Confronting the Yugoslav Controversies (2024)

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Confronting the Yugoslav Controversies: The Scholars' Initiative

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Charles Ingrao

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Times of Reckoning: History, Evidence and Truth-making after Yugoslavia

The idea that we are in a " post-truth " era is lately on everyone's lips. The popular, scholarly and comedic analyses of Donald Trump's ambivalent relationship to facticity would already fill volumes. 1 Yet the instability of meaning and the uncomfortable fit between denotational content and interpretive frameworks are not new phenomena. As I've written about elsewhere, such " semiotic indeterminacy " has been central to social movement organizing and coalition building for a long time. 2 And as sociolinguists, literary analysts and others have long argued, the slippery and contextual relationship between truth and image, sign and referent is one of the most productive features of human communication. Indeed, it might be argued that it is the keystone of sociality itself. Legal institutions, and in particular International Criminal Tribunals, are especially interesting in thinking through the current status of " truth " because they take this slipperiness of meaning head on. In an age in which the rapid circulation of texts and images make interpretative work all the more challenging, these judicial bodies are organized to turn facts into narrative, and narrative into justice. This is by no means a simple process. It requires legal and non-legal actors to turn contested stories and affectively laden experiences into recognizable objects of intervention. International criminal tribunals are famously fact-intensive affairs, requiring exhaustive documentation of what happened, when, and where. This process is particularly contested when different actors use competing strategies to represent historical evidence because history itself is a political and discursive battlefield. This was without question the case in the wars and subsequent trials of Yugoslav Succession. What often goes unremarked or unanalyzed are the temporalities of such legal strategies. The way in which criminal tribunals make sense of facticity requires certain logics of time and causation in establishing criminal culpability. In this post, I briefly compare the use of historical narrative at the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Serbian feminist activist practices of bearing witness and public protest. I suggest that prosecutors use historical narratives to structure a particular relationship between past, present and future: history became evidence for criminal culpability in ways that gave sense and shape to the goal of transitional justice. On the other hand, feminist activists used documentation and protest to bring and hold the past in the present as the basis for an ongoing project of truth-making and justice. These two strategies rest on very different conceptualizations of the relationship between time and space and the kind of ethical actions these relationships make possible.

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Comparative Southeast European Studies

The Discourse about Kosovo in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1981–1989

2021 •

Husnija Kamberovic

The author analyses the discourse about Kosovo in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) during the 1980s. During these years, Serbian media developed several stereotypes to discredit the political leaders of BiH and accuse them of fomenting unrest in Kosovo. The author assesses these stereotypical depictions as well as the response of the Islamic Community and political leadership in BiH to these accusations. He asks what the attitude of Serbia's political elite towards BiH was, and what role the Serbian political leadership played in the media attacks. He then investigates the evolution of the BiH leadership's stances towards the events in Kosovo between the beginning and the end of the 1980s. And finally, through a close reading of session minutes and media, he assesses the increasingly deviating views of the BiH political leaders vis-á-vis the situation in Kosovo.

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Debating the end of Yugoslavia

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Florian Bieber

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Dealing with the Past in the Western Balkans, edited by Martina Fischer and Ljubinka Petrovic-Ziemer, Berghof Report 18, 2013, Berlin: Berghof Foundation. (Online at

Martina Fischer

This publication is co-edited by Martina Fischer and Ljubinka Petrovic-Ziemer and presents results of the research project “Dealing with the Past and Peacebuilding in the Western Balkans. Studying the interplay of international and local initiatives for Transitional Justice and Reconciliation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia”. The project was funded by the German Foundation Peace Research in the period March 2010–April 2012. The project was conducted by Martina Fischer and Ljubinka Petrović-Ziemer with contributions by Srđan Dvornik (Zagreb), Katarina Milićević (Belgrade), and Ismet Sejfija (Sarajevo/Tuzla). The study investigates initiatives for reconciliation and “dealing with the past” which were undertaken by international organisations, legal institutions and local civil society actors in response to the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The coherence of objectives and strategies and their implications for peacebuilding, forms of cooperation and learning experiences, and the political resonance of the various approaches were a particular focus of interest. The research concentrated on Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia, which are linked by their history of ethnopolitical conflict and are signatory states to the Dayton Peace Agreement (1995), under which they committed to cooperate in order to overcome the effects of war. The inter-country case study was carried out with input from local partners from civil society organisations and academic institutions. In all, 150 interviews were conducted in 28 municipalities.

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Bilić and Janković (eds.) Resisting the Evil: (Post-)Yugoslav Anti-War Contention, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2012

Vesna Jankovic

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Yugoslavia from the Beginning to the End

2013 •

Ana Panic, Ivana Dobrivojevic Tomic, Jovo Bakić

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Disabling Ethnic Politics: Controversies of Scholarship and Challenges of Intervention in the former Yugoslavia

2004 •

Andrew Gilbert

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Confronting the Yugoslav Controversies (2024)
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