Sustaining the Desire for the Social: Challenging Environmental Violence through Art-Activist Practices in Bosnia and Herzegovina

This event is part of the RECET History and Social Sciences Festival "Green Transformations"

Venue: Campus of the University of Vienna („Altes AKH“), festival tent in Hof 1

Position of the tent:

The Dayton Peace Agreement, concluding the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, entrenched antisocial environmental relations by empowering ethno-capitalist elites engaged in the ruthless extraction of natural resources for profit at the expense of human and more-than-human lives and ecosystems. In this lecture, I will explore the intricate nexus between environmental violence and ethnic authoritarianism, revealing its persistent impact on post-war population in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I will argue how environmental violence, strategically wielded as a long-term menace by ethnic authoritarian elites, weaponizes nature to perpetuate dominance and instill fear. Affected communities unwittingly become victims, sustaining a sacrificial ritual orchestrated by ethnic authoritarian elites. I will examine this as a symptom of the antisociality or the death drive constitutive of capitalism as an organized disequilibrium accompanied by continuous systemic violence and a force for the increase of value and economic growth, which is hostile toward human existence as a social being and against life as such. As a counter-narrative to the dominant environmental violence, I will draw on recent art-activist production in Bosnia and Herzegovina and discuss and analyze the extent to which it intervenes in the socio-environmental dynamics of ethnic authoritarian governance. My thesis is that this environmentally-engaged art-activist production nurtures and sustains a desire for the social within the context of an anti-social peace by recuperating affirmative affect that has endured the onslaught of "mutant capitalism" and reinvigorating it to stimulate the imagination of a different possibility.

The keynote is moderated by Misha Glenny (IWM).

Damir Arsenijević is a professor at the University of Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is a literary and cultural theorist and psychoanalyst in training, working at the intersection of academia, activism, and art. His research has focused on how international peacebuilding and transitional justice mechanisms have created political, social, and environmental waste ground out of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2019, he set up "Zemlja-Voda-Zrak", a platform for environmental humanities, which gathers artists, academics, and activists working for environmental justice

Misha Glenny is an award-winning journalist, author and public intellectual. He assumed the role of IWM Rector in May 2022. His publications have been met with considerable international acclaim, including his account of Yugoslavia's descent into civil war. Glenny is also a regular contributor to major publications in Europe, North America and Japan.