Krigets sociologi: Analyser av krigsvåld, koncentrationsläger, offerskap och försoning

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book analyzes verbally depicted experiences of survivors from the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One purpose to describe how the actors portray the social phenomenon of “war violence” “victimhood” and “reconciliation”, and the second aim is to analyze discursive patterns that emerges in the creation of the terms “victim” and “perpetrator”. My research questions are: (1) How do the interviewees describe war violence, victimhood and reconciliation after the war? (2) Which war-categories are highlighted in the stories?; (3) How do the interviewees describe life in the concentration camps?
The construction of the category ”war violence” is made visible in the empirical material when the interviewees talk about (1) a new social order in the society, (2) human suffering, (3) sexual war violence, and (4) human slaughter. All interviewees define war violence as morally reprehensible. In narratives on the phenomena ”war violence” a picture emerges which shows a disruption of the social order existing in the pre-war society. The violence practiced during the war is portrayed as organized and ritualized and this creates a picture that the violence practice became a norm in the society, rather than the exception. Narratives retelling violent situations, perpetrators of violence and subjected to violence do not only exist as a mental construction. The stories live their lives after the war, and thus have real consequences for individuals and society.
Throughout the narratives about crimes and encroachment in the camps the interviewed individual’s take distance from the actions of the guards and the category concentration camp-placed. Retelling violations and resistance rituals show that the space for individuality in the camps were toughly limited but a resistance and status rituals together with adaptation to the living conditions in the camps seems to have generated a space for enhanced individualization. To possess somewhat control and have the opportunity to provide resistance seems to give an emotion of honor and self-esteem to the camp prisoners, not only during but also after the time of war. Their narratives today represent a form of continued resistance.
When, after the war, different actors claim this ”victim” status, it sparks a competition for victimhood. The competition between categories seems to take place on a symbolic level. Development taking place during and after the war has led to populations’ being described based on four categories. One consists of “remainders”, namely those who before, during, and after the war have lived in northwestern Bosnia. Another is “refugees”, those who were expelled from other parts of Bosnia and Croatia into northwestern Bosnia. The third is made up of “returnees”, those who were expelled from northwestern Bosnia during the war but have returned afterwards. The fourth is the “diaspora”, individuals who were expelled from the area during the war and stayed in the new country. All interviewees want to portray themselves as ”ideal victims”, but they are all about to lose that status. The returnees and the diaspora are losing status by receiving recognition from the surrounding community and because they have a higher economic status; the remainders are losing status since they are constantly being haunted by war events; and the refugees are losing status by being presented as strangers and thus fitting the role of ideal perpetrators. It seems that by reproducing this competition for the victim role, all demarcations, which were played out so skillfully during the war, are kept alive.
The interactive dynamics, which occurred during the war, make the post-war reconciliation wartime associated. Narratives about reconciliation, implacability and terms for reconciliation, are not only formed in relation to the war as a whole but also in relation to one’s own and others’ wartime actions. The narratives about reconciliation become an arena in which ”we and them” are played against each other in different ways not least by rejecting the others’ acts during the war. In the interviewees stories implacability is predominant but reconciliation is presented as a possibility if certain conditions are met. These conditions are, for instance, justice for war victims, perpetrators’ recognition of crime and perpetrators’ emotional commitment (for example the display of remorse and shame).


  • Goran Basic
External organisations
  • Linnaeus University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • narrative, perpetrator of violence, subjected to violence, violence, war, humiliated self, stigma, emotion, resistance, de-ritualization, power ritual, sociology, Bosnia and Herzegovina, victim, crime, victimhood, perpetrator, forgiveness, reconciliation, implacability, war memory, recollection, traumatic memory, personal memory, ethnography, collective memory
Original languageSwedish
PublisherBokbox förlag
Number of pages112
ISBN (Print)978-91-85645-67-2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Publication categoryResearch