Daniel Hammer's Reviews > Sarajevo: A Bosnian Kaleidoscope

Sarajevo by Fran Markowitz
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Apr 01, 12

bookshelves: non-fiction
Read from January 12 to March 15, 2012

Markowitz’s book aims to analyze modern life in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. Before war tore the country apart in the mid-1990s, Sarajevo was Bosnia’s most ethnically diverse city. Today, after many of the Serbs and Croats have fled to other places, the residents of Sarajevo try to keep the flame of multi-ethnic coexistence and cosmopolitanism burning while the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina is mired in divisive forms of ethnicity and sociality. This, at least, is the myth that Sarajevans tell themselves, and which Markowitz is happy to support. There are many interesting anecdotes and details about modern life in Sarajevo here. Unfortunately, Markowitz avoids much critical analysis of the narratives told to her by Sarajevans. She uncritically accepts the claim that Sarajevo was the pre-war epitome of multiethnicity and cosmopolitanism—something which would be disputed by many Yugoslavs who lived outside of Sarajevo, and by many Bosnians and Herzegovinians as well. Instead of critically exploring these self-images as one of the many contested nostalgic visions in Bosnia and Herzegovina today, Markowitz, like her informants, treats the myth of Sarajevo's multi-ethnicity and cosmopolitanism as simple fact. Markowitz does show a readiness to point out the contradictory ways in which Sarajevans imagine themselves and Bosnian identity, but her book tilts heavily in favor of reifying a limited self-narrative of Bosnia and Herzegovina instead of revealing the inner workings of how such narratives are constructed.
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