National numbers in context: Maps and stats in representations of the post-Yugoslav wars

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This article critically examines and contextualises the role of nationality statistics and maps in representations of the post-Yugoslav wars. Approaching these wars, a conflict involving competing nationalisms centred upon modern technologies of power/knowledge, I deploy the term "national numbers" to refer to the discursive node where numerical data about the nationality of the population and territorial mappings converge. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork since 1996, this article explores how the reliance on national numbers and their territorialisation functions as the lynchpin of a dominant "mosaic" mode of representation of the post-Yugoslav wars. Examining their workings within local and international governance, in experiences of "ethnic cleansing" in the post-Yugoslav states and in discourses aiming to know, understand, explain, and represent the violence, it then makes a case for a healthy dose of critical distance with regard to the deployment of national numbers. In particular, we need to contextualise them in relation to the role of national categories and other lines of differentiation in Yugoslavia. Anthropologists and other social scientists, who take pride in providing strongly contextualised understandings of social phenomena, seem to be particularly well placed to do so. Copyright © 2005 Taylor & Francis Inc.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-68
Number of pages23
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005