What it means to be a Bosnian woman

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Presuming discourse to be both socially determined and socially determinative when it comes to attitudes, opinions and perceptions about the world, we wanted to explore to what extent the ways in which women in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) speak about themselves are determined by the patriarchal Balkan tradition, post-WWII modernity, and/or the current postwar and transitional context. This paper is based on a small sample of a large discourse and body of gender research in BiH including six different focus groups of women assembled on the basis of social class. In order to provide some indications and guidance for the entire project, this pilot study was meant to isolate relevant discursive elements of the speech of women belonging to two different classes: the working class (boutique workers) and the professional class (doctors, lawyers, journalists), some with children and some without. In the analysis, we critically examined the obtained transcripts by looking into recurrent argumentative and rhetoric strategies, topoi and lexical and syntactic structures. Most specifically, we wanted to find out why feminism appeared to be unpopular among Bosnian women and how a successful woman was constructed with respect to patriarchal and non-patriarchal social values. We did this by looking at what discursive elements the relations of patriarchy (status quo) rested upon and what emancipatory potentials (resistance) were used to challenge it.


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