“Crazy”, or Privileged Enough to Return?: Exploring Voluntary Repatriation to Bosnia and Herzegovina from “the West”

by Dragana Kovačević Bielicki

This article presents the results of a small-scale research study with people who chose to repatriate to post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina from six countries of the so-called West. I analyze the narratives of the individual reasons and perceived conditions of the voluntary return, experiences, and reactions encountered, and reflections on the sustainability of such return, demonstrating that multiple important practical and emotional reasons need to come together for the return to occur and to last. The research shows the predominantly open-ended, and in many ways privileged, nature of the investigated repatriation: repatriation is a viable option only if returnees can benefit from it socially, economically and emotionally, and potential re-emigration is thus a common back-up plan. The article demonstrates the importance of examining how returnees’ skills, savings, networks, and education – in addition to perceived ethno-national sameness “back home” – in understanding the reasons for and attitudes toward voluntary repatriation.

Keywords: Bosnia and Herzegovina, forced displacement, voluntary return/repatriation, privilege, nation-thinking

New Diversities • Volume 21, No. 1, 2019
New Solidarities: Migration, Mobility, Diaspora, and Ethnic Tolerance in Southeast Europe
Guest Editor: Tamara Pavasović Trošt (University of Ljubljana)