sand bags in a doorway to a house with bullet holes

How can ideology and identity politics lead to genocide?

A new article examines how ideology, identity politics and violence were intertwined during the war in Bosnia in the early 1990s. The article highlights the impact of beliefs and media on shaping a society’s behaviour during conflict.

What are the connections between ideology, identity politics, forced displacement and symbolic and actual war violence, which can ultimately lead to genocide? Goran Basic, associate professor at Linnaeus University, and Zlatan Delić, associate professor at the University of Tuzla in Bosnia and Herzegovina, investigate this in an article in the Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe.

The starting point is the war in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995, which was waged against the country and its civilian population. The authors have reviewed existing studies in domains such as sociology of knowledge, war sociology and social epistemology. They examined how knowledge and beliefs affected the events of the war.

“Our results indicate that violence and crimes against civilians can become ‘normalized’ after a new social order has been established in a war situation. Here, propaganda in the media plays an important role in shaping this order. Genocide can only be committed if the perpetrators, and its advocates acting in the name of specific identity politics, believe that committing violence can be justified by a ‘higher cause’”, says Goran Basic.

The war in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina came as a result of the dissolution of Yugoslavia. It began in northwestern and eastern Bosnia in 1992 and ended after the Srebrenica genocide in 1995, where over 8,000 civilians were murdered.

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