Syncretic debris: from shared Bosnian saints to the ICTY courtroom
This article is an anthropological postscript to the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), brought to a conclusion in 2017. Drawing on long-term fieldwork in Bosnia, I trace in the Tribunal’s archives the strange afterlives of two shared and syncretic saints, George and Elijah, their feasts and the religiously plural landscapes they encapsulated. Surfacing as debris after violent impact – displaced and disarticulated – they offer here a possibility of reading both along and against the grain of the archival expectations. I analyse the chartings of ethno-religious distinctions and the discourse of ‘historical enmities’ between Bosnian communities, with particular attention to the iterations of these arguments in the reports of ICTY’s expert witnesses. This sustained invention of the absence of shared tradition, although productive of debris, is, I argue, continually countered by the emplacement of remnants into rekindled wholes.
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