The gender of coffee: Women and reconciliation initiatives in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina

TitleThe gender of coffee: Women and reconciliation initiatives in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsHelms, Elissa
Journal titleFocaal
Year2010
Pages17-32
Volume57
IssueSummer
Abstract

This article explores the gendering of reconciliation initiatives from the
perspective of Bosniac women active in women’s NGOs in post-war Bosnia and
Herzegovina. I illustrate how established patriarchal gender relations and socialistera
models of women’s community involvement framed the ways in which some
women’s NGO participants constructed essential ethno-national and gender differences,
in contrast to dominant donor discourses. This leads to exploration of how
gender patterns embedded in the institution of komsi= luk (good-neighborliness),
particularly women’s coffee visits, provided both obstacle and opportunity for renewed
life together among ethnic others separated by wartime ethnic cleansing. Distinguishing between the two concepts, I show how, from the perspective of women’s roles and experiences, “life together” may be all that displaced women want or expect out of “reconciliation” initiatives, and that even this may be beyond the capacity of many displaced people to forego talk about injustices and guilt stemming from the war.

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