Managing Ambiguity: How Clientelism, Citizenship, and Power Shape Personhood in Bosnia and Herzegovina | BERGHAHN BOOKS
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Managing Ambiguity: How Clientelism, Citizenship, and Power Shape Personhood in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Volume 31

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Managing Ambiguity

How Clientelism, Citizenship, and Power Shape Personhood in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Čarna Brković

208 pages, 2 figures, 1 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-414-6 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (July 2017)

ISBN  978-1-78920-841-2 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (September 2020)

eISBN 978-1-78533-415-3 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“[This book] takes a substantial step towards understanding the impact of social protection policies inherited from the socialist regimes of Eastern European countries integrated into the European Union… [and] is a remarkable anthropological contribution to the understanding of how national contexts are affected by neoliberal measures imposed by the European Union.” • Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale

Managing Ambiguity is a careful, layered, and analytically rich yet jargon-free anthropological account. The book explores the emerging contours of social protection in Bosnia and it courageously delves into the maze of everyday sociality, state bureaucracy, and social welfare—a domain of social and political fields often ignored by the majority of contemporary anthropologists of the region… [It] is a great gift to scholars interested in the Balkans in general, and Bosnia and Herzegovina in particular…The book sheds light not only on the “troubled” European semiperiphery but also on profound ambiguities and uncertainties created by the dissipation of stable structures supporting life in the world at large.” • Journal of Anthropological Research

“In combination with the high theoretical aspirations with which the book concludes, the result is to make this book salutary reading for anthropologists.” • American Anthropologist

“Beyond academia, the book’s general framework encompassing health and social care will be of interest to a broader public concerned with the states emerging from former Yugoslavia….Ultimately, Managing Ambiguity is an intellectually stimulating ethnographic read, allowing for outsiders to access social phenomena unfamiliar to them and for insiders to be aware of a phenomenon they would otherwise be inured to.” • Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology

“Brković’s book is one of those that adds another piece to the puzzle that recent anthropological research on Bosnia-Herzegovina is creating... But here let me add that Managing Ambiguity is an essential piece to the puzzle since it deals with the topic not easy to research, to understand, and to present. My opinion is that Čarna Brković has done a great job and anyone who wants to understand this aspect of Bosnian society must read this book.” • Anthropology Notebooks

“There is much to love about this book - the choice to address what is extremely rich ethnographic material through three interlocking analytical categories: personhood, citizenship, and power creates the possibilities for an incredibly productive exploration of everyday life, sociality and social welfare.” • Paul Stubbs, Institute for Economics, Zagreb


Why do people turn to personal connections to get things done? Exploring the role of favors in social welfare systems in postwar, postsocialist Bosnia and Herzegovina, this volume provides a new theoretical angle on links between ambiguity and power. It demonstrates that favors were not an instrumental tactic of survival, nor a way to reproduce oneself as a moral person. Instead, favors enabled the insertion of personal compassion into the heart of the organization of welfare.

Managing Ambiguity follows how neoliberal insistence on local community, flexibility, and self-responsibility was translated into clientelist modes of relating and back, and how this fostered a specific mode of power.

Čarna Brković is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies, Regensburg. She co-edited Negotiating Social Relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and won the 2015 SIEF Young Scholar Prize.

Subject: Anthropology (General)Peace and Conflict StudiesHistory: 20th Century to Present
Area: Southern Europe


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