Gerard Toal's newly published book is first authoritative account of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia
March 25, 2011
Bosnia Remade: Ethnic Cleansing and its Reversal (Oxford University Press), is the culmination of more than a decade of work by Gerard Toal, professor and director, Department of Government and International Affairs, Virginia Tech, National Capital Region, on the conflict that defined the post-Cold War era in the early 1990s.
Co-authored with Virginia Tech graduate Carl T. Dahlman, now an associate professor at Miami University, Ohio, the book is the first authoritative account of ethnic cleansing and its aftermath, encompassing the period from the late 1980s to the present.
Toal taught Dahlman as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech and also served on his master's committee when he earned a Master of Urban Affairs in 1996 before moving to Kentucky to complete a Ph.D. in geography. Their Bosnia partnership began in 2000 when both travelled through Bosnia and Dahlman joined a research proposal Toal had submitted to the U.S. National Science Foundation. The project was funded in 2001 and they began their field research in the summer of 2002.
In Bosnia Remade Toal and Dahlman combine a bird's-eye view of the entire Bosnian war with a micro-level account of three towns that underwent ethnic cleansing and, later, saw the return of refugees. The authors draw on original testimony and judgments of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia as they grapple with the meaning of ethnic cleansing. The book outlines two projects that have remade the ethnic geography of Bosnia since 1991.
In the first instance, ascendant ethno-nationalist forces tried to eradicate the mixed ethnic geographies of Bosnia's towns, villages, and communities. These forces devastated tens of thousands of homes and lives, but they failed to destroy Bosnia-Herzegovina as a polity. In the second attempt, which followed the war, the international community, in league with Bosnian officials, endeavored to reverse the demographic and other consequences of this ethnic cleansing. While progress has been uneven, this latter effort has transformed the ethnic demography of Bosnia and moved the nation beyond its recent segregationist past.
During a book launch at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, Toal said that their intent was to write more than “a returns only” book that looked at the aftermath of the Bosnian war. Instead, their encounter with the aftermath of ethnic cleansing caused them to look deeper into its causes and local manifestations and peculiarities. “By showing how ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina was challenged, we were looking for lessons learned and what can be done to prevent this enduring global problem," said Toal.
Bosnia Remade has already garnered a number of early favorable reviews. Marko Hoare, author of The History of Bosnia: From the Middle Ages to the Present Day described it as “the best book yet written on post-Dayton Bosnia." Robert Donia, a professor at the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, University of Michigan, and author of Sarajevo: A Biography said the book is “the first comprehensive treatment of the Bosnian conflict and post-conflict eras as a continuous tale of those whose lives were destroyed or disrupted. The authors' unique advantages as political geographers are evident in the plethora of valuable insights that add greatly to our understanding of Bosnia's tumultuous last two decades and the international efforts to remake it. The book is an invaluable addition to the literature on the complex and contested events of the Bosnian conflict." Professor Emeritus of History Ivo Banac at Yale University described it as “the most perceptive account of contemporary social and political dilemmas in Bosnia and Herzegovina."
Toal has long been sought out in Washington, D.C., as an expert on Bosnia and Eurasian conflict regions; he testified before Congress in 2005. Recently Toal was interviewed by The European Institute's European Affairs journal for his views on the current challenges facing Bosnia.