“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Guess who’s traveling again? *looks around* *raises hand* Me, me! I am! And I’m bringing back the blog so you all can travel with me, because I a) love sharing it with you and b) think that everyone should have an honest chance to see the world. I hope my writing and pictures can help do that!
This time, I’m headed back to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) for a few weeks to do independent research. As most of you know, last time I was there I was studying in a formal program through the American University of BiH (AUBiH), a summer program focused on conflict resolution and peace in the Balkans, specifically BiH after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Now, I’m going back after three years away, two years of adulting at a real job, and one year of studying at Georgetown University. My time in Bosnia in 2015 directly led to my decision to attend the Security Studies Program at GU. I have a peace/conflict background, and was struck in Sarajevo three years ago by the disconnect between the security side of policy and peace-oriented initiatives. I knew that if I wanted to have a tangible impact in policy when I do work, I would have to be able to speak both languages, security and peace, as well as understanding the motivation behind both sides. Even in just a year at Georgetown, I’ve been able to begin answering those questions.
Specifically, I will be studying three things:
- Russian inroads in Republika Srpska. When the conflict ended in 1995 and the Dayton Accords were signed, the country was split into two entities (and the municipality of Brcko). One of them is the Federation, which is comprised of primarily Croatian and Bosniak (Bosnian Muslims) cantons, and the second one is Republika Srpska (Republic of Serbs), comprised of primarily Bosnian Serbs. Bosnia is in accession discussions with both the European Union (EU) and NATO, and it is my belief (and that of many people much more qualified than I am) that Russia is working to play spoiler to those ambitions. I’m going to research specific Russian actions in Republika Srpska to see if there are a) any and b) if they could be indicators of what to expect from the country along its “grey zone” area of influence.
2. Interaction of the security sector with the peacebuilding sector: This could also be reworded as “macro” and “micro” processes, which is what I labelled them in my undergraduate thesis in 2015 prior to my first trip to the region. I’m now rethinking my terminology, as well as my understanding of “macro” processes vs. security policy. I’d like to examine the interaction between the two, and the dynamics between them that inhibit, or perhaps nurture, an easier path to stability. If there were a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between security policy and peace initiatives, I think that statebuilding and stability processes could be more effective – and efficient.
3. The elections in October. By chance, one of my former mentors, a professor at UNC Charlotte that I was acquainted with before I became interested in Bosnia or conflict resolution, is running for Presidency of Bosnia. The elections (October 7th) are important for quite a few reasons, all of which I will try to elaborate on as I record my visit here in the next few weeks. I’ll be studying the campaign, the election process, and what various results could portend for the country.
In addition to research, I will try to travel with depth, with purpose, and with intent. Finding the little moments that hold the whole world, nestled quietly in an alleyway far away from any tourist sites, can sometimes mean more than any panoramic taken with a view of the approval of others.