Theses, Dissertations, and Capstone Projects

Year of Award

2018

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

College

College of Arts & Sciences

Department

Other

First Advisor

Gerard Toal

Second Advisor

Joel Peters

Third Advisor

Giselle Datz

Keywords

Bosnia, home, identity, migration, diaspora, refugee, transnationalism, translocalism

Abstract

According to estimates by Bosnian authorities, there are two million Bosnians and their descendants living in diaspora, the highest number recorded since the end of the conflict in 1995. Most of these individuals are forced or involuntary migrants who fled the genocide and ethnic cleansing campaign of Serb nationalists who sought to destroy Bosnia as a historically multiethnic homeland in order to create ethnically homogeneous Serb territory. Over twenty years after the war, many of those that were displaced have not returned to their former homes and are unlikely to ever return.

This study contributes to deepening understanding of the challenges faced by those displaced as they struggle to rebuild their lives and future in a new context. It does so through a theory-based analysis of the notion of home and constructions of identity in diaspora following conflict, and the narratives of members of the Bosnian diaspora about their experiences of conflict and violence in the places they called home. The strategy of violence used by nationalist Serbs physically destroyed places and people’s homes, but it also impacted long-existing social structures and relationships, transforming the images of those places. As a consequence, the dispersal itself and the causes behind it became a central element in displaced Bosnians’ redefinition of home and identity, where the place of resettlement developed as the best place to be, a new home, based on a search for ‘cool ground’ and ‘normal life.’ Two processes have played critical roles in this reconceptualization. First is the expansion of the family network, allowing for a regeneration of family structures that were fragmented by conflict. Second is translocalism, referring to the community-specific ways individuals maintain attachments to their former home. The places of resettlement and their particularities influence these processes and activities, producing distinct conditions for a reconceptualized home.

The study’s findings suggest that further research into translocalism as an enduring solution to the condition of displacement would be of benefit, as contemporary refugees from Syria and other places of conflict try to re-establish life outside of their home countries. The findings also provide a foundation for research on the children of refugees, specifically on how memory and trauma are being communicated and passed on to them by their parents.

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

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