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Bridging Brexit-related societal divisions – Learning from civil society initiatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Levi, G., 2023. Bridging Brexit-related societal divisions – Learning from civil society initiatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Doctoral Thesis (Doctoral). Bournemouth University.

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LEVI, Giulia_Ph.D._2023.pdf.pdf



My doctoral project compares civil society interventions aimed at bridging societal divisions in two different contexts: on the one hand, in post-war Bosnia & Herzegovina, and on the other hand, in post-Brexit referendum Dorset. It first explores the possibilities for such a comparison and proceeds to establish whether an ethnographically-informed understanding of the Bosnian case study can help generate a better understanding of the work of CSOs and their chances of success in the unprecedented climate of the post-Brexit referendum UK. Ethnographic fieldwork in Bosnia, conducted with CSOs promoting coexistence in Srebrenica in 2018, served as the baseline to inform subsequent ethnographic research with civil society organization working on hate crime and promoting community relations in Dorset. Historical and contextual differences between the two case studies are recognised, including in the ways in which these are situated differently within wider geo-political structures of power, yet a comparison can be justified as follows: in either case, societal divisions are marked by human experiences of sudden (sometimes violent) exclusion and discrimination, based on a redefinition of the previous applicable citizen rights regime and a reshuffling of a collective sense of relevant group identities and group-based entitlements. In either case, the civil society organisations (CSOs) researched define their task in providing support and promoting coexistence among freshly differentiated local communities. The study argues that it is this similarity of local experience during processes of increasing alienation arising in either context, which justifies the comparison as basis of transferring insights and learning from one case to the other. In both cases, local experiences are marked by growing uncertainties and consolidating social distrust, which makes benevolent CSOs, in either case, both justify and carve out their role and the type of societal interventions which they pursued in similar/comparable ways. Based on immersive ethnography, this study is particularly interested in the conceptual frameworks according to which the involved CSOs, respectively, present 'the problem' of societal divisions and frame their actions on the ground. Overall, guided by an anthropological approach to the study of CSO interventions, which aligns with the ‘local turn’ in peace studies, this thesis offers an epistemological exercise of applying the anthropological 'gaze of the other' to the UK context, thereby deconstructing what, in much of the wider Brexit debate, are unquestioned and taken-for-granted concepts guiding intervention practices. The overarching aim is to generate a better understanding of how questioning standard intervention paradigms that are applied in either context can illuminate differences and commonalities of experience found across apparently different contexts as well as potentially providing new epistemological tools of evaluating the impact of CSOs aiming towards bridging societal divisions in any context. This study critically interrogates intervention paradigms such as, most prominently, ‘reconciliation’ and ‘community cohesion’ as culturally specific constructs with a particular history, yet also describes ethnographically how powerful these are in their impact and limitations on actually promoting the intended change when informing CSO intervention practices.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords:reconciliation; community cohesion; Brexit;Bosnia and Herzegovina; Srebrenica; United Kingdom; Dorset; civil society; ethnography; local turn; peacebuilding; international interventions
Group:Faculty of Health & Social Sciences
ID Code:38249
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:13 Feb 2023 15:43
Last Modified:13 Feb 2023 16:46


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