Drawing on fieldwork with Serb women who lived through the siege of Sarajevo, this article examines how the moral economy of victimhood allows us to recognize certain classes of victims only by failing to recognize others. From 1992 to 1995, Sarajevo was held under siege by Bosnian Serb forces. In the post-war context, Sarajevan Serb women often find that their ethnic identity has become bound up with the figure of the aggressor, but this ascription goes against their subjective experiences of the war. Against the cemented narrative of collective (Serb) guilt and (Bosniak) innocence, they find their experiences of wartime suffering to be unwelcome. I argue that this silencing is symptomatic of a moral economy which demands a pure dichotomy between victims and perpetrators, in which violence committed against the perpetrator “side” is rendered ungrievable. I then discuss the gendered connotations of the figure of the aggressor, and what it means for Serb women to feel this shame. Finally, I show that personal accounts of suffering are not the only narratives being silenced; I also gained access to clandestine ethno-nationalist scripts, fueled by a sense of precarious belonging in the post-war city.


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pp. 1173-1199
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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