Innocence and Victimhood: Gender, Nation, And Women?s Activism In Postwar Bosnia-herzegovina

Paperback | December 15, 2013

byElissa Helms

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The 1992–95 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina following the dissolution of socialist Yugoslavia became notorious for “ethnic cleansing” and mass rapes targeting the Bosniac (Bosnian Muslim) population. Postwar social and political processes have continued to be dominated by competing nationalisms representing Bosniacs, Serbs, and Croats, as well as those supporting a multiethnic Bosnian state, in which narratives of victimhood take center stage, often in gendered form. Elissa Helms shows that in the aftermath of the war, initiatives by and for Bosnian women perpetuated and complicated dominant images of women as victims and peacemakers in a conflict and political system led by men. In a sober corrective to such accounts, she offers a critical look at the politics of women’s activism and gendered nationalism in a postwar and postsocialist society.
            Drawing on ethnographic research spanning fifteen years, Innocence and Victimhood demonstrates how women’s activists and NGOs responded to, challenged, and often reinforced essentialist images in affirmative ways, utilizing the moral purity associated with the position of victimhood to bolster social claims, shape political visions, pursue foreign funding, and wage campaigns for postwar justice. Deeply sensitive to the suffering at the heart of Bosnian women’s (and men’s) wartime experiences, this book also reveals the limitations to strategies that emphasize innocence and victimhood.

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The 1992–95 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina following the dissolution of socialist Yugoslavia became notorious for “ethnic cleansing” and mass rapes targeting the Bosniac (Bosnian Muslim) population. Postwar social and political processes have continued to be dominated by competing nationalisms representing Bosniacs, Serbs, and Croats, as we...

Elissa Helms is associate professor of gender studies at Central European University in Hungary. She is a coeditor, with Xavier Bougarel and Ger Duijzings, of The New Bosnian Mosaic: Identities, Memories and Moral Claims in a Post-War Society.

other books by Elissa Helms

Format:PaperbackDimensions:348 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:December 15, 2013Publisher:University Of Wisconsin PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0299295540

ISBN - 13:9780299295547

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations                
Acknowledgments                 
Pronunciation Guide              
List of Abbreviations             
 
Introduction               
1 Representations: Victims and Peacemakers            
2 Wartime: Gender, Nationalism, and Mass Rape                
3 The NGO "Boom": Women's Organizing and Foreign Intervention in the Wake of War              
4 The "Nation-ing" of Gender: Nationalism, Ethnicity, Reconciliation                    
5 "Politics Is a Whore": Women and the Political                 
6 Avoidance and Authenticity: The Public Face of Wartime Rape               
Conclusion: Claiming Gendered Victimhood: Limits, Implications, Hopes              
 
Notes             
References                  
Index

Editorial Reviews

“The greatest merit of Helms’ book is her unravelling of ambiguities, of rigid connectivities, and [of] how multiple women’s groups were trying to come to terms with human rights, entitlement claims, and also with frictions between each other and among staff. . . . An impressive example of excellent action research.”—European Journal of Women’s Studies