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This is an ethnographic study of what it means to be a Muslim woman in post-war and post-socialist Bosnia and Herzegovina. Almost two decades after the end of inter-ethnic wars that led to the dissolution of socialist Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Bosnias inhabitants are undergoing radical social, economic, political, and particularly religious transformations. This transformation, visible in both community and individual lives, can be discerned in all aspects of daily life. In this dissertation I examine the underlying reasons and motivations concerning the different ways in which one can practice and live Islam in Sarajevo and Zenica, two of the largest cities of the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia. My study is situated in two women women-centered NGOs, one secular and one religious (Medica Zenica and Nahla), and from these sites I ascertain the role civil society plays in helping women combat the political, economic, and social marginalization that is part of being a woman in today's Bosnia. This dissertation examines faith [vjera or iman] and practice (what women do) as it has evolved from traditional Bosnian Islam (a secularized form of Islam that developed during the communist period) and the way it compares to those practicing povratak Islamu (a return to Islam or reislamization). My research indicates that there are two primary ways in which one can be a Muslim in post-war and post-socialist Bosnia: conventional (obi\u010dna or tradicionalna Bosanska Muslimanka) and pious (osvje\u0161\u0107ena/pobo\u017ena Muslimanka). Conventional and pious Muslim women share a number of commonalities, yet, how they understand themselves and their relationship to Islam, including their duties and obligations, is considerably different. Furthermore, this dissertation demonstrates different approaches to being a Bosnian Muslim woman by focusing on agency and the ways in which women adapt to Bosnia's transforming economy and social structure. Finally, I also examine the role that civil society and civic engagement (both secular and religious) play in identity formation.'


Islam, Women, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Religious Revitalization, Conversion, Belief, Post-Socialism, Gender, Islamic Feminism, Post-conflict, NGO


International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX)

Document Type




Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Anthropology

First Advisor

Nagengast, Carole

First Committee Member (Chair)

Lamphere, Louise

Second Committee Member

Bokovoy, Melissa

Third Committee Member

Helms, Elissa

Included in

Anthropology Commons