'Waiting is Hoping': Future and Youth in a Bosnian Border Town

  • Vania Celebicic-Arielli

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis challenges a widespread perception that young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina were 'lethargic' and that they 'did not care' for the collective or for the future. Based on one year of fieldwork in a small town called Bihac, located near to the border with Croatia, I show how young people rather than being 'lethargic', in fact, most of the time felt that they were in the wrong place and the wrong time. This resulted in a feeling that one's 'agentive capacity' was limited, which made people feel stuck and not in control of the future; it made them feel that they were heading nowhere in particular. I illustrate how this sense of 'stuckedness' was manifest (e.g. through café routines), negotiated (e.g. through engagement with practices that have an immediate result), and the results it led to (e.g. various types of waiting).In order to better comprehend the experiences of contemporary youths in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I put them into 'conversation' with the narratives of older people, who were once at a similar 'vital conjuncture', making decisions about the future that would have meaningful effects on their lives. I show that in Bihac, within post-WWII Yugoslavia, the sense was that hope resided among the people. Despite many difficulties in that period, the general feeling was that things were in the 'right' proportion and that one, more or less, knew what one could get and expect from the state and its institutions. Within contemporary Bihac, the sense was that the ability to know was reduced to the ability to hope, but that hope itself was presently felt to be outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina's borders. Instead, everyday lives were saturated with what I call institutionalized unpredictability. This had debilitating effects on people, both in practical and in moral terms, and has inevitably shaped how young people, coming of age in present day Bosnia and Herzegovina, experienced their location, and consequently their sense of 'agentive capacity' and how they aspired.I argue that young people were neither alienated nor disinterested in the future. Rather, while dealing with too much unpredictability and at the same time undesirable predictability, a condition that both was and was not of their own making, they were actively and 'resourcefully' (Jeffrey 2011: 245) living their present routines. In this thesis I show how young people engaged with the immediate, near and distant future on both the collective and individual level. Moreover, I illustrate how they partially created, partially responded to and partially ignored Bihac and Bosnia and Herzegovina as places in space and time as they engaged with their surroundings.
Date of Award1 Aug 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorStef Jansen (Supervisor) & Sarah Green (Supervisor)

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