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Waiting for Elijah: Time and Encounter in a Bosnian Landscape

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Waiting for Elijah

Time and Encounter in a Bosnian Landscape

Safet HadžiMuhamedović

304 pages, 26 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-856-4 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (April 2018)

ISBN  978-1-80073-219-3 $34.95/£27.95 Pb Not Yet Published (December 2021)

eISBN 978-1-78533-857-1 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - edit   Buy the eBook! $34.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


Waiting for Elijah is a forceful, poignant, and illuminating intervention … profoundly a book about home. [It] could join other anthropological classics that deal with people’s attachment to their landscapes… [T]he book is painfully poignant, to the point of producing a lump in the reader’s throat. It is at the same time a sophisticated scholarly work engaging with anthropological and other literatures. HadžiMuhamedović is quite aware of the tension this produces. It is obvious that he has to answer both the call of a poet and that of a scholar” • Anthropos

“In his brilliant ethnography Waiting for Elijah: Time and Encounter in a Bosnian Landscape, HadžiMuhamedović writes of Bosnia’s postwar protracted uncertainty.The supernatural holds the place for the unknown here in an ethnography that addresses the spiritual voids that mass violence creates among survivors.” • Annual Review of Anthropology

“Carefully written, beautifully articulated, and theoretically important, this book makes an enormous contribution to the anthropology of landscape. Much of the work on Bosnia in anthropology and allied disciplines now claims to ‘go beyond’ the ethnic categories and legacies of violence that drive funding and western researchers to the region, but very few actually manage to do so. I think this book is one of the few. In addition to its more traditionally academic first part, the second part of the book attempts to represent and work with the themes of the work through a more free-flowing, poetic style. Taken together, they offer an engrossing portrait of life in a part of Bosnia that some might describe as "once vibrant" – HadžiMuhamedović shows how that past vibrancy resonates into the present, saturating time, life, and landscape in Gacko.” • GoodReads

“This is a remarkable anthropological study of the traces of intercommunal living in the ‘Field’ of Gacko… [It] offers mesmerizing moments of poetic beauty and clarity. [T]he book is a towering monument to the intimately shared and connected lives that were violently erased, and one of the most original contributions to the anthropology of the region.” • Slavic Review

“[The book] opens up new ways of approaching the plurality inherent to Bosnian society, a plurality that has long been subject to politically motivated and violent deconstruction. Key to this deconstruction is the stereotypical and ideological denial of any overarching Bosnian framework. Applying current anthropological approaches to the study of Bosnia's social pluralism, Safet HadžiMuhamedović demonstrates clearly the subtle, but undeniable presence in interlocking levels of personal and collective identity of recognisably Bosnian patterns of social and cultural complementarity and cohesion. … At the heart of his approach and of his findings is the reality that Bosnian society is essentially interreligious and that none of the constituent groups is an independent or self-sufficient social reality.” • UN World Interfaith Harmony Week

“Set in the beautiful, sprawling Field of Gacko in southeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, Safet HadžiMuhamedović’s book ... takes readers through intimate encounters and syncretic moments as he and his interlocutors wait for Elijah’s Day. An annual festival that is shared by Muslims and Christians in the area, Elijah’s Day forms the basis for a ‘grand chronotope’ that imbues time with meaning in the Field. Yet, the day—and the book—are about so much more, as HadžiMuhamedović writes skillfully across cosmologies, postwar life, and possibilities for resistance in other temporalities, analyzing social difference without reducing it.” • The New Books Network

“Safet HadžiMuhamedović’s work makes a very significant contribution to the field of phenomenological, anthropological, and historical research on Bosnia and Herzegovina in general, and to the exploration of affective landscapes in particular… The one thing that comes across to any scholar of the Balkans is the authenticity of his writing. This work had me enthralled at times, and I couldn’t put it down.” • Robert Hudson, University of Derby

Waiting for Elijah makes a major contribution to our understanding of the role of cultural practices and social resilience in post-disaster recovery periods. HadžiMuhamedović carefully examines how rituals and cultural practices entwine time and space to construct a social field… Deciding to conceptually articulate social interactions by emphasizing the notion of ‘encounter’, HadžiMuhamedović exhibits the complex social diversity in his case study and avoids reducing it to religious or ethnic diversity.” • Reza Masoudi-Nejad, SOAS University of London


Waiting for Elijah is an intimate portrait of time-reckoning, syncretism, and proximity in one of the world’s most polarized landscapes, the Bosnian Field of Gacko. Centered on the shared harvest feast of Elijah’s Day, the once eagerly awaited pinnacle of the annual cycle, the book shows how the fractured postwar landscape beckoned the return of communal life that entails such waiting. This seemingly paradoxical situation—waiting to wait—becomes a starting point for a broader discussion on the complexity of time set between cosmology, nationalism, and embodied memories of proximity.

Safet HadžiMuhamedović is Research Associate in Inter-Faith Relations at the University of Cambridge. He has conducted fieldwork in Bosnia, Palestine, and the Basque Country since 2009 and has been recipient of a number of prestigious research awards. He has previously taught at Goldsmiths and SOAS, University of London, Goethe University Frankfurt, and University of Bristol and has written on sacral landscapes, historicity, and political agency of “nonhuman” beings, and ontological approaches to the question of home.

Subject: Anthropology (General) Anthropology of Religion Refugee and Migration Studies
Area: Central/Eastern Europe