Raising Hope in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Youth, Education, and Peacebuilding in the Post-war State
Schneider, Mary Kate
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In 1995, the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) ended the Bosnian War, a conflict fought along ethnic lines that claimed nearly 100,000 lives. The DPA created a new Bosnian government based on a power-sharing model that allocates political power according to the ethnic composition of the population. Although this arrangement has preserved an uneasy peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH), it has also produced a political system in which ethnic politics prevail and social divisions are institutionally reinforced, particularly at the local level. Since 1995, institutions such as education have trended toward ‘separate but equal’ models. I argue that this poses a threat to the reconciliation process in BiH. Therefore, the question that this dissertation seeks to address is: what is the effect of ethnically divided education on the post-war generation of Bosnians? To answer this question, the dissertation traces the relationship between the extreme consociationalism first articulated at Dayton and the Bosnian education system, in which 14 education ministries—appointed through an entrenched local tradition of (ethnic) party patronage—have created the competing and often contradictory policies that currently govern Bosnian education. These policies include ethnically separating students into “two schools under one roof,” and adopting curricula and textbooks that favor one ethnic group over another. Because education is integral to identity formation, it stands to reason that education can therefore shape national identity as well as civic and social attitudes. Drawing from original survey data, focus groups, and interviews, I measure the attitudes of third- and fourth-year Bosnian high school students toward other ethnic groups, exploring whether or not there exists a pattern of intolerance that can be traced to school type. Although students across BiH reported largely tolerant attitudes toward other ethnic groups, patterns in the data also suggest that the notion of a codified Bosnian civic national identity is lacking. This lack of civic national identity is problematic because it means that not only is the post-war Bosnian state built upon a foundation of separateness rather than unity, but that little progress on national unity has been made in the twenty-two years since the DPA ended the war.