Transnational returns and reconstruction in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 The return of refugees and displaced persons has been a strong priority in the international commitment to reverse “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the war. Return and reintegration of refugees as a durable solution in profoundly changed and uncertain conditions are rarely unproblematic, and in Bosnia the sustainability of such returns, especially minority returns, remains of great concern. This article examines the strategies of return which Bosnian refugees adopt given such uncertainties, and points to the transnational space in which they occur. The return strategies described are of different duration, often take place outside of established policies and programmes, and are based on the need to keep options open in different places. While policies have tended to define refugee return as a single and definitive move to the country or place of origin, the transnational perspective suggests that return be better conceptualized as a dynamic and open-ended process, one which may extend over long periods of time, involving mobility between places and active links to people and resources in the country of asylum. Transnational strategies also include the many refugees abroad who hold on to their repossessed houses in Bosnia and visit regularly, some of them for longer periods and in preparation for returning permanently at a later date. In such a transnational dynamic, refugees and returnees are not always clear-cut categories, as both may move between and combine resources at both ends. The transnational perspective also throws into question notions of “home” as something bound to one particular locality or national community. If home is not just a place or a physical structure, but also a site of social relations and cultural meanings, it may well extend to several places, each one of which may hold its own particular sets of relations and meanings to thoseconcerned. This transnational dimension of home is thus a challenge to notions of “repatriation” or “return” in the simplistic mode. Instead, as this paper shows, the reconstructed home may be translocal, where each locality becomes part of a new home. Rethinking return of refugees in terms of transnational mobility and belonging also suggests new ways of conceptualizing the potential for reconstruction of a large refugee population abroad. How policies and assistance programmes may capitalize on the

skills and continued transnational engagements, not least of the many young Bosnians now acquiring higher education abroad, has yet to be developed.

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