Hannah Marshall, ‘Rebuilding the Past and Creating the Future in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Reconstructing Religious Buildings in Post-war Mostar'.  


By focusing on destruction during the war and subsequent reconstruction of the buildings and monuments of the town of Mostar, Hannah Marshall's paper attempts to discuss the relationship that people have with their physical landscape and the link that exists between identity, both individual and collective, and cultural objects. The essay explores the way that communities project their religious and perhaps ethnic identity unto their surroundings: landscape, landmarks, material culture. In this process, buildings become important markers of confessional/ethnic identity suggesting that identity is linked in complex ways to territory and, in the particular case of Mostar, to the urban landscape. The cultural and religious heritage is invested in this process with high symbolic value. The study ultimately explores patterns of integration and segregation which could impact on broader issues pertaining to the existence of a truly multi-cultural state, the building of a well-defined ethnically inclusive Bosnian country. The essay will address the debate over the future of a shared Bosnia and a multi-national Bosnian community. The study analyzes the processes and effects of the reconstruction of the urban landscape in Mostar, by focusing primarily on the rebuilding of the city's religious buildings. Particular attention is paid to the reconstruction of mosques in the west of the city and issues pertaining to the consequences of reintroducing Muslims into "Croatian territory" will be addressed. The author considers that the physical presence of both the mosque and its worshippers is part of a larger effort to re-construct a multi-ethnic community in Mostar exactly as it was before the war. This leads to one of the key questions of the essay whether going back to the past is a way forward for Bosnia. Croatian attempts to engineer public space in the city are discussed in relation to the international authorities' attempt to rebuild the Ottoman heritage. Projects of territorial marking in the west of the city are explored parallel to the function of religious symbols. The essay analyzes these issues from the perspective of the local community whose opinions on the reconstruction of the city are so often overlooked by both local and international authorities. The article is based on field work in Mostar in 2005 and on oral sources, which it does not regard as objective research material, but rather as able to capture the local communities' representation about their past and their city. These are central to the way they construct their identity in both ethnic and confessional terms. The first part of the study analyzes the Bosnian community and the nature of Bosnian identity prior to the war. The second part deals with destruction and with the reconstruction of the physical environment, with particular attention to the Croatian authorities and the international community's attempts to engineer physical space, the former to create separation and the latter reunification. The final section analyzes the consequences of the reconstruction of mosques in Croatian neighborhoods. This addresses the specific effects of reconstructing material heritage in Bosnia.