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Waiting to Wait: Time, Religion and Politics in a Bosnian Landscape (paper)
Waiting to Wait: Time, Religion and Politics in a Bosnian Landscape
This paper unpacks the multiple codes of waiting in the Field of Gacko, a politically polarised landscape in the south-eastern Bosnian highlands. In the Field’s cosmology, the harvest festival of St Elijah’s Day marked a moment of condensed sociality. The ‘syncretic’ annual cycle amalgamated the Proto-Slavic pantheon, Christian saints and Muslim religiosity. Before the 1990s war, it was also actively ‘shared’ by Orthodox Christians, Muslims and Gurbeti Roma. As a gravitational force for the entire landscape, St Elijah’s Day directed and represented the structure of social relationships. As soon as one festival passed, the waiting for the next one would begin.
Such community-defining waiting gained in meaning after life in the Field was violently restructured. The ‘ethnic engineering’ that climaxed in the 1990s destroyed much of the landscape and drove parts of its population into exile. For those who have returned, waiting for Elijah became a call for the kind of communal life that entails waiting. It was an orientation of the body and the landscape towards the reconstruction of social relations. They waited to wait the way they once did. In doing so, the Field’s residents constructed a chronotopic rift between the landscape of their past and the one steeped into nationalist constructions. The entangled and analytically useful waiting for the return of the ‘shared’ Elijah thus speaks about the intimacy of passing time, the temporal arrangements of the social, memory and consolidation of the homely, but also about time as a political resource and an investment into the future.
16 May 2017
New Orleans, United States
time, waiting, religion, politics, Bosnia, landscape