Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

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How a Collective Trauma Influences Ethno-Religious Relations of Adolescents in Present-Day Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

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Abstract:  This article combines a historical perspective on intergenerational transmission of collective trauma with a psycho-anthropological approach in regards to the construction of multiple identifications by Bosniak adolescents growing up in Bosnia and Herzegovina, after the Balkan war that took place in the early 1990s. This research is based on the ethnographic fieldwork I conducted during my three-month stay in Sarajevo, a city that has been the center of battles between Bosnian Serbs and Bosniaks. The aim of this research is to understand the ways in which memories of the war linger on in contemporary interethnic and interreligious relations. I applied Dialogical Self Theory to analyze dilemmas and ambiguities emerging from the multiple identifications of Muslim adolescents, to whom coexistence with Bosnian Serbs has come to be part of everyday life. During oral histories, my informants expressed a desire to maintain a sense of normality, consisting of a stable political and economic present and future. I argue that nationalist ideologies on ethno-religious differences which were propagated during the war stand in the way of living up to this desire. On a micro level, people try to manage their desire for normality by promoting a certain degree of social cohesion and including the ethno-religious other to a shared national identity of ‘being Bosnian’.

Keywords:  Bosnia-Herzegovina; collective trauma; Dialogical Self Theory; ethnicity; group identity; post-conflict coexistence; reconciliation



© Merima Šehagić. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.