The Sound of Genocide: Music, Memory, and Commemoration in Postwar Bosnia

This dissertation focuses on a repertoire of Western classical, neo-traditional, and religious music created in the past twenty years to commemorate the Srebrenica genocide, a massacre that occurred in July 1995 at the end of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Drawing on more than seven months of fieldwork in Bosnia and the United States, I explore this commemorative repertoire as a demonstration of the interdependence of official and personal narratives of the genocide. Approaching works of commemorative music as performative narratives, I argue that this repertoire reflects and reinforces current projects of nation-building and identity construction among Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) that are largely founded on interpretations of the war and sentiments of victimization. At the same time, this repertoire provides a means for genocide survivors to preserve and transmit their memories, to build transnational and translocal communities, and to experience emotional catharsis while making sense of the traumatic past. I address both the use of music by genocide survivors as a mnemonic medium and its appropriation by Bosniak political elites for rhetorical interpretation of the war and genocide, which affects inter-ethnic and inter-religious dynamics in Bosnia.