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National Deconstruction

Violence, Identity, and Justice in Bosnia

1998
Author:

David Campbell

National Deconstruction

What our response to the Bosnian crisis can tell us about multiculturalism in the United States and beyond.

How did Bosnia, once a polity of intersecting and overlapping identities, come to be understood as an intractable ethnic problem? National Deconstruction is a rethinking of the meaning of “ethnic/nationalist” violence and a critique of the impoverished discourse of identity politics that crippled the international response to the Bosnian crisis.

Campbell is undertaking a far more interesting and important task than 'applying' deconstruction to a given set of problems: he is extending the range of deconstructive thought by making explicit what has been at stake in Bosnia for any committed reflection on the most devastating events of our modernity.

Peggy Kamuf, editor of A Derrida Reader

How did Bosnia, once a polity of intersecting and overlapping identities, come to be understood as an intractable ethnic problem? David Campbell pursues this question-and its implications for the politics of community, democracy, justice, and multiculturalism-through readings of media and academic representations of the conflict in Bosnia. National Deconstruction is a rethinking of the meaning of “ethnic/nationalist” violence and a critique of the impoverished discourse of identity politics that crippled the international response to the Bosnian crisis.

Rather than assuming the preexistence of an entity called Bosnia, Campbell considers the complex array of historical, statistical, cartographic, and other practices through which the definitions of Bosnia have come to be. These practices traverse a continuum of political spaces, from the bodies of individuals and the corporate body of the former Yugoslavia to the international bodies of the world community.

Among the book’s many original disclosures, arrived at through a critical reading of international diplomacy, is the shared identity politics of the peacemakers and paramilitaries. Equally significant is Campbell’s conclusion that the international response to the Bosnian war was hamstrung by the poverty of Western thought on the politics of heterogeneous communities. Indeed, he contends that Europe and the United States intervened in Bosnia not to save the ideal of multiculturalism abroad but rather to shore up the nationalist imaginary so as to contain the ideal of multiculturalism at home.

By bringing to the fore the concern with ethics, politics, and responsibility contained in more traditional accounts of the Bosnian war, this book is a major statement on the inherently ethical and political assumptions of deconstructive thought-and the reworkings of the politics of community it enables.

Awarded “Book of the Year 1999” by the International Forum Bosnia (Sarajevo) and the Human Rights Review (USA).

ISBN 0-8166-2936-6 Cloth $62.95xx
ISBN 0-8166-2937-4 Paper $24.95x
382 pages 5 7/8 x 9 September
Translation inquiries: University of Minnesota Press

Awards

1999 Book of the Year Winner of the International Forum Bosnia

Awarded “Book of the Year 1999” by the International Forum Bosnia (Sarajevo) and the Human Rights Review (USA).

Book of the Year-Foundation Bosnian-Herzegovinian Book and the Journal Human Rights Review

National Deconstruction

David Campbell is professor of international politics at the University of Newcastle, UK, and the author of Writing Security.

National Deconstruction

Campbell is undertaking a far more interesting and important task than 'applying' deconstruction to a given set of problems: he is extending the range of deconstructive thought by making explicit what has been at stake in Bosnia for any committed reflection on the most devastating events of our modernity.

Peggy Kamuf, editor of A Derrida Reader

National Deconstruction is a provocative and intelligent exegesis of conceptual parameters within which the Bosnian war was fought and ultimately concluded. This is an ambitious and impressive work.

Marla Stone, coeditor of When the Walls Came Down: Reactions to German Unification

David Campbell has provided not only the first book-length poststructuralist study of the Bosnian war and the international policy toward it, but also the formulation of a deconstructivist ethics of international relations. National Deconstruction is not only a well-argued formulation of a deconstructivist international ethics, it is also a wide-ranging and relentless critique that will leave few unprovoked.

Ethics and International Affairs

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This singularly important work opens new avenues of inquiry and proposes different modes of understanding, both in comprehending Bosnia and Herzegovina and in viewing the international environment in which the war took place. This is original, bold, and important scholarship, and anyone concerned with Bosnia and Herzegovina and its future would do well to understand the analysis.
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Book of the Year Board, Foundation Bosnian-Herzegovinian Book and the Journal Human Rights Review