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Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme

'Lonely at Home: On the Protracted Social Isolation in Bosnia', a Xenia Series talk by Dr Safet HadžiMuhamedović

On 17 September 2020, Dr Safet HažiMuhamedović, CIP Research Associate in Inter-Faith Relations, gave the inaugural talk for the Xenia Series: Seminars in Anthropology of Travel, Tourism and Pilgrimage.

The video is available at:

Lonely at Home: On the Protracted Social Isolation in Bosnia

This is not another academic conversation about the coronavirus, yet it may as well start from the utter disorientation experienced by some of us after the hitherto unconscious luxuries of movement and social proximity came to an abrupt stop. Whilst certainly not the ‘great equaliser’ of the kind that Madonna considerately signalled from her bathtub, the virus with its current social limitations may offer to us a bit of a bodily connection to – or an affective approximation of – the social isolation imposed by the state on some other bodies. 

In this talk, Safet revisits a couple of post-conflict Bosnian landscapes to describe the state-organised disruption of social networks during the 1990s war, as well as the thwarted attempts of their inhabitants to achieve sustainable return after exile. Safet is particularly concerned with the transformation of inter-religious proximities that were traditionally nurtured before being deemed incompatible with the nationalist projects of homelands in the former Yugoslavia. 

The landscapes and the humans in such a post-social world are lonely, unattended and waiting for the return of the known, habitual relations. 

Safet asks: How are invisible borders – lines of division felt on the skin – constructed? And, what are the repercussions of these partitions for the returnees? Indeed, can there be sustainable refugee return after ethnic cleansing? How can anthropologists detect and speak about loneliness? Why do exiled Bosnians travel home as tourists or daydreamers? How do we locate the once rich inter-faith encounters and syncretic sacred places in Bosnia today? And, finally, what can we learn from the Bosnian efforts to return to a former type of sociality?

For more information about the Xenia Series and to register for events, visit:

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