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Longing for ‘normality’ by Cynthia Cockburn

In culture, ethnicity, Europe, gender, government, history, human rights, law, politics, religion, society, war on December 8, 2012 at 22:02

From:  Longing for ‘normality’: women’s experience of post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina by Cynthia Cockburn, OpenDemocracy, http://www.opendemocracy.net

Many of the women I spoke with used the word ‘normality’ to express what they pine for, strive for, dream of. They used the word to allude to another time and place where things were or would be very different from present reality they deemed profoundly abnormal. In one sense the normality referred to a ‘fairer’ and less class-riven society, and one in which women have equality with men. More often, though, they were using the notion of normality and abnormality to characterize relations between the three ‘constituent peoples’ of Bosnia-Herzegovina. They were comparing modern BiH, flawed by extremes of religious and national identification and hatred with an ideal community in which ethno-national difference is, was or could be, de-emphasized, of minimal significance. Thus Edita Ostojic referred to ‘people who think normally’, i.e. people who ‘don’t want to be infected by this nationalist way of thinking.’

Many remembered pre-war Federal Yugoslavia in this light. I had met Amira Frljak when she was a gynaecologist in Medica during the war. Now she has her own clinic in Sarajevo. She said, ‘We were normal in Yugoslavia.’ It had not been normal Yugoslavs who had brought about the disaster that ruined the country. Rather, ‘it was crazy people who started the war.’ Vahida Mustafic was a kindergarten teacher in Medica during the conflict. She agreed with Amira. What happened in Bosnia-Herzegovina had been brought about by people from outside, many from the diaspora. These women remember Yugoslavia and its ‘normality’ with a great sense of loss. Vahida said, ‘We didn’t have a lot of material goods, but there was love, respect and freedom. I felt safer. It was safe to walk around on the street. And we could travel a lot’. They recall how shocked and disbelieving they had been when the country they had taken for granted collapsed into division and war.

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Reposted according to CC copyright notice from: OpenDemocracy

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