Artículo

DIFFICULT MEMORIES' AND THE 'NORMALISATION' OF INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS IN BIJELJINA.

Based on extended fieldwork, the paper explores the dialogical relationship between different memories linked to the experience of violence during the Bosnian war, focusing on how 'difficult memories' related to 'ethnic cleansing' are publicly expressed or otherwise kept private among Bosniaks and Serbs, in an space saturated by references to Serb nationalism. Bijeljina was the first town taken over by Serb forces in 1992. Instead of being immediately expelled, non-Serbs were coerced into collaboration, but nevertheless subjected to traumatic violence. The scale of violence against non-Serbs was lower than elsewhere, but by the war's end the overwelming majority of the non-Serb population had either fled or been deported. The town also experienced the influx of displaced Serbs from other areas of Bosnia, who now form the majority of Bijeljina's population. Thus the war led to a significant shift in the towns identity, from a multicultural town with a Bosniak majority to a dominantly Serb town with a Bosniak minority. Since 2007 a process of 'normalisation' of inter-ethnic relations has been defusing tensions and creating a situation in which non-Serbs can feel safe, despite enduring discrimination. 'Normalisation' has come at the price of silence over memories of persecution and murder of non-Serbs. Bosniaks adopt a low-profile, and not only there are no memorials to Bosniak victims, but there are also no demands to memorialise them through monuments. But these memories remain alive and coexist with an officially-sponsored narrative which frames the war as a struggle for national liberation of the Serb people and glorifies their sacrifices. My exploration of the dialogical relationship between different memories is centered around memories of the destruction of the town's mosques in 1993 and their post-war reconstruction, through which Bosniaks publicly assert their presence in Bijeljina.
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