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The Improvised State: Sovereignty, Performance and Agency in Dayton Bosnia

The Improvised State: Sovereignty, Performance and Agency in Dayton Bosnia

Alex Jeffrey

ISBN: 978-1-118-27879-6

Jul 2012, Wiley-Blackwell

224 pages



The Improvised State provides a highly developed account of the nature and outcomes of Bosnian state practices since the Dayton Peace Agreement. Jeffrey presents new and significant theories, based on extensive fieldwork in Bosnia, which advance understanding of state building.

  • Provides a major contribution to recent academic debates as to the nature of the state after violent conflict, and offers invaluable insights into state building
  • Introduces the idea of state improvisation, where improvisation refers to a process of both performance and resourcefulness
  • Uses the theoretical framework of Pierre Bourdieu to explore how powerful agencies have attempted to present a coherent vision of Bosnia and Herzegovina following the conflict 1992-5
  • Advances our understanding of the Bosnian state by focusing on the practices of statecraft fostered in the post-Dayton era
  • Research based on four periods of residential fieldwork in Bosnia, which allowed a detailed analysis of political practices in the country
List of Figures ix

Series Editors’ Preface x

Acknowledgements xi

Abbreviations xiii

1 Introduction 1

1.1 States, Performance and Improvisation 4

1.2 Towards a Political Anthropology of the Bosnian State 7

1.3 Critical Geopolitics and Qualitative Research Strategy 13

1.4 Structure of the Book 16

2 The Improvised State 20

2.1 The State Idea 22

2.2 Performance and Performativity 26

2.3 Improvisation: Performed Resourcefulness 32

2.4 Improvising the State 38

3 Producing Bosnia and Herzegovina 41

3.1 Fault Line 44

3.2 Barrier 50

3.3 The Balkan Vortex 62

3.4 The General Framework Agreement for Peace 67

3.5 Conclusion 70

4 Performing Brèko District 72

4.1 Brèko District and Arbitration 75

4.2 Stability: Getting the Job Done 85

4.3 Security: Constructing Legality 91

4.4 Neutralization: Making People Think 97

4.5 Conclusion 102

5 Gentrifying Civil Society 107

5.1 Building Civil Society 111

5.2 Social Capital: The Autonomy of Civil Society 115

5.3 Cultural Capital: ‘Don ’ t Just Ask for Another Copy Machine!’ 118

5.4 Beyond Gentrified Civil Society: Roma and Mjesne Zajednice 123

5.5 Conclusion 129

6 Enacting Justice 132

6.1 Spaces of Justice 134

6.2 Contesting the State 139

6.3 Enrolling Civil Society 145

6.4 Conclusion 153

7 Becoming European 156

7.1 Europeanization and the State 158

7.2 Nested Balkanism 162

7.3 Conclusion 166

8 Conclusion 169

References 179

Index 197

“I really enjoyed the book. It provides an empirically-rich, methodology-cally-rigorous and conceptually-grounded account of the state ‘in action’. It should prove to be essential reading for all those social scientists interested in the state but will also provide inspiration for all those interested in political geography, understandings of power and notions of performance.”  (Cultural Geographies, 27 December 2013)