Danijela Majstorović: It is not true that we will always be hostages of one ideology, it is possible to think again and give birth to new policies

It is not always that we will be hostages of one ideology, that we will be useful idiots who will work for the system, it is possible to think something new and give birth to a new political one.

Retrieved from: BUKA Milica Plavšić / February 12, 2021

In recent days, we have had the opportunity to hear and see many examples of hate speech in public discourse in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in the region. In another radio show of Buka magazine on the topic of hate speech, we talk to prof. Danijela Majstorović, full professor at the Faculty of Philology, University of Banja Luka. In her work, Professor Majstorović, among other things, deals with the connection between language and society, politics and ideologies, so we talk about how we can fight against hate speech and change public discourse. What would be alternatives to hate speech? Is it a speech of solidarity, love, empathy? Is it possible to change society by changing discourse?

– 10 years ago I wrote a text for Mediacenter about alternatives to hate speech. At that time, I was 10 years younger and more idealistic in terms of how the public sphere can be changed through education, through the proliferation of different content, critically oriented authors. Those were still my beliefs, but despite the occasional great articles, the democratic public sphere we once dreamed of didn’t happen … so it doesn’t matter, we don’t all have to agree, but let’s leave room for learning, discussion , controversy. Now, 26 years after the war, we only have one general peripheralization as a constant. It is also the topic of my book Peripheral Self, that feeling of abandonment, the feeling of failed opportunities, spent money, colonization and peripheralization, both from within our society, because in a society that does not sanction such ventures, awakening cannot happen. I used to think it was possible, that it would happen for someone in my young life, and today I’m not sure if it will happen in the lives of our children.

There have been attempts to change things in our society in recent years. Recalling all the protests and movements that have taken place since 2012, Majstorovic says it is difficult to change hate speech without changing political and economic practices, such as violence and privatization, which are deeply ingrained in the post-war societies of the former Yugoslavia. One of the key levers in that is the judiciary, she believes, analyzing the latest moves of the new mayor of Banja Luka in the fight against corruption, hoping that these are not just cosmetic changes.

– People who at one point were thinking whether to occupy public space, whether to fight for something, open a small business, try to survive in BiH, whether to open opportunities for themselves, some of them went to the squares, fought at the 2012. protests, 2013. Bebolucija, Picin Park, protests, plenums, Justice for David, Justice for Dženan … We are finally beginning to see that one of the key pillars of the problem in our country is the judicial system, police brutality and police work. Here, today we saw that the current mayor has filed criminal charges. Whether these are the beginnings of some changes, I don’t know, but it’s certainly not that cosmetic change of discourse that we thought ‘yeah, let’s sanction, fix that hate speech, abolish it, abolish it, start writing in space some speech of love ‘… We see political-economic practices that last, that sediment. It was not the peripheral bodies and peripheral selves that fell to us from Mars, we were made that way, going through different regimes, struggles, sufferings, and finally departure and migration.

The language we use on the one hand reflects our social reality and social relations, and on the other hand shapes them. However, in order for things in society to change, it is not enough to change the discourse alone, Majstorović believes.

– Structural violence is largely responsible for the non-sanctioning and release of hate speech, so that we can no longer fix it today. It’s irreparable, we can’t just say ‘ah, now we’re going to be cultural, nice, no, we have to change society from the ground up to fix society and to change the attitude towards hate speech.

Speaking about power relations in society, Majstorović explains how the existing social order is maintained through public discourse and hate speech. Those in a position of power, namely the owners of capital, use hate speech to maintain the status quo in society, that is, to maintain their privileged position.

– This is one of the views on things where the interest of capital will always flow and find its way, in our country it is ethno-national capital in BiH. A striking example is the case of two films ‘Quo vadus, Aida’ and ‘Dara iz Jasenovca’.. These are all universal stories, however, when you look at the members of another nation that committed crimes based on some historical facts, that nation is criminal … In fact, we have not yet reached a situation where Dara can be seen in Croatia, such as “Dnevnik Dijana Budisavljević”, affirmatively, to make it a part of school practice, as ‘Quo vadis, Aida’ will always be considered anti-Serbian propaganda in Republic of Srpska. This is clear to us as day and accordingly, we can say, each ethnicity will continue to produce those contents that correspond to the relations in the base, under different disguises. We can then rightly ask ourselves whether it will be possible to produce a film in one of such societies, which is what Dežulović did with Poems from Lora. Is it possible for a Serb man or woman to make a film that critically observes Serbs, or for a Croat to make a film that critically observes Croats, and Bosnjak critically observes a Bosnjak …?

However, our interlocutor believes that there is hope and that, faced with events that touch the human in us, the ruling nationalist ideologies are losing their primacy, leaving room for the establishment of new social relations and, possibly, new policies.

When we talk about the ruling nationalist ideologies, I am somehow afraid of the overly deterministic in them, that we are always inevitably hostages to some ideology from which we cannot pull ourselves out. I believe that this is only partially true, that is, I am more inclined to believe that it is sometimes completely incorrect. The ruling nationalist ideologies in the past 20-30 years have established new social relations and policies, which we still live in today, based on the effective legitimacy of the past war. Everything that politicians use today to affirm their story draws legitimacy from the past war. However, today we see some different effects of today’s social movements, such as Justice for David or the regional version of the Me too movement, which happened after actress Milena Radulović reported longtime well-known and recognized acting teacher, Miko Aleksić, whom we learned that is a rapist. These two recent movements are building one political moment with a turn to left and feminist politics, precisely from the grassroots level, even in environments where we thought it was impossible. For example, it is easy to say that Banja Luka is a city dominated by some kind of nationalist hatred, with which I strongly disagree, of course, with all the criticism of certain practices in our city, we have also witnessed an affective coup, adjustment, where citizens shared their truths through messages circulating, both in the Square and on the Facebook group Justice for David, which pointed to the early 1990s, which were never publicly addressed, nor were they addressed in a public space in Banja Luka. So it is not always that we will be hostages of one ideology, that we will blindly listen to what someone tells us and be useful idiots who will work for the system, we will not. I think that precisely these effects create a kind of interruption, a rupture, from where it is possible to think something new and give birth to a new political one.

Hate speech directed at a particular group speaks to their status in society and contributes to maintaining it. One of the most current examples is certainly the attitude towards migrants or people on the move. We ask Professor Majstorović if we can bring hate speech towards this population into a cause-and-effect relationship with the inhumane conditions in which they live, with the brutal migration policy, with the violation of their human rights, not only in our country but also globally, with frequent cases. police violence against these people…? Has the dehumanization of these people through hate speech partly led to a lack of empathy and solidarity among the majority population? At the same time, not only thinking about the hate speech directed by individuals, but also about the systematic placement of negative discourse about this population. How important is the name we give to a group? Does it matter if we say that someone is a refugee, migrant or person on the move? Are these real questions at all?

– I do not suffer from whether we will call these people migrants, people on the move, we will not change anything. We can also ask the question of whose responsibility they are. Are they the responsibility of Bosnia and Herzegovina or some other richer countries that give a lot of money? 44 million by 2018 has been given to the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for camps, securitization, humanitarianism … Some money has flowed from the European Union, however, we can also rightly ask ourselves whether BiH has been assigned a role a country of double transit, into which people enter and exit, and white people enter, non-white people enter, there we have on our peripheral border country the question of racism is broken and the question of labor is broken, that is, that new labor force. The day these non-white people respond to the European market as labor, Europe will let them go. Until then, they remain where they are and in my opinion the key question is not whether we are merhametli, whether we will help, so, of course, people in Bihac have been helping for four years, but we as BiH citizens cannot take care of migrants privately, nor can we that’s what we need to do. These are questions not whether we are compassionate or empathetic, it is wrong to blame the issue of migration on ordinary citizens. In my opinion, the essential question is again the question of power relations, who gives money for this, to whom it suits, why BiH got so much money for the police, why the Croatian police and pushbacks … now they are horrified in the European Parliament when they see what they did to them how they were beaten .. Why don’t these stories reach public discourse? These are the real questions, and don’t we have compassion. Of course the media reports horribly, the media cannot see what they have not learned to see. But that is the essential problem with us, not that we don’t have a public dialogue, we don’t even have a public discussion about anything at all, we immediately just grab each other by the neck, who is on whose side.

– The question of what will be the role of BiH, whether they will be different are metaphors, garbage dump, reservoir, country of double transit, a kind of waiting room, where it happens that some non-white people come and white people leave, who are adaptable. our people in Germany and Austria are seen as ideal migrants, good workers, they are white, they are adaptable, their children are already integrated and they become little Germans and Austrians. It is that ideal subject that is coming, so, here, I have tried in my book to deal with the emergence of this new political subject, however, I am afraid that this subject does not exist and I am afraid that we are witnessing some kind of turmoil. The issue of nationalism, Bosnia was a mine, it was strong scientists who came to investigate some kind of nationalism, I don’t think it’s a question at all anymore, the question is how human capital will be redone, what will happen when the vast majority of people leave and when some other people come in who at one point say ‘well, wait, I’m not going to be in that mall anymore for five years, I want to work, I want to live, I want my kid to go to school’. In my opinion, that is the question of how BiH will again become a kind of border, a border, where the European periphery and the European center will be redesigned.

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