Accepted paper:

Violent space: readings of urban memory and anxiety in Sarajevo


Gruia Badescu (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

While a first reading of Sarajevo reveals signs of past violence, the city appears as a bustling place that overcame trauma. However, when the city is reread through local narratives, it is reshaped as a conglomerate of ‘violent spaces’, embedding memory of trauma as well as contemporary anxiety.

Paper long abstract:

Urban experience and urban landscapes can be read as a text, according to Walter Benjamin. My paper aims to provide a reading of the city of Sarajevo, where war and reconstruction dramatically reshaped the urban experience. I examine how political violence and trauma can be read through the urban landscape and in the narratives of Sarajevans. The perspective of the outsider flâneur-observer is first used for the reading of contemporary Sarajevo. While signs of political violence are apparent, the city appears as a bustling, energetic place that overcame trauma. However, when the city is reread through the prism of locals' narratives, it is reshaped into a conglomerate of spaces of violence, embedding memory of trauma, as well as a contemporary state of anxiety. Several processes come to the foreground, including the segregation of experiences, the establishment of new borders and boundaries, all rooted in anxiety and memory of trauma. Nevertheless, a blurring of these boundaries also emerges, based on economic needs of individuals which transgress in some cases the memory of violence. Yet urban spaces are continuously read through the prism of violence as they are recharged by the anxiety regarding the future stability of the country and of one's life.

panel W029
Violence and resilience in South-Eastern Europe