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The patterns of violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Security, geography and the killing of civilians during the war of the 1990s
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, The Hugo Valentin Centre. (Folkmordsstudier/Balkanstudier)
2018 (English)In: Political Geography, ISSN 0962-6298, E-ISSN 1873-5096, Vol. 63, p. 148-158Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

How can we best explain the uneven spatial distribution of lethal violence against civilians during civil wars and other conflicts? This question has attracted an increasing amount of research interest during the last decade, when the dissemination of georeferenced statistical data has facilitated the use of GIS software for the study of civil war violence. While many scholars focus on the relationship between the spatial distribution of violence and the topographic, economic or environmental character of land, others have looked into how local-level cleavages and antagonisms influence the violence or at the military-strategic logic driving the belligerents. This article introduces the concept of “spatial securitization” in order to explain the uneven distribution of civilian deaths across space by using the violence against civilians during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s as an empirical case. By this is meant a process through which elites attribute importance to specific administrative and other territorial units, depending on political and military context. I predict that while high levels of ethnic heterogeneity do not necessarily translate into above-average levels of violence, homogenous municipalities will display a lower magnitude of violence than the average. This is because ethnic dominance produces strong legitimacy in territorial claims. A belligerent might therefore find it counterproductive to spend resources on attacking a region that one cannot legitimately claim in a peace settlement. However, such areas may also be attacked if and when they are of great strategic importance and thus highly securitized.The results show that increased levels of violence are strongly associated with the municipalities that the Bosnian Serb elite considered to be highly important from a security perspective across victim groups, while Croat and Bosniak victims were primarily affected in their own securitized municipalities. Another important finding is that high levels of ethnic dominance had a negative influence on the killing of civilians. The conclusion is that violence will be rather uncommon in areas where an incumbent can count on control and therefore has no need to target civilians. Conversely, the evidence fails to support the idea that areas where no one actor has demographic control are disproportionately violent, unless the territory was highly securitized.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2018. Vol. 63, p. 148-158
Keyword [en]
civil war, violence against civilians, GIS, Bosnia and Herzegovina, spatial analysis
National Category
Social Sciences Social and Economic Geography
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-320433OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-320433DiVA, id: diva2:1089500
Funder
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, P2006-0021:1-E
Available from: 2017-04-20 Created: 2017-04-20 Last updated: 2018-02-20

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