Ambivalent Peace : External Peacebuilding, Threatened Identity and Reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Abstract: This study expands the enquiry of external efforts to build peace after an ethnic war by investigating the effects these efforts may have on societal security and reconciliation among groups in a host society. To achieve this, a theoretical framework, combining theories on the character of external peacebuilding, and theories on societal security and reconciliation, was devised and applied to the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The contemporary model of peacebuilding is conceptualised and studied in terms of its identity-building and state-building components. Further, the concept of societal security is used to explain the notion of threatened identity and its protection, and its relation to reconciliation, as the process of attitudinal change needed to develop a minimum of mutual acceptance between former adversaries. The empirical part is based on qualitative interviews with members of the political elite, and a sociological survey undertaken among ordinary citizens. The attitudes of 22 politicians from 10 political parties, as well as the attitudes of 2,500 interviewees from different parts of the country, are analysed with the aim of probing the theoretical construct. The theoretical and methodological approach proved useful in uncovering pertinent aspects of an ambivalent peace process. Both interviews and survey data show that ethnonational groups continue to threaten each other by competing demand for ethnic rights and security, while external nation-building measures further exacerbate this state of societal insecurity. As a result, ethnonational identities remain highly mobilised and play an important role in the lives of ordinary people and politicians alike. This situation, in which each community is focused on protecting its own identity, including a particular view of the causes and character of the recent war, rather than seeking a rapprochement with the former opponent, is a key characteristic of ambivalent peace. The results are important for both theories of peacebuilding and their implementation, and call for a reassessment of current models.
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