A Children’s Literature? : Subversive Infantilisation in Contemporary Bosnian-Herzegovinian Fiction

Abstract: The past two decades of political and social disintegration in Bosnia and Herzegovina have given birth to literary counterreactions against hegemonic ways of imagining social life in the country. This thesis deals with a particular practice in BosnianHerzegovinian war and post-war literature, which uses infantile perspectives to critically address issues related to the socialist history of Bosnia as part of Yugoslavia, the war in the 1990s, and the socalled transitional post-war period. Drawing on an old Western literary tradition of using the child character to estrange conventional experiences of the world, the texts (by authors such as Miljenko Jergović, Nenad Veličković, Alma Lazarevska, Aleksandar Hemon, and Saša Stanišić) use the skewing and dislocating outlook associated with the infantile subject to expose and undermine perceivably problematic mechanisms in socialist, ethnonationalist, and Western liberal hegemonic discourses.In contrast to previous research on the topic, which has primarily focussed upon the narratological conditions for the infantile perspective, the focus here is on the subversive infantilisation of hegemonic discourse—that is, the very discursive act of representing and contesting dominant concepts, narratives, and representations. The texts are seen as transitional areas through which input from the social world passes and, in this process, is restructured and ultimately transformed into a configuration slightly or radically different from the original input. Theoretically inspired by discourse theory and ideas from New Historicism, the study isolates and investigates a set of techniques through which this reconfiguration occurs. Apart from discussing the use of the basic infantile perspective as such a technique, the study also considers how the notion of the infantile influences techniques of dichotomisation (the production of positional counterpoints), appropriation (the critical subsuming of dominant discourse), and blending (the mixing of dominant and childish imagery).The thesis also addresses the possible political implications of the strategy of subversive infantilisation. Here the approach is influenced by the political philosophy of Jacques Rancière, which enables an understanding of the aesthetic reconfiguration of how Bosnian social life is imagined as a way of constituting a new form of subjectivity that evades the excluding and oppressive framework of hegemonic discourse.

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