Maja Povrzanović Frykman, Professor of Ethnology, Global Political Studies, Malmö University

Exploring Narrative Accounts of Humanitarian Aid in Sarajevo under Siege

Countless titles on the war and the post-war aid to Bosnia and Hercegovina promote the perspective of the so called ‘donor side’. Motivated by problems with transparency and accountability, most reports analyse coordination mechanisms, implementation capacity, and use of political conditionality in the allocation of aid. This presentation zooms into the ‘recipient side’ in order to explore the staying effects of ‘aid flows’ as perceived by the very recipients of aid, on the micro-level of individual experience in a particular local context and concerning the war years (not the post-war development aid). It is based on pilot interviews conducted between November 2013 and April 2014 with nine women and six men of different generations and different educational backgrounds, who lived in Sarajevo in the course of the 1990s war. The interviews were truly explorative; the question on what they remembered about receiving humanitarian aid enabled the interviewees to take up any issue they found relevant.

With the materiality of aid in focus, two analytical takes on the same narratives will be presented. They concern (i) emic perspectives on humanitarian aid, that indicate the local perceptions of the shifting hierarchies within the intersected socio-cultural, moral and spatial frameworks, and (ii) the affects that can be traced both in what the interviewees talked about (namely their humanitarian aid-related experiences), and in how they did it (since affects were revived in the act of remembering twenty years later). Understanding the affective unity of what and how, of then and now, is important for further research pertaining to the post-war aid and its role in forging subjectivities and collectivities in present-day Bosnia and Hercegovina. It could also serve as a starting point of a larger collaborative project that would compare emic perspectives on humanitarian aid in different socio-cultural contexts and contribute to an understanding of their political implications.

Maja Povrzanović Frykman is Professor of Ethnology at the Department of Global Political Studies, Malmö University and senior lecturer in Peace and Conflict Studies programme. Her publications relevant to this seminar include the book chapters "Staying Behind: Civilians in the Post-Yugoslav Wars 1991-95" in N. Atkin, ed., Daily Lives of Civilians in Wartime Twentieth-Century Europe (Greenwood Press, 2008) and "An Anthropology of War and Recovery: Lived Experiences" in U. Kockel et al., A Companion to the Anthropology of Europe (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). Extensive information can be found at

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