'Mysterious in content' : the European Union peacebuilding framework and local spaces of agency in Bosnia-Herzegovina
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This thesis aims to investigate EU peacebuilding in Bosnia-Herzegovina, focusing on the ways in which EU actors engage with local cultural actors and vice versa. Given that, in the liberal peacebuilding tradition, civil society has been considered a key actor in the public sphere, peacebuilding actors have tended to neglect seemingly more marginal actors and their subtle ways of impacting on the peacebuilding process. However, this thesis contends that processes of interaction are not always direct and visible, but centre on discourse clusters, which I frame as imaginary ‘spaces of agency’. Through the creation of meanings within a space of agency and its translation into other imaginary spaces, actors develop the power to impact upon the peacebuilding process, often in coded ways and therefore invisible in the public sphere, as peacebuilding actors, including the EU, have created it. A typology of the modes of interaction and possible responses between spaces helps understand the complexities and nuances of peacebuilding interaction. The thesis uses this framework to analyse several exemplary spaces of agency of the EU, rooting them in institutional discourses with specific reference to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Based on this, I investigate a number of responses to those spaces on the part of local cultural actors, as well as how the latter contribute to the emergence of alternative localised spaces, where the EU’s spaces fail to connect to the everyday dimensions of peace. I suggest that this represents a way in which local actors try to claim the ownership of peacebuilding back in subtle ways. This also points to the ability of actors that have traditionally been excluded from the peacebuilding project to contextualise abstract and distant processes into what matters locally, as well as their capacity to reject and resist when the EU’s spaces remain irrelevant for local peacebuilding imaginations.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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