This research project investigates the refugee returnee process developed by the international community to implement Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Accords, the peace treaty that brought the Bosnian war to an end in 1995. The central research question is: how has the international community sought to reconstitute multi-ethnic Bosnian places and how have local authorities mediated this process? Field-research is grounded in three ethnically-cleansed Bosnian localities - Bosnian Croat-controlled Jajce, Bosniak-controlled Travnik, and Bosnian Serb-controlled Derventa - which were multi-ethnic places before the war. The international community has been active in all three localities promoting returns but with modest results so far. In answering the research question, data are collected from three sources: policy decisions, reports, and operational procedures generated by institutional actors involved in implementing Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Accords; semi-structured interviews with key international, national, and local decision-makers in the returnee policy process; and focus group sessions with returnees in the selected research sites. Multiple methodological strategies will be used to study the data gathered including mapping the geographies of displacement and return, charting the reconstruction and return policy process, discourse analysis of policy-maker and implementation storylines at various scales, and discourse analysis of the perspectives of returnees themselves.
This research project investigates a nascent contradiction in the Dayton Peace Accords, which, on the one hand, pledged to reverse ethnic cleansing, but, on the other hand, sanctioned a segregated Bosnia created by ethnic cleansing and ruled by local authorities committed to ethnonationalism. This contradiction has given rise to a struggle between the international community and local authorities to define the ethnic and political geography of Bosnia. The study focuses on local municipalities to analyze how the extensive efforts of the international community to reverse ethnic cleansing in Bosnia impacted particular places. More broadly, it develops a conceptual understanding of the problems associated with the rebuilding of post-conflict states, especially the political geographic aspects of ethnic identity. It offers insight into how post-conflict plans conceived in international peace agreements are mediated and thereby transformed by the local contexts of their implementation.