Games, push-backs and the everyday violence at the Bosnian-Croatian border

  • Karolina Augustova

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores violence against migrants at the Croatian-Bosnian border, with the focus on migrants’ everyday sites and practices. Whilst the rich literature discusses structural violence against migrants at the EU’s borders, it omits to consider direct and concrete daily acts of violence. We also know little about violence against migrant men and violence at the latest transit spot at the Croatian-Bosnian border.
This thesis addresses this research lacunae while drawing upon eight months of participant observations in makeshift camps in Velika Kladuša (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and 68 interviews with migrants. It questions diverse forms of violence against migrants and seeks to what degree and in which ways this violence impacts their everyday practices. In addition, it asks whether and how the dominant assumptions about race and gender impact migrant men’s experiences of violence and how this violence is circumscribed by the historico-political context of the Bosnian-Croatian border.
The findings suggest that direct border violence against migrants – border attacks, takes place alongside more structural violence - border administrations and withdrawal of aid in makeshift camps. Yet border violence is also at work in migrants’ everyday practices where violence is least expected; in private sites, where violence is routinised and leaves no visible marks, but has power to harm or kill. This thesis also argues that Arab Muslim men, in this context at least, are most commonly subjected to border violence due to the dominant racialized and gendered assumptions about (migrant) men of colour as dangerous and in need of violent interventions. Yet violence against migrants is also enforced and concealed by the Western dominant imagination of the Croatian-Bosnian border as a line between peaceful Europe and the violent Balkans. However, migrants challenge such assumptions by their own meaning makings of this geographical location upon their experiences of solidarities and violence here.
This thesis nuances knowledge on border violence as a complex phenomenon that functions as an ongoing daily process across months or years rather than singular episodes that come and pass. By doing so, it demonstrates the importance of bringing direct but also taken-for-granted practices in research analysis of violence to develop an understanding of how violence is experienced and made meaning of by diverse people exposed to it.
Date of AwardJun 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPhillip Mizen (Supervisor) & Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik (Supervisor)

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