I am a broadly-trained sociocultural anthropologist and conduct research on the politics of social transformation, which I investigate in contemporary Bosnia-Herzegovina.
My first research project develops and advances an anthropological approach to the study of international intervention, predominantly those projects rooted in and promoting Western models of development, democracy, care, and the nation-state form. In particular, I studied how a diversity of foreign and domestic actors sought to legitimize and authorize transformations in postwar Bosnian society and politics, focusing on the struggle to define and deploy notions of peoplehood, popular sovereignty, and humanitarianism in a context of incomplete state-building and refugee return. I have developed and shared these insights in publications, public events, and a Wenner-Gren funded workshop.
I also explore a related but distinct set of questions organized around the relationship between past and present, particularly the connection between the historical imagination (how people think about the past) and the political imagination (how people conceive of what is politically possible). I thus also study post-socialist change, and in this context I have written on the topics of violence, nationalism, and nostalgia (as well as other “historical emotions”), and co-organized two international conferences on the theme of hope and post-socialism.
More recently I have embarked on a new research project on politics and the changing world of work, supported by a Social Science and Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grant and funding from McMaster University’s Arts Research Board. Here I investigate historical openings and closures to political experimentation and social transformation, taking a recent series of protests and their aftermath in the northern Bosnian city of Tuzla as my case study. The protests were animated by the social disaster caused by privatization, and were followed by the spontaneous creation of a citizens assembly or plenum, which managed to briefly organize and exercise political will in ways that fell outside the (nationalist) categories of Bosnia’s post-war political field. I analyze the plenum as an experiment in democratic political self-organization, and seek to track its diverse consequences. In doing so, I am part of a growing group of anthropologists exploring “worlds without work.” For the most part, scholars have rightly treated wageless life as a site of debilitation, decline and dispossession. In this research project, however, I seek to go beyond the framework of loss, and to theorize these contexts as generative of new social fields and political forms. What happens when work disappears and it’s not coming back, when “waged life” and “salaried society” no longer form the foundation for social order? What are the various ways in which people seek social incorporation, and under what conditions is it achieved or denied? What is the role of history, collective struggle, and the material environment in shaping those conditions?
At McMaster University I am a member of the Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition and Austerity Research Group, and my teaching and supervisory interests include: political anthropology, international intervention and humanitarianism, history, work and welfare, ethnographic theory and research methods, and post-socialism.
PhD University of Chicago, 2008
- Anthrop 2F03 - Cultural Anthropology
- Anthrop 722 - Ethnographic Theory and Research Methods
- Anthrop 3PH3 - Dissent, Power and History
- Anthrop 4BB3 - The Cultural Politics of Nationalism
2017 “The Limits of Foreign Authority: Publicity and the Political Logic of Ambivalence in Postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Comparative Studies in Society and History. 59(2)
2016 “From humanitarianism to humanitarianization: Intimacy, estrangement and international aid in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina” American Ethnologist. 43(4)
2015 “Dayton at twenty: towards new politics in Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Southeast European and Black Sea Studies. 15(4): 605-610 (with Jasmin Mujanović). Introduction to a special collection of papers edited by Andrew Gilbert and Jasmin Mujanović.
2013 “War and the Politics of Historical Imagination in Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Srdja Pavlovic and Marko Zivkovic (eds.)Transcending Fratricide: Political Mythologies, Reconciliations, and the Uncertain Future in the former Yugoslavia. Baden-Baden; Nomos Verlag. 165-188.
2012 "Legitimacy Matters: Managing the Democratization Paradox of Foreign State-Building in Bosnia-Herzegovina." Süedosteuropa 60, H.4, S. 483-496.
2010 "Invited Commentary on Joao Biehl & Peter Locke “Deleuze and the Anthropology of Becoming.” Current Anthropology. 51(3): 317-351 (341)
2008 “Commentary: Reconsidering Postsocialism from the Margins of Europe: Hope, Time, and Normalcy in post-Yugoslav Societies.” Anthropology News. With Jessica Greenberg, Elissa Helms and Stef Jansen. November.
2006 “The past in parenthesis. (Non)post-socialism in post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina” Anthropology Today 22(4): 14-18.
2017 Review of Yearnings in the Meantime. ‘Normal Lives’ and the State in a Sarajevo Apartment Complex. American Ethnologist. 43(4)
2016 Review of Bastards of Utopian: Living Radical Politics after Socialism. By Maple Razsa. American Anthropologist. 118(1):211-212.
2013 Murphy, Alexander, Alex Jeffrey, Andrew Gilbert, Adam Moore, Gerard Toal, and Carl T. Dahlman. "Reading Gerard Toal and Carl T. Dahlman's Bosnia Remade: Ethnic cleansing and its reversal." Political Geography. 36: 12-20.
2008 Nationalities Papers. Volume 36 (1): 164-166. Review of Xavier Bougarel, Elissa Helms, and Ger Duijzings, (eds.) The New Bosnian Mosaic. Identities, Memories and Moral Claims in a Post-War Society. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2007.
Recent Workshops, Conferences and Symposia Organized:
2013 Organized workshop entitled "Towards an Anthropology of International Intervention" at McMaster University. Principle funding from the Wenner-Gren Foundation.
2010 Organizer of workshop entitled “European Interventions and State-Building in the Balkans” at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. Principle funding from the European Commission. 21-23 October.
2010 Co-Organizer of workshop entitled “sponsored by the Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. 30 April.
2009 Co-Organizer of symposiumat Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto. 8-9 May.
2008 Co-organizer of conference entitledhosted by the Center for East European, Russians and Eurasian Studies at the University of Chicago and funded by the American Council of Learned Societies. 24-25. October.
2007 Co-organizer of workshop entitledfunded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the British Academy, University of Manchester, UK, 9-11 November.
2005 Co-organizer of conference entitled “Politics and Society Ten Years after Dayton: Young Scholars Conference on the State of Social Science Research on Bosnia-Herzegovina,” hosted by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Sarajevo, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina 10-13, November.