Larisa Kurtović (Ottawa)

Water in the Wake of a War

Lessons in Infrastructure in (Post)War Sarajevo

Infrastructures have played a powerful formative and pedagogical role not only because of their capacity to shape subjectivity and produce specific forms of community, but also because they are sites where certain kinds of social formations and subject positions can be unmade. In Bosnian capital city, Sarajevo, this dynamic was made most apparent during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, when pressures of survival necessitated that residents of war-torn zones develop new expectations, new attitudes, and new practices in response to the breakdown in infrastructural provisioning. Nevertheless, political lessons through and in infrastructure continue to be dealt out in peacetime, as water provisioning and other public things become sites of struggle for defining desirable forms of community, government, and the future itself.

In 2017, a crisis in water provisioning in the city made these political and historical tensions apparent, as residents of Sarajevo wrestled with protracted water cutoffs which reminded many of war. This paper asks: what mix of political histories, critical dispositions, and long-standing grievances makes water cut-offs in peacetime feel like war? And how is the political itself transformed by these distinct historical sensibilities and modalities of affect?