co-authored with Carl Dahlman is now out and available (Oxford, 2011). Its been in the works for about 8 years and for various reasons got delayed and delayed. The core of the book is the research we did in BiH between 2002 and 2005 on how the implementation of Annex 7 was unfolding in three BiH localities: Zvornik, Doboj and Jajce. Since 2002 we started publishing aspects of this, writing a total of 10 papers (available on the website bosniaremade.org under ‘Other Publications’). We could have left it there but I’ve always wanted to read a book on BiH that would tell the story of its transformation from before the war to today in a way that did not reproduce the categories of the warring parties.

Bourg and Shoup’s book, while good in lots of ways, fails in this respect. Also, it didn’t make sense to treat the question of Annex 7 implementation separate from the war, and the circumstances that produced the war. So, I started to read and read, and then began to write. The result is the current book which is an ambitious attempt to combine big picture analytical narrative with close-in detail in a few places. The pitch of the book is deliberately ‘general reader’ rather than area expert or specialist. It only gets to our on-the-ground research in BiH by Chapter 4. What comes before is the breakup of Yugoslavia, a chapter on BiH was always buffered by Croat and Serb nationalist visions, a chapter on BiH before the war, and then a discussion of the war and post-war experience of the three places within a narrative that always tries to pull back to the big picture. 

3. The issues of land and property are central to the book. We spend time on how the OHR/UNHCR developed the RRTF, and then how it strategized  ‘breakthrough returns’ and then returns to uncontested and contested places. PLIP is discussed but perhaps it and other property issues are not discussed in as sufficient detail as they could be. There is certainly room for deepening and expanding the story. Hopefully the book will be a template that others can work from to do this, and, of course, criticize how we tell the story. I’ve created bosniaremade.org as a web site where those of you who have worked on these issues can comment on the book, and help the upcoming generation of scholars to better understand how Annex 7 was implemented.

4. BiH today is a complicated story. I’m just polishing a 22,000 word essay on Dodik and his discourse on the RS referendum. Its mostly a chronological narrative with discourse analysis. Adis Maksic, a Ph D student at VT, is a co-author. The piece will probably appear in the journal Eurasian Geography and Economics as two articles, but that could change. What’s the argument? Oye ve! Its 22,000 words long.

5. Conciliation Resources, the British NGO, asked me about 6 months ago to write a lead paper for a project on ‘return and its alternatives’ in the Nagorny Karabakh case. This piece and perspectives on questions of return, restitution and compensation from Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan will appear in an ACCORD publication from CR within the year. There is a panel presentation on the project at the Association for the Study of Nationalities conference at Columbia University Saturday afternoon April 16th 2011 should any of you be interested.

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