Institutionalizing Enemies: The Consequences of Reifying Projection in Post-Conflict Environments

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The Dayton Peace Accords set out to protect the three dominant ethnic groups in Bosnia in the aftermath of the 1993–1995 War. However, the peace treaty inscribed ethnic groupings into the constitution as permanent identity constellations. Fifteen years after the cessation of military hostilities Bosnia continues to struggle with the identity limitations imposed on it by the peace treaty. Without the flexibility to create new identity frames, Bosnia remains locked in the identity terms of the conflict. The misrecognition of the nature of identity and particularly the defensive quality by which collective identity frames can protect against threat inhibit a working through of conflicts. A re-evaluation of identity narratives in the context in which they are expressed reveals the defensive purpose they serve. This article explores the problems of accepting at face value the narratives of collectivities under threat and suggests how recognition of the fluid quality of identity may require different strategies by third parties intervening into conflicts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalPsychoanalysis, Culture and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


  • Bosnia
  • ethnic conflict
  • identity politics
  • ego ideal
  • projective identification


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