How did Bosnia, once a polity of intersecting and overlapping identities, come to be understood as an intractable ethnic problem? In National Deconstruction I pursued this question through readings of media and academic representations of the 1992-95 war in Bosnia. National Deconstruction is a rethinking of the meaning of “ethnic/nationalist” violence and a critique of the impoverished discourse of identity politics that crippled the international response to the Bosnian crisis. National Deconstruction was International Forum Bosnia’s ‘Bosnia-Herzegovina Book of the Year 1999‘.
Rather than assuming the pre-existence of an entity called Bosnia, my argument considers the complex array of historical, statistical, cartographic, and other practices through which the definitions of Bosnia have come to be. These practices traverse a continuum of political spaces, from the bodies of individuals and the corporate body of the former Yugoslavia to the international bodies of the world community.
Through a critical reading of international diplomacy, National Deconstruction argues that both the war and the diplomacy designed to address it was made worse by the shared identity politics of the peacemakers and paramilitaries. This argument was also made in my article Apartheid Cartography (though the web site mentioned in the article abstract is no longer available). In the same context, the international response to the Bosnian war was hamstrung by the poverty of Western thought on the politics of heterogeneous communities. Indeed, both Europe and the United States intervened in Bosnia not to save the ideal of multiculturalism abroad but rather to shore up the nationalist imaginary so as to contain the ideal of multiculturalism at home.
Visual images were sites of conflict in the Bosnian war, and in two articles entitled Atrocity, Memory, Photography, I have examined in detail the production and reception of the iconic photograph and TV coverage of Fikret Alic at the Trnopolje concentration camp in north-western Bosnia.