Memory conflicts and memory grey zones: War memory in Bosnia–Herzegovina between public memory disputes, literary narratives and personal experience

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In Bosnia and Herzegovina, memories of the 1990s war remain hugely divided on political and institutional levels, constituting what we may think of as a mnemonic war. Interview-based qualitative research shows that people in Bosnia on the individual level tend to follow the dominant narrative of their own group, yet, when challenged on these viewpoints, may also admit that other narratives and different truths may exist. Indeed, this research seems to propose the existence of a memorial grey zone where more open understanding and recognition of other positions is possible. Thus, while memory politics and memory institutionalization are rigidly opposed, other types of memory mediation may challenge the ethnic divisions of the memory landscape, opening up a memorial grey zone. In this article, we study the individual reception of literary works written by Bosnian émigré writers, asking how readers interact with established yet fluid memory discourses in Bosnia. Using focus groups as an interviewing method, we explore how the texts are perceived and discussed by lay readers in the two political entities, the Bosniak–Croat Federation and Republika Srpska. We are particularly interested in how readers make sense of the memory accounts in the texts, and how this relates to personal experiences and official memory narratives within each of the two entities. We argue that the reading and discussions of literary war memories allow for complex negotiations between personal and official ‘group’ narratives, opening a memorial grey zone that transcends the sharp divisions dominating memory politics in Bosnia and creates space for alternative memory positions.
TidsskriftMemory Studies
Udgave nummer6
Sider (fra-til)1517–1531
Antal sider15
StatusUdgivet - 2022

ID: 334733723