Over the past week I have been visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina participating in some of the interviews for the YouCitizen ERC Project alongside Vanja Čelečibić, Post-Doctoral Research Associate and social anthropologist of youth. We have been on two-day visit to Banja Luka, traveling through the mountains to meet with an inspiration school teacher encouraging her students to critically reflect on their surroundings, a youth association leader who was brokering opportunities for young people and a minister of sport and youth who was reflecting wistfully on her days working with NGOs. Repeatedly interlocutors returned to lamenting the social and political structures of BiH, celebrating the value of volunteering and articulating uncertainty as to the concept of citizenship in a context where the term conjures ambiguity.
The YouCitizen research is now shifting into a new phase, as the interview period ceases we are adopting more participatory approaches, including participatory mapping projects, focus groups and film workshops. Vanja is doing some superb research, her doctoral training both in ethnography and in the particular ethnographic art of hanging out with young people are much in evidence.
Banja Luka – which I had last visited in 2003 – was more beautiful and sedate than I remember, boulevards lined with lime trees open out into open squares with a backdrop of the foothills of the Dinaric Alps. The journeys from Sarajevo to Banja Luka were also spectacular, breathtaking and expansive alpine pastures, plunging ravines and sheep tottering across rocky outcrops.