ABOUT THE PROJECT
The photographs you see here are a small part of my 'ethnographic' research on landscape and memory in Bosnia. They depict imaginative seasonal rituals in the midst of various everyday uncertainties after the 1990s war.
I conducted most of my fieldwork in the Field of Gacko (south-eastern Bosnian highlands). However, as the cyclical calendar was ‘broken’ by war, I needed to understand it from other examples. My investigation thus branched out of one locale to follow time through space. I visited various pilgrimage places, festivities and smaller rituals throughout Bosnia. The more places I visited, the more pieces of the 'time puzzle' became apparent to me. For now, at least fieldwork-wise, all these places have been within the contemporary borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina and all of the 'ethnographic' visual work presented here is from 2011 and 2012.
Thousands of sacred places are scattered over Bosnian mountaintops, near water springs, in caves and forest gorges. Some have been banned in socialist Yugoslavia, others have been affected by the forced migrations of the 1990s and the socio-ecological effects of modernisation. Their syncretic character is sustained by the synchronic and diachronic diversity of landscapes. Most of the events in the annual cycle are nestled between the days of two saints, George and Elijah, who married a wide array of influences from within and without the Balkan Peninsula. These dates mark the beginning of the fertile season and the end to the harvest.
The sacral calendar of Gacko's Christians, Muslims and Roma is a shared knowledge of immersed placedness which stands in stark contrast to the violence of modern divisions. The rituals extend through a range of relationships, from weddings and funerals to traditional forms of medicine, economic exchange and athletic competitions. Central to local life, this calendar renders the effect of supralocal and geopolitical discourses.
Researching landscapes - social processes both anchored and constantly on the move - required various extensions into time and space. My methods shifted to accommodate an approach to social situations where cosmology, space, place and politics continue to be intertwined in complex ways. To understand the ties between seasonal festivities and a particular sense of placedness, I extended my participant observation to the collection of 'cognitive maps' and life histories, as well as towards 'cyber space' communication. My archival research has particularly benefited from sources on proto-Slavic mythology, oral traditions, fin de siècle maps and travelogues.
The photographs on this website are just a glimpse at the complexity of Bosnian landscapes. Within an underreaserched area, I hope they will become a starting point for discussion and incentive for further ethnographic explorations.
2013 © copyright Safet HadžiMuhamedović - Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London