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Abstract

Since the beginning of the war in Bosnia (1992), pundits, legislators, and international and domestic workers have focused on the political crises, humanitarian tragedies, and psychological traumas of the war. These same decades have been marked, in both the academic and popular imagination, by the increasingly prominent place given to the legacy of trauma, theories of trauma, and cultural production that attends to traumatic pasts. Looking at the way narrative follows, coexists with, and outlives a traumatic event like the war in Bosnia reveals the extent to which trauma is conceived of in various, often conflicting, ways. This dissertation seeks to articulate a robust theory of trauma that is equally informed by textual and visual analysis of literature and film as by observations and theories of the operation of social practices and cultural channels in contemporary Bosnia. In the specific cultural and historical aftermath of individual and social trauma wrought by the war in Bosnia, artistic texts exist in a mutually constitutive relationship with both individual memories of the wartime past and wider social memorial practices in contemporary Bosnia. This dissertation details how rhetorical strategies and artistic devices work in conjunction with, clarify, or undermine reigning ideas about the politics of memory in contemporary Bosnia. Varied acts of figuring trauma can and do participate in, and continue to operate at the forefront of, discussions taking place in Bosnian public spheres. The texts and contexts analyzed in this dissertation provide focused insight into the relationship between historical events and artistic production; the role of fiction in the negotiation of individual, regional and national identities; and both the cultural value and aesthetic shaping of private and public memories of trauma in contemporary Bosnia. This dissertation demonstrates, through its focus on the Bosnian case, that interpretations of trauma and conceptions of narration can be linked and employed in a multiplicity of ways and to highly contrasting ends. The manner in which individual and collective traumas are told – and, importantly, what is included and excluded from their telling – exists in a mutually constitutive relationship with the image, scope, and import of traumatic experience itself. Moreover, as this dissertation maintains, the narration of trauma frequently refracts and implicates wider social conceptions of temporality, spatiality, identity, community, and memory.

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