Researcher explores Bosnia's postwar reality
An international armed conflict raged in Bosnia and Herzegovina between April 1992 and December 1995. All told, the war claimed the lives of roughly 100,000 people and forced an estimated 2 million people from their homes. Meanwhile, some 6,500 miles away in Washington State, Adam Moore was doing what a lot of kids his age do — studying hard, hanging out with friends and playing sports.
By Rebecca Kendall
He admits that although he was aware of the conflict, he paid little attention to it. “It was an interest that blossomed later,” said Moore, now a UCLA assistant professor in geography whose passport is filled with stamps from traveling to and from Bosnia as he explores postwar peace-building in that country.
While most of the current work on postwar Bosnia has focused on state-level actors, Moore has chosen a different vantage point, opting instead to focus on two medium-sized cities, Brčko and Mostar.
Specifically, he is examining why the former has experienced some degree of progress in peace-building, such as a reduction in ethnic tensions and the development of effective multiethnic institutions, while the latter has not.
Moore, whose work has been published in the journals Sociological Theory and Progress in Human Geography, will be discussing his findings on postwar political geographies and the future of this region during a public talk hosted by the Los Angeles Geographical Society on Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. The talk will be held at the Los Angeles City College Science Technology Building, 855 North Vermont Avenue.
What makes these two cities interesting case studies, said Moore, is that both were ethnically heterogeneous towns before the war and remain so today, and both were widely identified as postwar ‘trouble’ towns which required distinctive peace-building missions.
“Focusing on different outcomes at the local scale … may help us better understand broader questions about peace-building processes,” said Moore, who spent 18 months in these cities interviewing local elites, international officials and residents, and poring over international and local archives.
So why did one town experience success while the other did not? Moore argues that the design of political institutions; the sequencing of political and economic reforms; the legacies of the war, both national and local; and local international relations and how these were shaped by international peace-building practices and institutions all played a role.
Moore’s interest in Eastern Europe began while he was an undergraduate history student at Pomona College. He spent the summer between his junior and senior year working at an orphanage in Russia. After graduation, he returned to Eastern Europe and spent a year in the Czech Republic playing and coaching baseball for Sokol Krč, a baseball club based in Prague. He returned to the United States for graduate work in geography, earning a master’s from Cal State University-East Bay in 2004 and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2010.
“I decided to focus on the Balkans region because there seemed to be a lot of interesting questions in the aftermath of the breakup of Yugoslavia,” he said.
Another topic of great interest to Moore is the Arizona Market, a thriving black market that emerged in the Brčko area almost immediately after the war ended.
“It sprang up spontaneously,” Moore explained. “It started as roadside trade along a U.S. military checkpoint in the area, and quickly became one of the largest black markets in Europe … by far the largest in Bosnia within a year or two. By 1999, it was quite contentious politically. Most Bosnian and international officials wanted to see it destroyed because of tax evasion, human trafficking and prostitution. But the Arizona Market was also this huge economic force that provided sustenance for thousands of people in the Brčko area.”
According to Moore, the market forced the U.S. military to reconsider its understanding of its mission in Bosnia. “When the U.S. military started out, it was opposed to doing anything other than demobilization and peacekeeping. This, early on, was seen as a success and helped reshape opinion in the military toward the need for involvement in more robust nation-building.”
While doing follow-up interviews in Bosnia this summer, Moore also started doing some preliminary research on another notable topic that has emerged as a result of U.S. military involvement in foreign countries: Bosnian nationals who are recruited to help support the U.S. war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It’s a look at the outsourcing of war and how that affects people around the world,” he said.
It was an issue that Moore stumbled upon while doing preliminary research at the University of Sarajevo in 2005. “I remember seeing everyone huddled around computers looking at a website for recruiting. I didn’t know what this was at the time, and then I learned that thousands of Bosnians, over the past decade, have been recruited to work in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Moore said that the jobs as dishwashers, cooks, carpenters and electricians, among others, attract Bosnians because of the pay. “It’s dangerous work, but for a lot of people, it is better than anything they can find in Bosnia right now.”
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012