(Inter)National Reconstruction: Revising Poststructuralist Encounters with the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Tomáš Dopita

The most serious problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina today are linked to the political practices of conflicting visions of nationhood and statehood. The international intervention in the country was expected to create self-sustaining political institutions and then withdraw. However, the fact that the intervention is ongoing shows its failure to do so. Many scholars have engaged this issue, but this article shows that some of the analyses that have been most critical of the international intervention also bring problems of their own. The article focuses on the encounters between collective Subjects and the ways they have been constituted in relation to one another. It warns that without carefully identifying these Subjects we risk serious misinterpretations, such as equating Bosnian Muslims, Bosniaks, and Bosnians. This misinterpretation occurs in two major critical works in IR’s ‘poststructuralist canon’ that purport to critically engage the situation and, particularly, the international intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina – David Campbell’s National Deconstruction and Lene Hansen’s Security as Practice. Campbell and Hansen rightly criticize the International Community’s ethno-cultural essentialism, but in their critique they apply Campbell’s radical-idealist version of multiculturalism. Based upon the ideal of a community without essence and the principle of affirming cultural diversity without situating it, this approach is not able to identify the Subjects involved or the unwelcome radicalization of the excluded Subjects, which leads to flawed conclusions as to how to sustainably resolve their conflict. In providing an academic corrective to such a hyper-liberal bias, this article seeks to increase the room-for-manoeuvre of those who seek to create self-sustaining political institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.