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Title:Becoming mixed: mixed marriages of Bosnia-Herzegovina during the life and death of Yugoslavia
Author(s):Buric, Fedja
Director of Research:Todorova, Maria N.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Buric, Fedja; Todorova, Maria N.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Hitchins, Keith; Fritzsche, Peter A.; Koenker, Diane P.; Hayden, Robert M.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:This dissertation is a twentieth-century social history of the relationship between mixed marriage and national identity in Bosnia-Herzegovina. More precisely, it examines the ways in which different types of elites—political, religious and social—operating under different regimes—Austro-Hungarian, royal Yugoslav, Yugoslav Communist, and post-Yugoslav nationalist—used the idea of mixed marriage to articulate their conceptions of national identity. Starting in 1911 and ending in 1994, the dissertation illustrates how mixed marriage stirred anxieties even among those who professed to be immune to the seductive power of nationalism, including the Communists. It argues that the mixedness of marriages between members of different ethnic groups becomes socially relevant only at moments of ethnic polarization, reflecting the episodic nature of ethnicity itself. The episodic character of ethnicity is why the dissertation focuses on three moments in the twentieth-century life of Bosnia: the 1930s, the late 1960s, and the early 1990s. Chapters 1 and 2 focus on the mixed marriage cases which came before the Sarajevo Supreme Shari’a Court during the 1930s. The decisions of the court in these cases are viewed within the larger context of a cultural civil war engulfing much of the Bosnian Islamic establishment during the interwar period. The hardening of the court’s position vis-à-vis mixed marriage by the end of the decade is seen as a symptom of the more profound transformation of Bosnian Muslimness from a purely religious to a more secular, national, identity. Chapter 3 puts to rest the widely accepted notion that the Yugoslav Communists actively encouraged mixed marriage as a trope for a Yugoslav identity. It argues that mixed marriage emerged in the thoughts of regime’s ideologues only as an afterthought, and only after the regime had abandoned Yugoslavism and embraced nationalism. The Communists’ embrace of nationalism in the late 1960s resulted in a political and statistical neglect of mixed marriage which made their identities all the more vulnerable in the 1990s when the nationalists marked them as threats to the health of nations. Finally, Chapter 4 is an exploration of how the breakup of Yugoslavia affected the identity of one family, my own. The unorthodox methodology employed in this chapter is essential in unearthing the subjectivity of those declared as mixed during Yugoslavia’s violent death and in illustrating the overwhelming ability of nationalism to rope ordinary people into its smothering embrace. Consulting a variety of archives—from Sharia court records, personal correspondence of clerics, to Communist party archives and author’s personal diaries—and interpreting these via a variety of methodologies—from legal anthropology to autobiography and oral history—the dissertation aims to move the discussion of mixed marriage in the former Yugoslavia beyond the polarizing and, by now stale, debates of the 1990s. More specifically, it uses mixed marriage not to explain the breakup of Yugoslavia, argue for or against the Yugoslav project in general, or measure the ethnic distance between certain groups, but rather to explain how and why nationalism is able to exploit mixed marriages for its own ends, and how ordinary people experience this process. The last chapter in particular makes a case for the unapologetic use of autobiography in the study of history.
Issue Date:2012-05-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Fedja Buric
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-05-22
Date Deposited:2012-05

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