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But these conflicts which break forth are not
between the ideal and reality, but between two
different ideals, that of yesterday and that of
today - that which has the authority of tradition
and that which has the hope of the future.

Emik Durkheim


The dissertation is a study of the ethnic and

religious identity of the Bosnian Muslims in rural
Yugoslavia. In the first part (chapters 1-7) the focus of
analysis is on secular customs and rituals; in the second
part (chapters 8-10), the focus shifts onto the religious
domain of experience. The two parts are linked by the role
of women as both pivots of Bosnian secular identity and the
repositories of religious values.
The study is centred on the analysis of a rural
village, referred to as Dolina throughout the dissertation.
Chapter 1 presents the village and its general cultural and
ethnic setting. Chapter 2 discusses visiting patterns and
social exchange activities among Muslim households.
Chapters 3 to 6 provide an analysis of women's different
roles and changing statuses within the household and
community, by looking at women's life-cycle from 'maiden to
wife'. Chapter 7 examines the symbolic aspects of women's
unmarried and married statuses, relating those to women's
religious and ethnic identity. Chapter 8 examines the role
of the Islamic discourse in a pluralist society with an
atheist state ideology. Chapter 9 deals with popular
beliefs and various customs which fall into the category of
folk religion. Chapter 10 looks at the different ritual
obligations for men and women and illustrates some of the
distinguishing characteristics of Bosnian Islam, with
special regard to the role played by women.

In the Conclusion, it is argued that women integrate
the two official definitions of Bosnian Muslims, the
'secular' one- which ignores religion- on the one hand, and
the Islamic one on the other. Women are shown to formulate
a Bosnian Muslim identity which transcends both official
definitions - through this identity, based on religious
discourse, women escape the peripheral role traditionally
assigned to them in orthodox Islam.




0.1 The Bosnian Muslims: A Yugoslav nacija 14

0.2 Ethnic markers 20
0.3 The theoretical framework of the thesis 23

0.4 Notes on fieldwork 30
The format of the thesis 37


1.1 The setting 43

1.1.2 Physical and social division 43

1.1.3 Sources of livelihood 48

1.1.4 Unit of study 52

1.2 village administration 52
1.3 One village, two communities 55

1.4 The image of Dolina 57
1.5 Defining self and the "other":

Muslims and Catholics as neighbours 61
1.6 The ethnic boundary:

a boundary between two moral worlds 67


2.0 Introduction 74

2.1 Community work 75

2.2 Conflict between neighbours 79

2.2.1 Protracted conflicts between households 81

2.3 Hospitality and institutionalised visiting 82
2.3.1 Women's visiting patterns 84

2.3.2 Ritualised visits 90


3.1 Courtship in earlier generations 100

3.2 Courtship today 102
3.2.1 The dance 103
3.2.2 Contemporary attitudes towards courtship 106

3.3 The choice of marriage partner 108
3.3.1 Restrictions of choice 109

3.3.2 Criteria for choice 114


4.0 Introduction 119

4.1 The different marriage procedures 120

4.2 The wedding about 1930-1950 121

4.3 wedding procedures 1988 124

4.3.1 Svadba and Svatovi 124

4.4 Elopement 127

4.4.1 Real elopement, modern style 130

4.4.2 Fictive elopement 134

4.5 The marriage ceremony 141

4.6 Conclusions 143


5.0 Introduction 146

5.1 wedding prestations 149

5.1.1 Oprerna 149

5.1.2 Pohod 151

5.2 Preparing the gifts; a case history 157

5.2.1 The visit 160

5.3 Conclusions 162


6.0 Introduction 166
6.1 The house and the land 166
6.2 The concept of ku6a 169

6 .3 The south Slav joint family, the zadruga 171


6.4 The decline of the joint family household 174
6.4.1 The bargaining power of junior women 181

7.0 Introduction 190
7.1 Ideals of female behaviour 191
7.2 Maidens 196
7.2.1 Muslim girls and secondary education 200
7.2.2 Social activities of Muslim girls 202
7.2.3 Muslim girls and religious identity 204
7.3 The significance of how a woman dresses 205
7.3.1 Clothing for maidens and wives 209
7.4 Wife and stranger 213

7.4.1 The "bride" 214
7.4.2 Wives 218
7.5 Conclusions 221


Introduction 226

8.1 The Islamic Association 232
8.2 The mosque council for the commune 235
8.3 Dolina dej'nat


8.3.1 The village mosque council 236
8.4 Representation of official Islam in Dolina 238
8.4.1 The mosque 238
8.4.2 The hoda 240

8.4.3 The bula 245
8.5 The influence of Official Islam

and secularisation 251

8.6 Islamic education and Muslim identity 252

8.7 Muslim identity and the socialist state 255


9.0 Introduction 261
9.1 Diviners 266

9.1.1 The "sufi-hod'as" 267
9.1.2 Choosing a diviner 273
9.2 Identifying the source of a problem 276
9.2.1 Evil spirits 276
9.2.2 The casting of spells 281
9.2.3 The evil eye 283
9.3 Remedying the problem 286
9.3.1 The writing of charms 286
9.3.2 Name magic 291
9.3.3 Divination performed by women 294
9.4 The cult of saints 298
9.4.1 Visiting the graves of Muslim saints 298
9.4.2 Collective prayers at the Dolina turbe 304
9.4.3 The celebration of saints' days 306
9.5 Conclusions 310

10.0 Introduction 316
10.1 Rituals performed by men and women 320
10.1.1 Ramadan: the month of fasting 320

10.1.2 Meviud 326

10.2 Men's ritual obligations 330

10.2.1 Dujva, the Friday prayers 330

10.3 Rituals associated with death 332

10.3.1 Denaza, the burial ceremony 332

10.3.2 Prayers for the souls of the dead 335
10.3.3 The tevhid

10.4 Conclusions 349





Ethnographic accounts draw on the activities,

experiences and thoughts of the people they claim to
present. This account is no exception and my greatest debt
is to those people in Bosnia who lent their voices to this
particular account.
Bosnia treated me to her renowned hospitality and
there are many to whom I am grateful. There are some,
however I would like to mention individually. In sarajevo
Jasna iic opened her home to me when I first arrived. My
stay in Dolina would not have been possible had not Nusreta
and Nurija Handfiá accepted me as a member of their
household. Iset Efendija helped by introducing me into the
community and to Islam. For teaching me about Islam, and
Bosnian Islam in particular, I would also thank Hasim
Efendija, azim Efendija, and the Kri6 family. Much
valuable information would not have been accessible without
Azra Kri6's help.
My field research was made possible by the generous
assistance of the Zernaljski Muzej in Sarajevo, and by my
'mentor' Miroslav Ni gkanovi who has inspired some of the

ethnographic observation and analysis in this thesis.

Gordana Ljuboja at the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade
encouraged my work in Bosnia and provided the initial
contacts. Du g an Puvai at the School of Slavonic and East
European Studies in London taught me Serbo-Croat and gave
me first hand information about life in Sarajevo before I

went there.
My gratitude to everybody in Yugoslavia extends to an
intense hope for a peaceful resolution as the country
hovers on the brink of violence and possible
In London I am above all indebted to my supervisor
Peter Loizos who supervised me throughout my studies at the
LSE. His firm belief in my project was an important source
of encouragement. He read and commented on several drafts
of my thesis and his suggestions have been of great value.
Chris Fuller read drafts of parts of the thesis and his
comments, particularly concerning Islam, have been both
valuable and constructive. The participants of the LSE
thesis-writing seminar have provided useful comments on
early drafts of the thesis. Thanks in particular to John
Knight for his suggestions. Cornelia Sorabji generously
shared with me some of her own experiences and observations
from field-work in Sarajevo. In the last phase of my
writing-up in Bergen I benefitted from discussion with
Karin Ask and Noslih Kanaaneh.
Parts of my studies at the LSE were made possible
through a British Council Scholarship and a LSE post-
graduate bursary. My stay in Bosnia was supported by a
Yugoslav state scholarship awarded through the Norwegian
NAVF. The writing-up was aided by a grant from the
Radcliffe-Brown Memorial Fund.
Also in London, I would like to thank Fenella Cannel].
and Katy Gardner for making life in the city a much more

friendly experience than it would otherwise have been. In
Cambridge my warm thanks to Rita Astuti and to the
inhabitants of 'Son of Stoat'; in particular to Lucy
Carolan who edited the thesis, but also to Roger, Simon and
Mike, who, along with Lucy provided me with a home, and
showed tolerance and sympathy towards an often frustrated
and tense thesis writer.
Throughout my studies my cousin Kari-Anne Rand Schmidt
has been a constant source of support.
My parents were always there when help and
encouragement were needed. This work is dedicated to them.


Serbo-Croat spelling is phonetic, that is each letter

of the alphabet always represents the same sound. Serbo-
Croat may be written in both the Cyrillic and the Latin
scripts. Their geographical distribution reflects the
historical division of the South Slav lands between the
Orthodox and Catholic spheres of influence. While in
Croatia the official script is Latin, it is Cyrillic in
Serbia, and in Bosnia, typically enough, both scripts are
used. For example, the Sarajevo newspaper Oslobodenje will
conscientiously print one article in the Cyrillic script
and the next in Latin. The following brief guide to
pronunciation cites only those letters which have a
pronunciation significantly different from English. It is
based on the Croatian alphabet, which uses the Latin
script. (Both the Cyrillic and the Latin scripts have been
modified for the Serbo-Croat phonetic system.)

A a in father J y in yes
C ts in cats Lj 11 in million
ch in church Nj n in news
a soft 'tch' 0 o in not
D j in John R rolled
roughly 'dj' sh in she
E e in let U u in rizle
H ch in loch s in pleasure
I e in he


In his 1977 paper, Davis argues for an anthropology of

the Mediterranean that takes into account comparative
considerations of empirical data from both the Northern and
the Southern shores of the area. This implies, as Gilmore
points out, that the academic barriers between the
Europeanists and Islamicists have to be dissolved
(1982:176). These "academic barriers" need, however, not
merely be dissolved between the Southern and Northern
Shores of the Mediterranean, but within the Northern
shores: the Balkans and South-Eastern Europe. Not all of
these can be strictly defined as part of the Mediterranean
ethnographic area (the definition of "the Mediterranean
area" is still problematic7(see Gilmore, 1987), but they
display many of the cultural traits of that area, 1 and
some, significantly, have Muslim ethnic or minority groups
living in a predominantly Christian culture. Yugoslavia and
particularly Bosnia can be said to be a Mediterranean area
in miniature. We find here three "Great Traditions" side by
side: the Christian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches
and Islam associated respectively with West and East.
The present study of Bosnian Muslims focuses on a
Muslim people on the Islamic periphery. "Islamic periphery"
refers both to the cultural heterogeneity of the area and
to the fact that this Muslim people considers itself to be
far from the centres of Islamic learning and authority;
(see Lambek, 1990:25.) Bosnian Muslims are indigenous

European Muslims with the status of an ethnic group in the
religiously and ethnically diverse Yugoslav state. But
while their ethnic identity has been recognised, their
religious identity has not been given the same
consideration. And although they represent a majority of
the population in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Bosnian Muslims are still members of a minority culture, as
the two other ethnic groups, the Croats and the Serbs
(Roman Catholics and Orthodox respectively), form a vast
majority in the Yugoslav state as a whole. In such a
context the question of ethnic identity becomes paramount,
and religion as the main defining characteristic of
ethnicity of central importance. However, the atheist
(communist) and western secular contexts add other
significant dimensions to Muslim identity in Bosnia.

0.1 The Bosnian Muslims: a Yucoslav nacija

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY)
with its 22.4 million inhabitants is a complex mosaic of
different cultures, languages, religions and ethnic groups.
The Yugoslav (lit, south Slav) state today (1990) is a
federation of six republics. As a state, it was founded in
1918 under the King of Serbia, but after the Partisans
liberated the country from the Germans in 1945, Yugoslavia
was declared a Federal Socialist Republic. Yugoslavia today
is a non-aligned power characterised by its distinctive
creed of "self-managing socialism". Most of its
territories, with the exception of Slovenia, were once part

of the Ottoman Empire. But while Croatia was conquered by
the Austrians in the seventeenth century, and Serbia
received her independence in 1830, Bosnia-Herzegovina
stayed under Ottoman rule until conquered by the Habsburgs
in 1878. The competing claims of the Catholic, central
European on the one hand and the Islamic, Anatolian
Ottomans on the other have left contrasting imprints on
South Slav culture which are still perceptible today.
As of 1981 (the latest national census) the
proportions of the three largest ethnic groups in
Yugoslavia are as follows: Serbs, 8.1 million (36.6% of the
total population), Croats, 4.4 million (19.7%) and the
"ethnic Muslims", 1.7 million (8.9%). Of these "ethnic
Muslims" about 86% live in Bosnia where they comprise about
40% of the total population (Serbs count for 37% and Croats
21%). Bosnia is in fact the only Republic not associated
with one nacija (nacija, lit, nation, is the official
designation rather than "ethnic group"). The Muslimani u
srnislu narodnosti, i.e. the Muslims in the ethnic sense,
are believed to be Serbo-Croat speaking Sla ys who converted
to Islam during the Ottoman Empire.
In addition to introducing their religion, the Turks
also brought in the Millet system, an administrative scheme
whereby groups were identified according to religion and
not nationality. As a result the Bosnian population today
is divided into three "nations", separate in terms of
religion but not of geography. Affiliation with one of the
three religious doctrines, Roman Catholic, Serbian Orthodox

and Sunni Islam, corresponds to membership of one
particular ethnic group or nacija. Thus Catholics are
Croats, Serbs are Orthodox, and Muslims are what in the
Yugoslav national census Is called "ethnic Muslims"
(Muslirnani u smislu narodnosti).
Consequently, when talking about the Muslims of
Yugoslavia, it is important to specify in what sense we
want to apply the term, as in the Yugoslav official context
it refers both to an ethnic group and to a religious
community. Thus there are an estimated 4 million Muslims in
Yugoslavia when they are classified as a religious group
(1.1 million of whom are Albanian Muslims living in
Kosovo), but as we have already seen, less than 2 million
of these belong to the officially designated "Muslim ethnic
group". 2 The following are the proportions of Muslims in
Yugoslavia when presented in official statistics as an
"ethnic group":

Bosnia-Herzegovina 1,630,000
Croatia 24,000
Macedonia 39,000
Montenegro 78,000
Serbia proper 151,000

Voj vodina 5,000
Slovenia 13,000

(From: Slobodan Stankovi, Radio Free Europe Research

Report 172, 26 August 1982.)

In Serbo-Croat orthography the potential ambiguity of
the term "Muslim" (Muslimani] is avoided by writing the
noun designating a person's nationality with an initial
capital and the term referring to a member of the
religious community with a small letter (Purivatra,
1974:305). Thus official Yugoslav policy implicitly denies
that the national category "Muslims" is dependent 'on
religious identity. But, as Irwin notes: "there is no basis
for distinguishing 'Muslim' other than religious and self-
selection, from other indigenous speakers of Serbo-Croat in
Bosnia" (1984:438).
This paradox is clearly reflected in the twofold
debate on the origins of the Bosnian Muslims as an "ethnic
group": first, the extent to which the Muslims of Bosnia
really do compose a distinct ethnic group, and secondly,
the background for the Islamisation of Bosnia. I shall deal
with each in turn.
Historically, both the Croats and the Serbs have laid
claim to Bosnia, and the pressure on the Muslim population
to identify either with the Croats or with the Serbs has at
times been strong. There has been a constant battle between
the two groups for dominance within Bosnia, in order to
increase their influence at the federal level. It could be
argued that the recognition of a separate Muslim ethnic
group was a device initiated by Tito to secure a kind of
"buffer" between the Croats and the Serbs and thus "answer
forever the Bosnian Question" (Rusinow, 1981:11). The
question remains, however, whether the regime "invented" a

Muslim nation or merely "affirmed" an existing one (Rainet,
1985:148). It was long the hope among politicians and
intellectuals in favour of Yugoslav nationalism that the
Bosnian Muslims would become the first representatives of
the new Yugoslav national identity. This hope did not
inaterialise, however, and between 1967 and 1971 a series of
amendments to the 1963 constitution were passed that marked
a change in policy towards the "nationality question".
These amendments transferred political authority from the
central organs of the Federation to its constituent
Republics. In fact, this marked a move away from the
concept of a Yugoslav national state to one of Yugoslavia
as a federation of nations, sowing the seeds for heightened
inter- Republic rivalry and the cultivation of ethnic
identities. It was during this period that a Bosnian
central committee communique "rejected Yugoslaviszn as an
acceptable model for internationality relations and stated
that: 'it has been shown and present socialist practice
confirms that Muslims are a distinct nation'" (Irwin,
When the term "ethnic Muslim" was introduced in the
1961 nationality census and the Muslims of Bosnia were
officially recognised as an ethnic group (nacija), it could
be said that the change was simply from a de facto to a de
jure status. For, as Banc notes, by the second half of the
twentieth century the Bosnian Muslims lacked only a
national name (1984:373). Indeed, more recent literature
stresses the fact that Muslim group consciousness was

something that developed over time, and that political
niobilisation was initiated from within (cf. e.g. Donia,
1982 and Banic, 1984).
The second controversy concerns the Islamisation of
Bosnia and the origin of the Bosnian Muslims. Scholars
today agree that the Bosnian Muslims are descendants of
Slay s who converted during the 400-year reign of the
Ottoman Empire. They disagree, however, about the reasons
for these conversions. Traditionally, there have been three
main theories: first, that the converts were landowners who
accepted Islam in order to retain their land (this theory
accounts for the alleged class differences between Muslims
and Christians during Ottoman rule); secondly, that the
conversions were wholesale and forced by the Ottomans; and
thirdly, that the converts were members of the Bosnian
church associated with the Bogomil heresy, a heretical
Catholic movement with a dualist world-view said to be a
successor of the Manichees or Gnostics. Recent literature
suggests that each of these three arguments is one-sided
and has a limited relevance (cf. Fine Jr., 1975, Banic,
1984, Donia, 1981). Fine maintains for instance that there
is no evidence that the Turks pressured people to convert
(except for specific short periods under particularly
fanatical phases), nor did the Christians need to accept
Islam in order to retain their land (Fine Jr., 1975:382).
He also suggests that although the Bogomuls converted in
great numbers, evidence points to a multi-directional
change of religion: Catholics accepted Islam or Orthodoxy,

Orthodox believers turned to Catholicism or converted to
Islam, however, had the advantage of being the
religion of the conquering state, and as the Bogomil
heretics were persecuted by Orthodox and Catholics alike,
Islam and the Turks offered them protection. It is believed
that in its Bosnian form their "heretic" religion was most
probably dominated by old Slav and pre-Christian rituals
and religious beliefs which some Muslim scholars argue were
already influenced by Islam prior to the Islamisation of
Bosnia or at least had an affinity with the Islamic world-
view. It is this latter contention which in later years has
been elaborated by Bosnian Muslim scholars in the fields of
history, literature, and archaeology/ethnography, eager to
establish a separate Bosnian cultural and ethnic tradition
predating the Ottoman conquest and represented by the
Bonjaci, of whom the Bosnian Muslims are believed to be
descendants (see chapter 9 ftn. 11 for an example of how
such links are established). This school of thought should
be seen in relation to increasing Serb and Croat
nationalist activities and their constant claim on the
Bosnian Muslims as ethnically "really" one or the other.

0.2 Ethnic markers

While in Sarajevo most urban Muslims blend in with
other (generally western-European-looking) citizens, and
will only be identified if they have Muslim first names, in
rural areas Muslims, particularly the women, can be much

more readily distinguished (see chapter 7 for a fuller
discussion) from their Christian compatriots by their dress
and speech. Although these are conspicuous manifestations
of differences and of group identity, they are self-
consciously so and stressed by both insiders and outsiders
to the Muslim ethnic group.
Even in rural Bosnia differences are becoming less
apparent, particularly among the young. Muslims' traditional
clothing (baggy trousers and headscarves for women, Turkish
fezzes or berets - for men) is either dying out or
increasingly confined to specific religious occasions,
while the veil for women was actually prohibited by law in
Yugoslavia after World War II (see chapter 7).
Distinctive traits in Muslim speech are another
explicit ethno-religious identity marker. In rural areas
the language which the children learn at home and in the
village among other Muslims is different from the literate
Serbo-Croat often aspired to among urban and educated
Muslims. At school, Muslim village children's style of
speaking is often considered as archaic and incorrect.
Muslims use more Turkish words and their speech is often
seen by people outside the Republic as typical of Bosnia.
(To the other nationalities outside Bosnia, particularly
Croats, Slovenes and Serbs, Bosnia is primarily associated
with Muslims and their particular culture.)
Names, especially first names, are important ethno-
religious identity markers. There are only a few surnames
of Turkish origin, since most Turkish families left Bosnia

after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Surnames have
generally a common Slav origin for all groups, ending in
"i6" or "vi6". Bosnians can nevertheless identify certain
surnames as belonging to a particular ethno-religious
group, not because there is anything specifically Muslim or
Christian about these surnames, but simply because the
religion of their bearers is general knowledge.
The first and most obvious marker of a child's Muslim
identity is its first name, which is of Arab or Turkish
origin. These names are, however, often transformed or
shortened in everyday speech, and thus obtain their
specifically Bosnian colouring. Thus Mehined becomes Meho,
Salih becomes Salko, Fatima becomes Fata, Emma becomes
Mina etc. (Christians have their specific biblical or
saints' names, with sometimes slight differences in form
for Catholics and Orthodox.) For the Muslims themselves,
however, personal names are not only important as identity
markers vis--vis Christians, but closely linked to ideas
about the person in Islamic etiology. (A fuller discussion
of this topic will be provided in chapter 9.)
In addition to Islamic names there are national names,
which can be divided into two different sub-groups. The
first consists of typical Slav names such as Miroslav,
Cedoinir, etc. These names are used by Croats and Serbs
alike, but are particularly associated with Serbs, and are
not used by Muslims. The other sub-group consists of names
which have come into the Serbo-Croat language more
recently, often from German, French or English (e.g. Vilina

or Denis). Such names are becoming increasingly popular
with Muslims because they are seen as neutral names which
do not immediately mark a child as Muslim. This is
particularly true for parents who are not religious and
wish to avoid the stigma which "muslimness" carries among
the westernised "modern" parts of the population. One
young, urbanised, non-devout Muslim father wanted his
daughter to be called Vilina, so that "she wouldn't get into
trouble at school or have Christian children laugh at her".
His attitude can only be understood against the background
of the marked dichotomy in Bosnia between the "uncultured"
(nekulturan) and the "cultured" (kulturan) members of
society. Muslims often find themselves labelled
"uncultured" by the wider non-Muslim community and this
prejudice has in many cases led to Muslims playing down
their identity when interacting in mixed ethno-religious

0.3 The theoretical framework of the thesis

The literature in English on the Slav Muslims of
Bosnia is mostly concerned with the historical and
political background of Bosnian Muslim ethnicity, while the
key ethnographic literature in Serbo-Croat is mostly
historical and descriptive. This "ethnicity approach" does
not allow for addressing the role and content of religion
per Se. If authors deal with Islam at all, it is merely in
terms of its constituting an ethnic boundary (in the
Barthian sense; see Barth, 1969) and rather than discussing

the content of this ethnicity, they reduce religion to an
ethnic badge. In the anthropological study of ethnicity
there has been a one-sided preoccupation with
distinctiveness at the expense of content and its
contextuality. In the case of Bosnia everybody agrees that
distinctions and boundaries are important. Muslim women for
instance say that they drink coffee with their Christian
neighbours, but that they do not marry them (see chapter
1). However, what the distinctive traits (i.e. symbols)
should consist of is negotiated in accordance with changing
contexts. In Dolina, the Muslim/Croat village which is the
setting for this study, the Muslims celebrate Jurjev, a
Serb festival, yet Muslims in Muslim/Serb villages would
not (see chapter 9). The distinctiveness expressed in terms
of the ethnic "boundary" is constantly reproduced in
encounters with the "other". By the same token, however,
the content of this distinctiveness is constantly
negotiated, modified and even innovated. In Bosnia religion
defines ethnic identity and an "ethnic approach" to the
study of the Bosnian Muslims must therefore espouse a
theory for the anthropological study of (practised) Islam
which makes the distinction between Islam as a) a social
identity, b) a set of formal doctrines and c) actual
beliefs and practices, and account for the
interrelationship between these elements (see Joseph,
1978:11). In other words, rituals have to be considered
both in terms of their symbolic and their pragmatic meaning
(see Tambiah, 1979).

The only western anthropologist who has published
material on the Bosnian Muslims totally ignores the role of
Islam as a set of religious beliefs and practices (see
Lockwood, 1975). I would like to pay more attention to
this neglected dimension of Islam in rural Bosnia. I do not
therefore contest that religion has an important function
in creating and sustaining ethnic boundaries. Indeed, Islam
as an idiom of ethnicity is the framework within which any
discussion of Bosnian Islam should be placed. Nevertheless,
the absence of a theological dimension in the literature on
the Bosnian Muslims often implies the assumption that they
are not "real Muslims", or that Islam is merely a badge of
ethnic identity. (see Lockwood, 1972, l975a; Geilner,
Those who argue the relevance of Islam merely as an
ethnic identity also tend to measure religious awareness by
the standards of formal doctrines only, rather than within
the framework of a specific 'Bosnian Islam': a somewhat
reductionist and one-dimensional view of the role of Islam
in Bosnia. According to Joseph, religious identity can
refer to both eoLocjcc*.1 t.c&es ca'tsousss i.e

caL icfr1, and is thus an ambiguous term (1978: ). In

Bosnia, this distinction has, as we have seen, been made
explicit as part of the official state discourse on the
"ethnic status" of the Bosnian Muslims. Contrary to
Joseph's formula, however, where Islam forms the building
block in both types of identity, the Bosnian state
discourse consciously attempts to keep the relevance of

Islam to the identity of the Bosnian Muslims to a minimum,
hence the two kinds of Muslims in Bosnia already mentioned:
Muslims written with a capital M (i.e. Muslims in the
ethnic sense of the word) and Muslims written with a small
m ( i.e Muslims in the Islamic and religious sense of the
word). The former are the subjects of the atheist, Bosnian
state (which accepts differences as long as a person or
group does not demand to be different), while the latter
are the subjects of the Islamic community and its
bureaucratised organisation, the Islamska Zajednica (which
accentuates separateness but does not dare to deny a basic
"sameness", lest it should conflict with the ideology of
the former).
Nevertheless, the system of values, beliefs and
rituals among the Muslims in rural Bosnia is multi-layered
and cannot be understood fully with reference to Islam
only. While Islam is the main distinguishing factor between
the Muslims and their Yugoslav compatriots, and the
critical factor in self-ascription and ascription by those
of other ethnic identities, and as such is the key to
understanding Muslim identity in Bosnia, a complete picture
can emerge only by looking at all the components present:
traditional beliefs and practices; State atheist socialism;
Christianity; and, increasingly, western ideas about
individualism and consumerism. I suggest that in real life
different value-systems become intertwined through the
preferences of persons who negotiate the symbolic
repertoire of two ideologies: State socialism and Islam.

"Ideology" is a polysemous concept and I shall not here
embark on a discussion of different definitions, but shall
nerely clarify its present usage. Ideology shall hereafter
refer to "the intersection between belief system and
political power" (Eagleton, 1991:6). This relatively broad
definition will cover both "official Islam" and state
socialism, as it does not (like the more common definition
which sees ideology as sustaining the dominant political
order) state whether "this intersection" challenges or
confirms a particular social order. Furthermore, and again
following Eagleton, ideology is seen as a matter of
"discourse" rather than "language" and the focus is
therefore on "who is saying what to whom for what purposes"
(1991:9). "Discourse" is here therefore not interchangeable
with ideology in the fashion favoured by Foucault (1972),
since every ideology is moulded in a discourse but not
every discourse is ideological (i.e. concerns interests and
power conflicts which are central to the social order). In
sum, then, ideological discourse can be thought of "as a
complex network of empirical and normative elements, within
which the nature and organisation of the former is
ultimately determined by the requirements of the latter"
(Eagleton, 1991:23).
Typically, in a Bosnian Muslim village two ideologies
exist side by side. In almost every house the picture of
Tito is on the wall next to one of a Muslim girl praying
(it is significant that it is a girl and not a boy which
thus represents Islam as the moral and ideological

counterpart to Titoism) and while the representative of the
state ideology is greeted with Serbo-Croat and the secular
dobar dan (lit, good day) and dovidenja (lit, see you
again), his Islamic equivalent will be greeted with Arabic
selam alejk (lit, with peace) and alahemanet (go with God).
Here the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds exist side by side,
and although this is not an ethnographically unusual
context this co-existence may be more pronounced than in
other cases. There is for instance a long tradition of
official ecumenism and in accordance with this tradition
representatives of the clergy from all three religious
communities are present at larger public events such as the
opening of a new church or mosque. This was the practice
long before the Communists came to power, and is mentioned
in Edith Durham's High Albania (1909). However, in Bosnia
the two official spheres governed by a Communist and an
Islamic body respectively present different discourses
about what a Bosnian Muslim is or should be. This is the
context which prompts Sorabji (1989) to talk about Bosnian
Muslims' "double identity", It can, however, only be
double at a theoretical and academic level; it is the
analyst's conceptualisation. The question we have to ask is
whether the Bosnian Muslims themselves experience
ambiguity. I suggest that people in Dolina, the village
studied, do not have both a "secular ethnic" and an Islamic
identity; rather they are Bosnian Muslims who "negotiate"
or mediate between different sets of meanings, signs and
values pertaining to different ideological discourses.

The general theme of the thesis is thus Muslim
identity in Bosnia and how individual Muslims and status
groups (with gender and age being the significant
variables) negotiate between different value-systems and
ideological discourses and in this way define what it means
to be a Bosnian Muslim. Applying the term "negotiation" in
this context may give the impression of something which is
rational, conscious and active. This is not necessarily so.
The thesis attempts to show how Bosnian Muslims, in
changing contexts, individually as well as collectively,
define, construct, and recreate their identity through
mediating between different value systems. The term does
not refer primarily to "negotiation" between actors about
what should be the prevailing definition of reality as it
is understood in transactional analysis of ethnic
encounters. Muslim identity in Bosnia is not a given
entity. It is rather an ongoing process carried on by
persons who mediate, i.e. negotiate, between value systems
within a multi-ethnic, westerriised and atheist state.
"Negotiate" covers the need for a more open-ended word
which stresses that "Muslim" is not a given entity and also
allows for the aspect of conflict and contradiction (which
a word such as construct, commonly used in anthropological
analyses of identity, would not). This usage has close
affinity with the one applied by Rosen (1984:4) and
Herzfeld (1985:85-91).

0.4 Notes on fieldwork
This thesis is based on field research conducted in
Bosnia from June 1987 to November 1988. A month's revisit
was made in April 1990 at the start of the democratisation
process and the run up to the free elections in October
that year. The first four months of my stay were spent
mainly in Sarajevo. While I was there I attended a month
long language course for foreign students and later took
private lessons in Serbo-Croat. During this first period I
travelled around Bosnia to look for a suitable village to
conduct my research in. I spent September reading
ethnographic material in the library at the Zemalj ski Muzej
in Sarajevo and waiting for my research permit. From then
on I was in Sarajevo on a one year Yugoslav state
scholarship as part of the Yugoslav-Norwegian cultural
exchange program and officially affiliated to the
ethnography department of the Zemalj ski Muzej
My research interest was in Muslim ethnic identity in
Bosnia and how this identity was expressed through
practical Islam. The presence of Christian ethnic groups
and a doctrinal socialist (atheist) state made a
particularly interesting context for such a study. I was
looking for a village with a majority of Muslims but with
some Christian inhabitants. This, I thought, would give me
access to information about how the two groups saw each
other and perhaps there would be a richer pool of syncretic
practices. Furthermore, I was looking for a village which
was close enough to an urban centre to be experiencing the

impact of radical social change such as education, wage
labour and consumerism. This was particularly with a view
to studying the impact such changes had on women's lives.
Some villages in Bosnia are characterised by a majority of
households having at least one male member as migrant
worker (typically in Germany, Austria or the Gulf states).
My priority, however, was a Muslim community where its
members were permanently resident in the village. The
village I worked in had examples of labour migration, but
the majority of wage earners travelled to the nearby market
towns on a daily basis.
My village was chosen in close cooperation with the
ethnography department of the Zemaljski Muzej. The
department had contacts in a number of potentially
interesting villages. One of these was in the region north
of Sarajevo where sufism, in which I was interested, was
active. Accordingly with the support from my 'mentor'
Miroslav Niskanovic, we decided to visit the village, which
I shall here call Dolina, to see if it was possible to find
a household where I could stay.
Before I set of f for Bosnia I had been warned by
several scholars familiar with the area that it would be
very difficult to obtain a research permit to work in a
village. The problem turned out to be largely one of
bureaucratic procedures and their unfamiliarity with the
needs of long-term field research (Yugoslav ethnographers
tend to concentrate their fieldwork into episodic periods
of some weeks spread over several years.) When I did

receive my permit I was told that this was the first permit
for long term research in a village to have been issued in
The point should be made here that the political
situation in 1988 was very different from today's. Research
focusing on religion and Islam was not encouraged and
people were wary of talking about such issues to
"outsiders". This was one of the reasons why I chose to
focus on women. I experienced a radical change, however, in
openness on my revisit in 1990. It was only then I realised
that talking to informants in the field can also be about
asking straightforward questions and being given clear
answers, without the anthropologist and the informant both
having to 'read between the lines'. Of course this was
partly because I was now well known to the people I was
talking to and that they had come to trust me; but this was
far from the whole story... The recent democratisation
process culminating in multi-party elections in October
1990, has fostered a new attitude of outspokenness in
Bosnia. People are now willing to talk about Islam in a way
which previously had been both rare and potentially risky.
This new atmosphere has had the positive effect of giving
Muslims a renewed confidence in displaying their rituals
and customs.
In 1988 I visited Dolina with my mentor five times
over a period of six weeks before we finally found a
household which agreed to accommodate me. The village Imam
had agreed to mediate for us, but we were near giving up on

the fifth visit. However, while we were in the mosque
discussing what to do after yet another rejection a young
girl arrived and said that her parents had Lnvited us for
coffee. Miroslav was all smiles, "that's it", he said,
"you've got a family". And he was right. I settled in the
next week.
Travelling to my new home the first t%onday I thought
about people's reluctance to include me into their village
community - for which no anthropological field accounts had
prepared me. It transpired that the villagers were mainly
worried about two things: first, my status as an unmarried
woman meant that households with adult unmarried sons would
not accommodate me, and that they would have to worry about
my sexual conduct. As I was later told "you could have been
svasVta (lit, all sorts of things). Secondly, I was a
Christian (in addition to being a foreigner) and a guest.
Many women considered the implications for their cooking to
be too much of a burden. Would I be able to eat their food?
Would they have to cook food specially for me? Did that
mean they would have to cook pork? And as a guest there
should of course be something extra. With all this initial
strong reluctance to accommodate me and my equally strong
reluctance to give up I felt a little insecure about the
prospect of my stay in the village. I felt that things
could easily go wrong and people turn against me. With
these thoughts on my mind I got out of the car in front of
Nusreta's house, but as soon as I saw her coming smiling
and welcoming towards me I knew that everything was going

to be fine. Nusreta's kitchen was full of women drinking
their coffee, smiling at me and asking me questions I did
not always understand. These were the women from Nusreta's
neighbourhood (throughout the week there would be visits by
villagers who would come to greet me) and these were the
women I was to spend most time with during my stay. From
this first hectic day I remember two things quite vividly:
the woman who said, "we will teach you everything", and the
two young girls from next door who took me aside and asked
me to come over to their house as they wanted to talk with
me too. My ambiguous role as an unmarried woman who spent
her time both among married women and unmarried girls was
already set.
My status was, however, primarily that of a "maiden"
who "should not go anywhere on her own". A member of my
household or neighbourhood would usually accompany me on
visits in the village although the attitude towards me
walking on my own became more relaxed towards the end of my
stay. The concern with a household member's loyalty to the
unit (i.e. the other members) and the fear that I might
betray them or gossip about them contributed to a readiness
to limit the scope of my activities in the village. How the
other villagers related to me and what they told me was
also influenced by my membership of one particular
My status as a "maiden" clearly affected the kind of
data I had access to. Although I spent much time at cof fee-
visits with married women, listening to and participating

in their conversations, issues concerning married life and
sexuality were generally avoided in my presence. As time
passed, however, the women I knew best became much more
relaxed about discussing such matters in my presence. Most
of the (somewhat restricted) data I do have on such matters
were obtained in face-to-face discussions with individual
The fact that I spent much time with the married women
made the young girls insecure about where I stood in
relation to them, and this persisted until I started to
accompany them to the dances. I was repeatedly told that
the married women were gossips and that there were certain
things the girls never told them because "they would not
understand". The young girls shared with me their most
intimate thoughts and feelings about their courtships,
hopes for the future and relationship with their seniors.
At the dances I experienced for the first time the
reassurance of having become an accepted member of a 'moral
community'. At any approach from an unknown man, a young
man from my village would turn up to ask me if the other
man was bothering me, and if he thought he was he would
tell him that "she is ours". This demonstration of
protection allowed me to walk around fairly undisturbed and
to observe and participate as I wished.
My status in the village simultaneously restricted me
to the world of women and excluded me from the world of
men, consequently i only have limited information about the
latter - mostly obtained through women. My general approach

was to conduct unstructured interviews with my informants
and because of their suspicion of outsiders and officialdom
I realized that making notes in front of them would create
an unwanted atmosphere of insecurity and alienation. I
therefore only made notes in front of my informants on the
few occasions when I arranged structured interviews
concerning 'impersonal' matters; for example the
agricultural cycle, or the names of different prayers. Most
of the time I preferred that people themselves lead me to
the issues which were important in their lives. In a
similar vein, I would go to those events and places outside
the village where the villagers would themselves go (to a
religious gathering; to the market town to shop, to see the
doctor or to arrange various permits at the local council;
to relatives in another village to visit or to celebrate an
event etc.). In this way the village women lead me into the
warp and weft of their lives.
Although I visited all the Muslim households within
the upper part of Dolina (where I stayed) at leastox
st once, I
found it difficult to visit all the Catholic households
within the same area. This was because I had to be clear
about my loyalty to the Muslim community. The few Catholic
households I did visit all had a member (a young girl or a
woman) who was a good friend of my Muslim neighbours; my
visits were sporadic and only started after some months in
the village. I did the standard household census for all
seventy-five households (Muslim and Catholic) but I only
obtained my data indirectly; I went through every house

(except for those I knew intimately) with a key informant
who gave me the data on household composition, names, ages,
number of children, education and occupation and family
ties with other households. The reasons for doing the
survey in this less satisfying way were a combination of
the reasons I mentioned for not writing down notes in front
of people and my status (as and unmarried woman and a
"Christian") which made some households less accessible to
me than others.
On my return visit in 1990 I stayed with the same
family as before, that of Nusreta. The family had however
moved to a different part of the village about twenty
minutes walk from 'my old neighbourhood'. I made this walk
nearly every day and this time I went to visit alone which
now occasioned no comment.

0.5 The format of the thesis

The analytical focus of the thesis moves between
different levels of social and cultural identity: the
person (gender and age), the household, the village (the
ethnic community) the region and the nation state. A
division of the thesis into chapters which corresponds
fully to these different levels has been neither desirable
nor possible, since in many contexts these levels are part
of each other or even congruent. Yet the stress on the
household as the unit of interaction reflects an indigenous
The thesis consists of two distinct parts. The first

part focuses on secular customs and rituals and thus deals
with the "social" (and secular) aspects of Muslim identity
and the Muslim community. The second part is devoted to the
Islamic and religious aspects of Bosnian Muslim identity
and seeks to define a Bosnian Islam. The two parts are
linked by the role of women as both pivots of Muslim social
identity and the repositories of religious values.
Chapter 1 presents the village and its general
cultural and ethnic setting. It should be noted that the
material concerning the Croat Catholics is far from being
as thorough as could have been wished for. However, two
points should be made: first, this account is about the
Bosnian Muslims and, secondly, the field-work situation was
such that, as a "Christian" and outsider, I was required to
demonstrate my loyalty to Muslim households and the Muslim
community; my relationship with Catholics were therefore
never as intimate. Chapter 2 discusses visiting patterns
and social exchange activities as the social 'glue' which
forms and defines the ethnic community. (I shall argue that
the village Dolina in effect consists of two more or less
separate communities.) It shows Catholics as peripheral to
such exchanges, but most importantly for the present
argument women as wives are identified as the most active
in and central to such exchanges which nevertheless link
the community to the wider village. In the ensuing chapters
3-6, we shall look in more detail at women's different
roles and changing statuses within the household and the
community. We shall follow women's life-cycles; their

various status changes, from unmarried girl through
courtship to bride as a new member of their husband's
household and patri-group and ultimately as the female head
of her own household. Chapters 3-5 correspond to what I see
as the three phases in the process of marrying: courtship,
wedding procedures and the establishment of affinal
relationship through gift-exchange. Chapter 3 is a
description of the introductory stage, courtship or
aikovanje, which may or may not lead to marriage. I shall
show in what sense courtship has changed and what young
people in Dolina value in a potential marriage partner.
Chapter 4 discusses the decisive act in the marrying
process, when the bride goes to live with her bridegroom in
his household. I shall look at the different forms of
wedding chosen by young couples who decide to get married.
We shall see that very few marriages actually take place
according to what is perceived as the wedding custom and I
shall point to some possible reasons why this is so.
Chapter 5 deals with some of the wider implications of
marriage for the households and families which have been
brought together in affinal relationship through the
marriage of one of their members. I shall focus in
particular on the visiting patterns and gift-exchange
associated with the establishment of these relationships.
We shall find that women through marriage become important
links with social networks outside the hamlet (i.e. the
patri-group) and the village. In chapter 6 we shall then
move with the woman into the household, look at its

composition and its developing cycle and her relation with
other members of the household and the role she ultimately
plays in its division. Chapter 7 will examine the symbolic
aspects of women's unmarried and married status and relate
these to their religious and ethnic identity. I shall focus
in particular on women as the pivots of Muslim identity and
how conflicting discourses about Muslim identity are
reflected in the conflict and symbolic opposition between
married and unmarried women. More generally this chapter
brings out a theme which runs through the whole thesis:
namely, the relationship between the household and the
conununity and the idea that women oscillate between the two
spheres occupying a position which may be described as
intermediate. Indeed, women are best seen as the mediators
both on a practical and a symbolic level between the two
worlds (cf. Dubisch, 1986:208). In part two we shall see
that this role is echoed in their role as mediators between
official and popular Islam.
The second part of the thesis (chapters 8-10) is
devoted to Bosnian Islam and focuses on the interplay
between doctrines (the orthodox version) and actual beliefs
and practices. It pursues the argument that women are
mediators between different ideologies and their discourses
about Muslim identity. By focusing on women as actors and
participants in religious practices, I hope to avoid
falling into the official, public, male stereotype of Islam
according to which the degree of women's subordination is
evaluated, and be able to say something about the process

that has as its outcome a specific "Bosnian Islam".

Footnotes Introduction

1. See Honour and Shame and the Unity of the Mediterranean, ed.
David Gilmore (1987) for a discussion of such common traits.
2. According to Irwin the term for designating the Bosnian
Muslims on official national census has had different forms: "The
1948 census contained a choice between three categories: 'Moslem-
Serbs', 'Moslem-Croats' and 'Moslems unspecified". In the 1953
census "Moslem" was dropped as "Moslem indicates membership in
the Moslem religious faith and has no connection with any kind
of national question" The 1953 census admitted the problem by
dropping any reference to "Moslem" in favour of the term
"Yugoslav unspecified". The 1961 census introduced the term
"ethnic Moslems" (Irwin, 1984:442-3).
3. This is, however, with the exception of a rather small
educated urban elite who to some extent identify themselves with
the world community of Islam, and look to Turkey and the Arab
world for identification. For a discussion of this particular
section of the Bosnian Muslim community see Sorabji, 1989.
4. This issue has, however, recently been observantly addressed
by Cornelia Sorabji in her 1989 Ph.D thesis. But her study is
restricted to urban Sarajveo, and it is therefore my hope that
this present study of Muslims in rural Bosnia will complement



1.1 The settinci

The village of Dolina 1 is situated in a valley about
two hours' drive north of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.
Until about two years ago, access to the village from the
main road going north towards Croatia was a muddy path
along a river, running through the village. The new
straight, asphalted road was a community project, to which
each household in the village contributed financially. The
settlements run along each side of the river, the mountain
slopes getting steeper and the village narrowing until the
valley is swallowed in a forest-covered mountain gorge.

1.1.2 Physical and social division

Dolina is a thriving village which the young do not
necessarily leave for more urban areas, although they
prefer to live on "flat land" in the lower part of the
village, as it is closer to the main road to Sarajevo,
nearer school for their children, as well as closer to the
market town and public services.
Both geographically and sociologically, Dolina can be
seen to consist of two major areas: the original
settlements on higher ground and the newer ones further
down the valley. The lower part of the valley is more open,
with large flat fields on both sides of the river and the

road running alongside it; the mountains are more distant
and less dominating. In this area individual houses are
scarce and there are relatively large areas of land between
each one. Houses are bigger and more modern than in the
upper part, the architecture being clearly different. They
are mostly inhabited by couples with children, the husband
having grown up in one of the settlements in the upper
part. Half-way up the village there is a shop which marks
the entrance into the second and upper part of Dolina. The
hills on both sides become steeper and move closer,
settlements are considerably denser, there are two distinct
house types, and this part is made up of clearly defined
By the shop a path to the right leads to hamlets which
once, before the current administrative unit of Dolina was
drawn up after the war, had status as separate villages. On
the top of the hillside, not far from the Catholic
churchyard, the forest has been cut down and the land,
which was owned by the municipality, sold to young couples
from Dolina's different hamlets, where they are building
new houses and tilling the land. This settlement is the
newest in Dolina, and the patrilineal kinship structure
which is the organising principle for other settlements has
almost virtually disappeared, even if there are examples of
brothers building next to each other. It can no longer be
assumed that close neighbours are kin.
On the stretch of land immediately beyond the shop and
almost as far as the mosque, in the middle of the upper

part, most houses are Catholic. A house inhabited by
Catholics is easily distinguishable from one inhabited by
Muslims by a marked difference in architecture. Muslim
houses are square (as is the village mosque), while the
Catholic ones are rectangular, with the longest side facing
out towards the village. These architectural differences
are characteristic throughout Bosnia. However, the
differences are becoming increasingly blurred even in the
villages, as Muslims tend to build their new houses in a
more rectangular shape and of two or even three storeys.
Their houses thus look less distinct from the Catholic
ones, but are considered more "modern" and urban. A
statement of Muslim identity is nevertheless made, since
these new houses are built with their short side facing
towards the village (i.e. the road).
The mosque is situated in the middle of the upper part
of Dolina. All the houses in the vicinity are Muslim and
houses are in clusters, consisting of between two and four
dwellings and a couple of out-houses. Such clusters, which
I shall call settlements, are usually inhabited by brothers
and their elementary family, the youngest brother staying
in the old house with his parents if they are still alive.
One dwelling does not necessarily house one elementary
family, as it is not uncommon for one dwelling to be split
into two or even three household units as sons marry. This
is not considered ideal by the young couple, but in many
cases they have no choice as they cannot afford to build
their own house. Some manage to build a house after years

of saving and building, but others never succeed.
Dolina is unusual in that Muslim and Catholic
settlements are interspersed. In most villages in Bosnia
which are mixed (either Musliin/Croat or Muslim/Serb) the
two groups are usually settled in different and clearly
defined areas of the village, e.g. in each end of the
village, on each side of a river (cf. Lockwood, 1975). In
Dolina, by contrast, a Muslim settlement is next door to a
Catholic settlement throughout the village. However, this
diffuse geographical and physical division does not
necessarily mean that the two ethno-religious groups are
more integrated than is the case in more clearly divided
Dolina is composed of the patrilineal descendants of
five Muslim families and two Catholic ones, all originally
settled in the upper part. However, a couple of families
with a surname different from these five have been added as
a result of an irregular non-patrilocal pattern of
settlement. In one instance a woman and her husband settled
on land given by her father in Dolina, in another a woman
returned to her native village with her son (whom she did
not leave with her husband's group, as would have been the
usual procedure). The son was eventually given land by his
mother's father and settled in Dolina with his family.
(Both these examples are considered exceptional also by the
villagers.) Among the Catholics the patrilocal pattern of
settlement is clear-cut and there are only two surnames.
According to the most recent statistics (1981) the

administrative unit of Dolina has 690 inhabitants divided
among 158 households, of which two-thirds are Muslim and
the remaining third Catholic. These figures, both the large
population and Muslim majority, are consistent with
statistics for 18892, when Dolina, then as now, had a
majority of Muslim households and the largest population of
any village in the district. Unlike the Austrian governors
who were in charge of the 1889 census, the compilers of the
1981 statistics do not specify the ethnic or religious
composition of Dolina. There are, however, indications that
the Catholic population is decreasing as more Catholics
move out or go abroad as migrant workers. While the
administrative definition of what constitutes the borders
of Dolina is unambiguous, the villagers themselves, as we
shall see, operate within more context-dependent
The settlements are often named by the surname of the
families inhabiting them. Each of these families would,
about fifty years ago, have had its own settlement with two
or three houses and fifteen to twenty-five patrilineally
related family members. Each house (dwelling) was called a
arcIak1ija, while the communal household (discussed in more
detail in chapter 6) was a zajednica. A .ardak1ija ( the
last one of which had been uninhabited since 1986 and was
falling down by 1988) is a large wooden building with open
hearths built in the style characteristic of Bosnia. Those
sons who broke out of communal living in a ëardaklija
fifteen to twenty-five years ago, usually with their young

wives and children, would not build a similar house, with
a view to creating a new household of the same size.
Rather, they would build modern houses of concrete which
were designed for much smaller household units. These will
be described in chapter 6. Since most of the land
immediately surrounding the original cardak1ija has now

already been built on, Sons (and in some cases their

fathers before them) today usually have to build their

house on their fathers' grazing fields further down the
valley. However, only the most prosperous families of the
upper part have enough land and assets (often gained
through migrant work abroad) to build houses further down
the village and this is reflected today in a marked
difference in socio-economic status between the households
in the upper and lower parts, the lower being the more
prosperous and urbanised of the two.

1.1.3 Sources of livelihood

For reasons of space and analytical focus I shall give
only the briefest account of economic life in Dolina. The
anthropology of the 1970s, in particular gave great
prominence to such matters (e.g. Wolf &Cole, Schneider &
Schneider, Davis, Cutileiroa.] but often to the neglect of
both gender and religion.
Only two households in the village receive their total
income from agriculture, while two households are
completely landless. The latter grow the most essential
vegetables on rented land. The adult male population

consists mainly of unskilled or semi-skilled labourers,
working in the nearby market towns or in the industrial
suburbs of Sarajevo. Some men have been to Germany as
migrant workers at some stage, but have later returned to
the village. Most households do not own sufficient land to
be economically viable, although most have plots of land
where they grow vegetables, or if they own larger areas,
hay. The majority of households are thus so-called "mixed
households", i.e. they draw their subsistence from both
agriculture and industry. 3 Those who have livestock, but
not enough land to grow hay may also enter into a contract
of kesim, as is the case with landless peasants. While I
stayed in the village two households were renting land from
a widow to grow basic agricultural products, beans, onions,
leeks, potatoes and maize; they paid her by giving her a
share of the crops which was negotiated in each case.
As has happened in many rural areas where wage labour
and labour migration have become a significant source of
income, agriculture has become feminized. 4 Informants'
accounts suggest, however, that in Dolina the change has
taken place over a longer period of time than may be common
in other villages (cf. Jancar, 1985). The change from
subsistence agriculture to wage labour is a process which
extends over at least three generations (i.e. approximately
sixty-eighty years) and may not be as striking as in other,
richer agricultural areas. Informants in their seventies
and eighties told me how, like the majority of village
households, they did not have viable land-holdings when

they started their own families, and had to seek wage
labour as an additional source of income. About fifty years
ago Dolina was a centre for the production of ceramic water
jugs (bardak). These were made following an old Roman
technique and pattern. (During the Roman period Dolina was
near the route which went from Rome via Dubrovnik and
eastward to Constantinople.) Many men then made jugs which
they sold on the market. The jugs were used in the
household and also in the mosques when taking abdest (the
ritual washing before prayers). Since the 1960s production
has been drastically reduced, and today demand is poor
since most households and mosques have installed water
taps. In some older mosques, however, the bardak is still
used and there is one man left in the village who practises
the skill, but he mainly makes miniature bardaks which he
sells in the market as souvenirs and for decoration.
After the war there was seasonal work in the forest,
and at one period a majority of Dolina's adult male
population was working in a factory about an hour's walk
away, producing bricks. This factory was, however, closed
down in the early seventies. After the workers had gone on
strike to demand higher pay, the management found it would
no longer be profitable to run. Many of these semi-
proletarian villagers have had to put up with unemployment
for long periods. Some migrate to the coast for periods of
seasonal work, mainly as builders, and some live of f social
benefits for periods during which they see their children
poorly fed and poorly dressed and are unable to send them

to school because they cannot afford books, bus fares and
clothes. Those who are unskilled have great difficulty in
finding a new job, and if they are landless as well the
outlook is bleak indeed. These two often go together as
they are self-perpetuating: a landless man is not able to
send his children to secondary school, and the child will
later have difficulties in finding a job so that the circle
of poverty, landlessness, lack of education and
unemployment is difficult to break out of.
During my stay only three of the unmarried girls and
one married woman (without any children) in the upper part
were working outside the household. (In the lower part
there were a couple of younger married women who continued
to work after maternity leave.) Some unmarried and young
married women have at some point worked as seamstresses at
the clothes factory in a nearby market town, but found it
very demoralising to do piece-work on a very low wage.
Today this factory, albeit doing well, has a bad reputation
among the female work force. Some young girls still work
there for a period of time until they marry or have a
child. Married women who are not employed may earn some
additional money by sewing or knitting on orders from other
villagers. Some also knit for a firm in a nearby market
town which exports hand-knitted jumpers abroad, or make
crocheted decorative items and tablecloths for sale
privately or on the market. In summer and autumn, the most
industrious women take their children to pick berries in
the forest which they then sell to the local co-operative

shop. The money they earn will often have been targeted for
communal household projects such as the buying of material
and clothes for dar as shown in chapter 5. The knitting and
crocheting is what women do whenever they visit each other

na kafu (see chapter 2).


1.1.4 Unit of study

Dolina proper, that is, the upper part of the village,
with the mosque as its obvious centre, was my main unit of
study. My census for this area consists of seventy-five
households, fifty-two Muslim and twenty-three Catholic. As
already mentioned, this part is divided into several
hamlets or settlements which consist of a cluster of two to
four houses inhabited by related families, usually a group
of brothers with their elementary families.
The present study is concerned with the Muslim
households in Dolina, although the remainder of this
chapter will focus on Dolina as a community of both Muslims
and Catholics, in order to give the context for discussions
in subsequent chapters which deal exclusively with the
Muslim community.

1.2 village administration

There are two formal authorities represented in the
village: first, the religious authorities through the
representatives of the Islamska Zajednica (Islamic

Association), the Imam and the village mosque council,

which will be discussed in chapter 8, and secondly, the

secular, socialist state authorities through the Mjesna
Zajednica (Community Council). While the community council
encompasses both the Muslim and the Catholic communities,
the mosque council merely integrates the Muslim community.
The village committee has four members, two Muslims and two
Catholics (Muslims are in a majority in the village, but on
the same principle as at state level, ethnic balance is
always attempted). They are appointed or elected for a
period of two years. (One of the present members has,
however, held the chair for a third period and is now in
his fifth year as secretary.) The committee mediates
between the villagers and the council of the larger
regional opsV tina . It is responsible for all issues
concerning the village community covered by legal statutes.
Any building projects, such as the building of a new house,
have to be reported to the committee, who will seek
approval from all the relevant administrative bodies
involved, such as the water authorities and the health
authorities. The committee also inobilises villagers
(manpower and money - minimum payment is set on the basis
of the individual household's known income) for the
building of community projects such as the road or the bus-
stop for the commuter bus to one of the Sarajevo factories.
The mosque council, on the other hand, will mobilise money
and labour for the building or maintenance work on the
mosque. There was a predominant feeling among the Dolina
inhabitants that the committee was there only when it
needed money from people for different projects and that

its demands would often come on top of those already made
by the mosque council and the Islamic Association. The
attitude towards communal work to assist a neighbour
building a house was noticeably different i.e. more
positive and it is clear that work for the community as
such does not entail the incentives of generalised
reciprocity (expectation of reciprocity is left indefinite
and unspecified, Cf. Sahlins, 1974). Community projects
organised by the community committee are more often than
not characterised by direct exchange and do not therefore
have the political potential (from a household's point of
view) of generalised reciprocity characteristic of social
exchange between households (described in chapter 2).
Grumbling remarks were still being made about the amount of
money some had to pay towards the building of the road
through the village two years ago. Similar comments were
never made with reference to financial contributions to the
mosque, for which such contributions are of a different
order since they are considered sevap (meritorious in the
eyes of God) and thus may be understood in terms of
generalised reciprocity between a household (and its
members) and the divine. (For a more detailed discussion of
sevap, see chapter 10.) However, although the mosque

council, unlike the village committee, only encompasses the

Muslim population, villagers would stress that the
Catholics had also contributed money to the building of a
new mosque, while, the Muslims had contributed towards the
building of a new church. Again, "giving" is based on the

idea of sevap and generalised reciprocity. The majority of
Muslims or Catholics do not in fact contribute to the
building of churches or mosques respectively. It may
therefore be better to treat this claim asxpression of an

idealised "solidarity model" rather than the real pattern.

However, as there are enough individuals who actually do
contribute to the building of the other group's mosque or
church, this model is perpetually reinforced and can thus
be effectively sustained.
The expression of such (idealised) solidarity and
tolerance across ethnic boundaries stands in stark contrast
to what people believe is an unusual lack of such
solidarity within the ethnic group and between neighbours.
Paradoxically, such a lack is often implicitly blamed on
precisely the presence of a different nacija in the

1.3 One villa ge, two communities

Although Dolina may in some contexts, or at some
levels of integration, be seen to act as one community of
which all households, irrespective of ethnic membership,
are part, the relative separateness of the Muslim and
Catholic communities in Dolina generates in effect two
distinct communities within the village, although they are
neither geographically nor administratively so. The Muslim
and Catholic communities interact and cooperate only in
certain areas; the secular activities discussed in chapter
2, unlike the religious rituals discussed in later

chapters, are those through which the two groups may
interact as neighbours and co-villagers. (However, rather
than being arenas for confirming a conunon village identity,
they are occasions for pointing out and seeking mutual
acknowledgement of differences.)
A common village identity is stated and recreated
through the constant assertion of collective images and
ideas about the village and its inhabitants based on
knowledge and assumptions of the wider geographical and
sociological contexts of which they are a part. The mutual
confirmation of a shared set of images, and ideas about the
community based on shared values and stated by the
majority, are what shapes a village identity. However, the
two ethnic groups share such values only to a limited
extent, and this process is carried on mainly within each
of the two communities and much less frequently at common
Muslim/Catholic arenas of interaction. There are thus not
Dolina villagers but Dolina Muslims and Dolina Catholics.
On the other hand great importance is attached to
traditions (significantly adet, a word of Turkish origin is
used rather than the standard Serbo-Croat word obicaj) and
the way in which they define a person and the community of
which s/he is a part. This implicitly demands a denial of
the village as a community of two groups with different
traditions. An awareness of the significance of adet is
epitomised in several proverbs: for instance, "Better that
the village should die than our customs" ("Bolje je da selo
propadne nego adeta"); "There are as many customs as there

are villages" ("Koliko sela, toliko adeta"). Such sayings
reflect the pronounced idea that traditions and customs are
what creates the group (the village) and gives a person his
or her identity; as we see from the second proverb, customs
may even be specific to one village (although there is no
proverb which expresses diversity of customs within the
village). A common set of customs forms the fabric of
village identity. A village thus equals one set of
"traditions"; anything else is a contradiction in terms,
and this is reflected in the image Dolina villagers invoke
of their village as a community of two nacije.

1.4 The image of Dolina

Our village is very beautiful,
only people here are no good.

The images and ideas people of Dolina have about their

village are statements of village particularism (i.e. the
inhabitants' notion that their village is different from
any other), which is a well-reported phenomenon in many
rural communities all over the Mediterranean (see e.g.
Herzfeld, 1985). The unusual thing about Dolina, however,
is that this particularism is expressed through negative
Earlier, Dolina was described as consisting of several
hamlets, some of which are considered as a different
village. When travelling outside Dolina people will say
they are from Dolina, meaning the larger unit; within the

village a villager will refer to his village (selo), or
hamlet (mahala) depending on whether he interacts within
his mahala or outside it. Within these definitions Dolina
is limited to the upper part of the village concentrated
around the mosque. This is the "real" Dolina, where the
original settlements were, and is also the area where
Muslim and Catholics live as next-door neighbours rather
than in separate mahalas as further down the valley. When
people living outside this more densely settled area visit
it, they will say they are "going up to the village". Such
people consider "the village" to be more traditional and
"backward": the inhabitants, it is said, quarrel and gossip
constantly and are ignorant; it is the part of Dolina where
"anything goes" (irna svasta). (It should be noted that this
expression refers to the moral quality of people's
behaviour rather than to the moral quality of the people
themselves.) Younger, status seeking couples usually move
out of the village and build a modern house in a hamlet
further "down" the village towards the market town, where
people are more urbanised and consequently seen to be more
"cultured" (see chapter 6).
Being "cultured" is associated with having formal
knowledge or education, but is also related to speech,
behaviour, dress and ultimately to material status. The
upper part of Dolina is considerably poorer than the lower
part, so a villager from this part moving outside Dolina
will more readily gain the label "uncultured" than one from
further down the valley. A person can be "uncultured"

(nekulturan) in the way s/he dresses, speaks (by swearing
a lot) and behaves (by being rude). In fact it should be
noted that Catholics are not usually included in these
judgements. This may be for two reasons: first, they are
not part of the Muslim villagers' social sphere and the
same rules do not apply to them, and secondly, they seem to
be considered by rural Muslims as intrinsically cultured:
they are not conspicuous in an urban context, since both
their dress and their speech are close to the urban and
western standard. One young Muslim girl I knew used to ask
her Catholic friend to give her advice on how to dress, and
to correct her whenever she used expressions that sounded
"old-fashioned" to her (these contain words of mainly
Turkish origin). Another opinion, expressed particularly by
women who have married into the village (from allegedly
more prosperous villages), is that Dolina is bijeda. The
word means poor, but also has the connotation of being
ignorant, uneducated and miserable. Thus, when used in this
context it refers not only to material poverty, but also to
a whole set of ideas associated with a lack of education
and knowledge: unemployment, fights, card-playing,
promiscuity, and (for women) keeping a dirty and untidy
home. In general, I was struck by the frequency of
derogatory remarks made to me about the people of Dolina by
the villagers themselves, particularly since the opposite
view was expressed about the village as a place. Comments
such as "this is the most beautiful village in the area"
were in sharp contrast to the negative remarks often made

about the people of Dolina. I suspect partly that such
negative statements may have been a gesture towards the
anthropologist, whom they saw as a representative of that
world which judges rural Muslims and places like Dolina as
"backward", "primitive" and "uncultured". (As an "excuse"
it was repeatedly stressed to me that it was difficult for
a person who had "had no schooling" to be cultured.)
Through pointing out the "primitiveness" in other people,
individuals would exclude themselves from such a
categorisation, apparently identifying with the evaluations
of the urbanised majority and, as they imagined, the
anthropologist. However, this is only partly an explanation
since it does not explain other contexts in which such
views were expressed. While nekulturan (uncultured) refers
more to a general lack of education and of "social
intelligence", the expression narod ovdje ne valja (lit.
folks here are of no value) was most commonly aired during
discussions on the behaviour of certain villagers (e.g. a
quarrel between neighbours, women having lovers, men
getting drunk). It has connotations of the moral and
religious and refers indirectly to the lack of Muslim faith
and devoutness. However, these evaluations often fell short
of ascribing "un-Islamic" village behaviour to the presence
and assumed influence of another religious group, although
the alleged lack of solidarity in the village (also within
the Muslim community) is often explained by the fact that
the village is of mixed ethno-religious composition. The
ideal village composition voiced by Muslim villagers was to

have as "few surnames as possible", and preferably Muslim
only5 . Dma, a young Muslim girl, reflected such ideas when
explaining why people in Dolina are "no good":
In Dolina somebody is always quarrelling with somebody
else. Take for instance the village where my sister is
married, just across the mountain. In that village there
are only Muslims, no Catholics, and there are only two
surnames [i.e. two families or kin groups]. She has been
there for more than ten years and there has never been
anybody who has not been on speaking terms with anybody
else in the village. Everybody helps each other and
supports each other more than people do here.
Dma's Catholic friend agreed:
Dolina is a beautiful place, but somehow people
here do not get along well. Cooperation is bad.
For instance when we had the road made, it was
very difficult for people to agree, and some
refused to pay for it. I don't know what it is
However, we think Muslims help each other
more, we do not care so much about other people's
problems; we are more egoistic.

1.5 Defining self and the "other": Muslims and Catholics

as neighbours

The difference between Muslims and Catholics

is in the way they pray and what they eat.

(Muslim woman)

The focal point for the Muslims'
consciousness of themselves as a conuiiunity, the mosque, is
situated in the centre of Dolina. The Catholics' focal
point, the church, is situated outside the village, about
3-4 kilometres away towards one of the market towns, and
their community feeling is directed as much outwards as
inwards. And while the Catholics of Bosnia look to Rome for
their spiritual leadership, the Bosnian Muslims look only
to a limited extent beyond Bosnia: their religious
leadership has its seat close at hand in Sarajevo. It could
be argued that the Muslims' community identity is more
strongly attached to Dolina, and their village
particularism is much more pronounced. Thus, it was my
impression that the Muslims would be more ready than the
Catholics to ascribe certain characteristics of village
life as particular to the place. Catholics, on the other
hand, would identify these same characteristics as typical
of the (uneducated) Muslims. While Muslims would ascribe
certain characteristics to the fact that they were
villagers rather than townspeople (and usually had less
education than townspeople), Catholics would usually see
them as a characteristic of Muslim villagers rather than of
villagers generally. For instance Catholic schoolgirls
would point out that when the Dolina Muslims talked
differently from them (using words which most people
consider old-fashioned and stressing the second syllable of
words instead of giving them an even stress, such as do
or do 6 ), "we immediately know that s/he is a Muslim and

a villager (seijak)" and that school-children who spoke
like that receive comments like: "How do you talk?" "Where
did you learn that?" "They learn one thing at school, but
when they arrive home their parents talk to them in their
way and the kids learn it and carry it on." Other
differences were pointed out by a twenty-three-year old
Catholic girl working as a nurse:
Most Muslims have more children than we do and so
are worse of f. They also dress differently, but
as soon as they move outside the village they
dress so that one cannot say if they are Muslims
or something else. We generally dress the same
way both at home and when we go out. We could
just as well have been from town, nobody can tell
that we are villagers. Earlier, when our parents
were young, we were also different from those in
town, but we have left that and now there is no
difference. But Muslims keep more to their ways.
I do not know why this is so.

It has already been argued that among the Bosnian

Muslims the relations between neighbours are at least as
important as all others, including kinship (see Lockwood,
1975, Sorabji, 1989). However, the validity of this
assertion is modified in cases like Dolina, where Muslims
are the nearest neighbours of Catholics. Although the men
and especially women who grew up in Dolina next to Catholic
families interact more naturally and frequently with their
former Catholic neighbours (and as a result know more about
the other groups' customs than is usually the case), these
relations are usually between individual members of

households rather than between household units, and are as
a result never formalised or reinforced through any
communal rituals. Women in Dolina who Ihave no experience of
interacting with members of the other group, either because
they come from an all-Muslim village or because there were
no Catholics in their immediate neighbourhood, often feel
uncomfortable visiting Catholic households.
One woman who rarely went to visit Catholics, in spite
of her close neighbours being quite friendly with some
Catholic neighbours, explained that she did not like to go
"in those houses" because they cooked in pork fat (Muslims
use oil). It might have got into anything they served her,
such as cakes, or residues might have been left on plates
or cups. The food in Catholic houses was clearly a major
problem for Muslims and was often given as the reason why
they would feel uncomfortable visiting them. On the one
hand food which had been in touch with pork would be haram
(illicit); on the other hand, however, according to Bosnian
ideas about giving and receiving hospitality it would be
considered rude to refuse any food offered by the hostess.
Nevertheless, Muslims and Catholics who are neighbours
do visit each other to a limited extent, usually only on
special occasions (na slatko and na ialost; see chapter 2).
This is particularly the case with a death, when it would
be considered shameful not to pay one's respects by
visiting "in sorrow" (na Lalost). (Muslims would, however,
feel uneasy about visiting a Catholic household during the
vigil, and would probably wait until after the funeral had

taken place.)
These visits are opportunities for the two groups to
make frequent references to the differences between them.
Whenever I asked a question related to ways of behaving or
doing things in the village my informants would almost
inevitably begin their answer with "among us..." (kod
nas...). This expression would refer not to the village
population, but only to the ethnic community in question.
It was particularly noticeable at coffee-visits (see
chapter 2) by Muslims to Catholic households or vice versa.
The "among us" at the start of a sentence in mixed ethnic
company would signal a statement about differences between
the two groups. On one occasion I accompanied three Muslim
women to visit a Catholic woman who had returned from
hospital; other Catholic women in the neighbourhood joined
in to have a chat. (All the women were born in the village
and grew up as close neighbours.) The conversation revolved
around issues common to any coffee-visit: the work the
women had done in the house, the last rise in prices, etc.
However, friendly acknowledgements of differences in
customs between the hosts and the visitors were made
throughout. Thus, a Catholic woman told her Muslim
neighbours that she had been to the market and seen a good
and reasonably priced material for making "your bo5a" (a
cloth which the Muslims put on the floor when eating;
although Catholics today eat at a table this is a fairly
recent practice in Dolina). Furthermore, when putting out
coffee-cups the hostess put out one teaspoon for each

guest. The Muslim women said they could share one, but the
Catholic host answered that "among us" they put out one
teaspoon for each person. Although this may have been a
display of "cultured behaviour" in honour of the foreign
and "Christian" guest, it still illustrates the way in
which ethnic differences are stated and group boundaries
drawn. However, such statements would inevitably be
followed by jokes and humorous comments referring to common
experiences as women, thus counterbalancing the statements
of differences. Similar comments about differences in all-
Muslim company might refer not only to the other religious
group but also to other socio-cultural units: the town, the
region, Bosnia or even Yugoslavia, thereby conveying the
idea that other peoples might follow different customs but
with the same legitimacy. However, the Catholics' religious
rituals and beliefs would fall into a totall'j different
category of otherness. Their customs, to the extent they
were known (Muslims would usually know when the Christian
festivals took place, but not what was being celebrated),
would provide not so much a comparison as a tautological
legitimation of Muslim customs by way of differentiation:
we are Muslim because we do things differently from the
Catholics and we do things differently because we are
Muslim and not Catholic. Individual villagers would express
their approval or disapproval of a specific custom existing
elsewhere, but they would never imply that "we-got-it-
right-and-they-didn't"; rather, they would add: "It is
different among them, but we are used to our ways", or, if

it was a custom not strongly disapproved of, they would
say: "What is valid for her/him is valid for me" ("ta
/njemu vaija meni vaija"). Similarly, Muslims and
Catholics would merely state the differences factually and
then add: "This is the way they have learnt it" reflecting
an ultimately tolerant and pluralist attitude towards the
"other". Yet tolerance can have its limits: it is one thing
for Catholics to have their own rituals, but another
altogether for a Muslim to copy them. At Easter it is the
custom for Catholics to paint eggs and give them to those
Muslim children who are their immediate neighbours. The
children used to be excited about this and told me, "we do
it like this", while showing me how they knocked two eggs
against each other to see which one was the strongest. The
father of two Muslim children overheard this and got very
angry, saying "We have never done that until now."

1.6 The ethnic boundar y , a boundary between two moral

The lack of any clearly defined physical or
geographical boundaries is counteracted by drawing
boundaries between two clearly defined and different moral
worlds by way of symbolic contrast with the customs and
values of the other group. Thus customs practised by the
Serbs but not by the Catholics, such as Jurjevdan
(discussed in chapter 9), are practised by the Muslims in
Dolina and in other mixed Muslim and Catholic/Croat
villages, but not in other villages to the east with a

mixed Muslim and Orthodox/Serb population. In other words,
the presence of the other ethnic group is needed in the
process of constructing ethnic identity, since it is mainly
through its presence that a person is taught awareness (by
way of contrast) of his or her own ethnic identity.
Differences in dress and style of house are only a
reflection of this attitude in everyday life. Without clear
geographical divisions, boundaries are acknowledged by
drawing up two separate moral worlds which include both the
animate (people and animals) and the inanimate (land). Thus
the Catholic shepherd would shout to his animals not to
trespass onto neighbouring Muslim land when he brought them
home in the evening from pastures in the mountains: "Come
back, do not go over there, it is Muslim." This was to the
great amusement of his Muslim neighbours, who thought he
was stupid to think his sheep would understand the
difference. (Although this man was very aware of the
boundaries of the two groups, he was very friendly with the
Muslims and used to say that he was a Catholic with a
Muslim heart, while one of his Muslim friends, he argued,
was a Muslim with a Catholic heart.) The idea that land can
have an ethnic identity came through in the following
story. Two neighbouring households, A and B, had entered a
situation where none of the respective members were on
speaking terms. At a ritual occasion the woman in household
A received a gift from the woman in household B on behalf
of her household, as is the custom. The woman in household
A, however, returned the gift - a serious insult - on the

grounds that the husband in household B had made critical
remarks to her brother about her son having let the cows
walk into "foreign (i.e. Catholic] land" (tudflo zemiji),

making the milk they drank haram. Jiaram usually denotes

what is illicit according to the commandments of the Quran,
but is here used with the meaning of being damned or
Perhaps the most conspicuous expression of a moral
boundary between the two ethnic groups is concerned with
intermarriage. In rural areas there is usually a non-
negotiable boundary between members of different ethnic
groups wishing to marry. Although the villagers are clearly
aware that the boundary is transgressed in more urban
settings, this difference in behaviour would be ascribed by
devout Muslims to the lack of "faith" in towns. A Muslim
mother said:
I would never allow my daughter to marry somebody from
a different religion. In town I know it is different, more
people do marry those from different religions, but that is
because in town this is not important; they have no
religion. In villages, however, we are all believers. Also,
the kids from mixed marriages will not have any friends
since they are neither Catholics nor Muslims.
Urban areas are not only more secularised but also
more influenced by western ideas of individualism. A young
couple who are economically independent may more easily act
independently of their parents' wishes. Many villagers
would acknowledge the differences in attitude between town

and country:
We are the way our social environment (sredina)
is, and here we see things this way, although
they see things differently in town... We respect
their (Catholic] holidays, their churches, their
prayers and we see it as a sin to blaspheme
against their sacred symbols..., but we do not
marry them!

The boundary which still operates among rural Muslims

and Catholics is illustrated in the following case-history.
A Catholic had brought home a Muslim bride, but the man's
mother refused to share the house with her and the bride
had to leave. This was the second time his mother had
refused to accept his choice of bride. On an earlier
occasion her son had brought home a Serb woman, whom his
mother had also rejected because: "they cross themselves
with three fingers and we with five". She would only accept
a daughter-in-law from the same faith. I expressed my
surprise at this woman's tenacious opposition to a Muslim
daughter-in-law, since she was particularly friendly with
Muslim women in the village. Yes, they agreed:
We get along well and we have a good time
together, but this is one thing, another is to
have somebody from a different religion together
with you in the kitchen. When two who prepare
different foods and keep different holy days
share the same house many problems arise.

A young, modern Catholic girl echoed these views:

I wish everybody was one nacija 7 , that everybody
was either Croat, Serb or Muslim. It would have

been so much simpler if we were all the same. You
may be good friends with those from other
religions, but you do not marry them. It is
better not to because so many problems occur. He
wants you to take his religion and you want him
to take yours; and when children arrive, the
problem is what name to give them, etc., and then
the respective families interfere. This is why it
is better to marry somebody from your own

Although it might be thought that intermarriage would

become easier and more common as the marrying couple
increasingly live separately from the man's parents, I do
not think this very likely to happen. A common set of
customs and traditions (adet), the building blocks of group
identity, are to a significant extent defined in relation
to those of the other group. The taboo on intermarriage is
the ultimate perpetuation of group distinctions.
In this chapter we have seen how a village which is
ethnically mixed form separate communities and thus village
identities. The village does not equal one group and one
set of customs, referred to by people themselves as adet.
Furthermore, there is a pronounced idea that people are
formed by their social environment ("We are the way our
social environment is...") and group values and by
implication group identity are seen as constantly
threatened by different "traditions" and values; it needs

to be strengthened by constant statements of "what our

customs are and are not". While individual differences are
condemned within the ethnic group, differences between the

two groups are acknowledged, so that individual loyalty to
group values is encouraged and group identity enhanced.
Although some secular activities (unlike religious
activities) can include the "other" group and thus
acknowledge the existence of a village community beyond the
speaker's ethno-religious group, social bonds are
strengthened in particular through different kinds of
ritualised social exchange. As we shall see in the next
chapter, such exchange takes place primarily between
households belonging to the same ethnic group and only to
a limited extent between Muslim and Catholic households.

Footnotes chaDter 1

1. All names of people and places have been changed in the usual
way to protect the integrity of my informants.
2. The Official Statistics of the Austrian Government in Bosnia.
Copy of the Zemalj ski Muzej in Sarajevo.
3. See Morokvai6 1986 for a further discussion of this economic
adaptation in rural Yugoslavia, and see Franklin, S.H. 1969 for
this phenomenon in the wider European context.
4. I shall not go into a discussion of "feminization" here, but
see Moore, H. 1988:75-80 for a comprehensive discussion and
critique of the concept.
5. Friendly co-existence between Muslims and Catholics in Dolina
was brutally shaken 15 years ago when three Muslim youths were
attacked by a group of Catholic youths and two of them stabbed
to death; the third managed to escape. The Catholic youths were
later convicted and sent to prison. Their immediate families
moved out of Dolina, but some of the Muslims and Catholics
related to those involved have not been on speaking terms all
these years. Only towards the end of my stay, my landlord (the
brother of the one who escaped) told me that a certain Catholic
had started to greet him after 15 years of passing each other in
6. Although this is not a difference only restricted to rural
areas, Catholics would also point out that Muslims pronounce the
letter H in words more strongly and more often than they do. This
impression is probably based on the fact that Muslims use more
words with an Arabic origin.
7. Nacija is the official designation of an ethnic group, but
since in Bosnia ethnic identity follows religious affiliation
nacija would refer to the latter. Thus when the anthropologist
was asked what nacija she belonged to the correct answer would
be protestant and not Norwegian.


2.0 Introduction
In the preceding chapter we discussed how both a
common village identity and an ethnic identity are
constructed through the constant assertion of oppositional
as well as collective images and ideas about the village
and its inhabitants. In this chapter we shall look at how
the community is integrated and recreated through day-to-
day interaction and communal activities. A central aspect
of this interaction is social exchange. Social exchange
entails unspecified obligations and is defined as "the
voluntary actions of individuals that are motivated by the
returns they are expected to bring" (Vinogradov, 1974:2)
These can take many forms such as ceremonial gift giving,
voluntary work, ritualised hospitality and
institutionalised visiting patterns and are often closely
interrelated through the cultural ethos of honour and
hospitality. As such, "hospitality is the central ritual of
secular social relations" (Ortner, 1978:62). In fact "to
refuse to give, or to fail to invite is like refusing to
accept (...] it is to reject the bond of alliance and
commonality" (Mauss, 1990: 13). And in the "refusal to
give" lies clearly also the seed of animosity and
neighbourhood quarrelling. As we shall see, Catholics are
part of Muslim social exchange patterns only to a limited
extent and significantly Muslims and Catholics are not
involved in each others' neighbourhood quarrels. In Dolina

social exchange is not through individuals but between
household units, and is significantly less between Muslim
and Catholic households than between those within each
Some social exchange activities, like coffee-visits,
create social bonds and obligations between households
mainly through women and thus integrate the community
through women; others, like communal or voluntary work,
through men; still others, like evening gatherings
(sijelo), engage both women and men. All are activities

which take place outside the household, and the fact that
people act as individuals as well as on behalf of the
household unit may create conflicts of interest or
accentuate already-existing conflicts between members of
the household.

2.1 Communit y work

Both projects initiated by the village committee and
those initiated by the mosque council are based on
voluntary work for the community (see chapter 1). The other
form of voluntary work is done by neighbours for the
individual household. This is a project most people are
much readier to contribute to: first, the giver may expect
to have his help reciprocated and, secondly, there is the
promise of sociability, food and drink at the end of the
work. This kind of help includes the building of a house,
work on the fields or any other major operation for the
benefit of the household which needs to be carried out

quickly. The host, or head of the household will feed the
workers, who will bring the necessary tools. Such voluntary
work was traditionally called inoba, but the most common
term today is akcija, a word used by the state to mean
communal work, particularly the voluntary mass physical
labour performed by young people under the auspices of the
Communist youth organisation.' The Bosnian ethnographer
Ve].ibor Stojakovi6 suggests that14the moba is understood as
a one-way transaction, which means that reciprocity is not
expected (1987). This is, however, an idealised model which
equals any idea of reciprocity with "direct exchange". I
found that reciprocity was an important aspect, although it
would be left unspecified, and provided the incentive to
lend a neighbour a hand. On several occasions I heard wives
encourage their husbands to contribute at a work-party
because the person hosting it had helped them with similar
work and it would therefore be shameful not to reciprocate.
Thus while it would in any case be shameful for a man not
to give a close neighbour a helping hand in the
construction of his house, the disgrace would be reinforced
if the same neighbour had once given him a helping hand.
So, in fact, there is a strong moral obligation to help all
those who once helped you. This is particularly true for
major construction work, and it will be well remembered who
came along to help and who did not.
During the last ten years the most common form of
akcija has been in connection with the building of a house.
Collective work projects for 'this purpose are frequent,

because more households can afford to build as a result of
migrant work abroad, but also because values are changing.
Ideas about individualism have contributed to the splitting
up of the communal household and the core-family's desire
to live alone, but also to the redirection of resources
previously spent on communal celebrations, especially life-
cycle rituals, into the building of houses. The person
hosting the house-building akcija will have announced it a
week or two beforehand among his neighbours, relatives and
friends in the village; sometimes in-laws or work
colleagues may arrive from outside Dolina.
Muslims and Catholics who are good friends or next-
door neighbours will usually give each other a helping hand
during the construction work. Nevertheless, the day the
roof is laid and the ridge-pole raised and the major
"building-party" is held the company is rarely ethnically
mixed. There may be several reasons for this: first,
Muslims will usually hold the party on a Sunday when the
men are not at work. Catholics. too would normally refrain
from work, but for religious reasons. Secondly, food is
served, and while the Muslim tradition of serving mutton
does not pose any problems for the Catholics, the latter's
serving of pork (their core ceremonial food) would pose
problems for the Muslims and reciprocal obligations cannot
therefore be met. A "building-party" is in effect then
another activity which stresses the separateness of the two
religious communities, and serves to strengthen the
solidarity of members within one ethnic group. The event at

which the ridge-pole is raised is called sleme (meaning
ridge-pole), and the custom is for neighbouring households
("those who wish") to give presents to the household
sponsoring it. While the voluntary workers who have arrived
in large numbers for the final roof-laying keep working,
the craftsman who has been supervising the work will attach
all the gifts to a crossbar attached to the ridge-pole. The
gifts are thus displayed for neighbours and any passer-by
to see. Every time the host (domadin) receives a gift, and
this may go on for hours, the "maestro" (craftsman) climbs
the roof to shout his verses of thanks for everybody to
hear. Thanks are offered to the household (i.e the giver)
through its male head while good wishes are given to all
its members. The wishes are for the sons and daughters to
marry, to have a long life and prosperity, and to be able
to go to Mecca. (Only the richest Muslims can afford this,
and no one from Dolina has yet been there.)
Gifts usually consist of clothes, usually a shirt,
towels and money. Below I give an example of the kind of
verse the craftsman will shout from his place on the roof.
If the giver's name is not included in the verse, the
craftsman announces to whom the verse is dedicated.

Ma galah, rna1a1ah, hvala mu, iveo.

Evo, doneo je dar na novu kudu.
Sinovi enio, k6eri udavao
ivio sto ijeta imao sto kmeta

i na dabu. otiáztz,.

Masalah, masalah 2 thank him and wish him good health.

Look, he has brought gifts to the new house.

May his Sons marry and his daughters too.
May he live a hundred Summers and have a hundred serfs
-and may he go to Kaaba.

2.2 Conflicts between neighbours

It has already been noted that the moba is a form of

generalised exchange. This becomes clear in cases where a

household fails to reciprocate (i.e. in the case of the
moba, when a senior male household member without any known

reason does not turn up at one stage to give a helping

hand). Lison-Tolosana, writing about Galicia, identifies a

household head's dilemma in that "he must decide in each

case whether or not his cooperation and contribution as a

member of the village clashes with his commitments as head

of the house" (1973:826). Generally, when obligations "to

give" are not met this may indicate discontent with the
"hosting" household or one of its members. To demonstrate

disapproval by failing to "give" or refusing to receive

(cf. the woman in chapter 1 who returned the gift) is a

serious signal of animosity; if the slight is not already

part of an ongoing quarrel, it will certainly now develop

into one. The mandate of the village committee, as we have

Seen, is limited to being a bureaucratic link between the

village and the council in the commune. It has no authority

beyond implementing council decisions, and initiating

communal work for the benefit of the village community and

applying for public funds. Thus, the committee and its
members never mediate in conflicts between villagers. In
fact, the reduced authority of the senior male in the
patri-group and the lack of any clear authority in the
village to deal with intra-village conflicts leaves the
villagers dependent on bringing in the police. This is done
rather frequently to deal with both conflicts between
households and violent scenes within the household. The
police are always called upon by one of the parties
involved in the conflict; co-villagers never like to get
involved lest the conflict will develop to include them as
well, so they watch and keep quiet. If any of the involved
parties attempts to mobilise the support of witnesses,
those approached will usually deny that they have either
heard or seen anything. If the police fail to obtain any
results through mediation the conflict will be brought
before the courts. This was what happened to a conflict
between two households concerning access to a path. The
quarrel had gone from verbal abuse to outright threats and
physical attacks. Mediation brought no result, and the
conflict entered a deadlock as the parties awaited a court
The villagers, who are usually wary of officialdom,
whether secular or religious, consider the police as the
only body with a legal authority. Such authority is
recognised as external and is therefore considered
impartial. The Imam and the mosque council (see chapter 8)
are seen as limited to the sphere of religious affairs.3

Nevertheless, many villagers would argue that if people
were more religious the police would never be needed in
Dolina. This can be seen as an expression of the idea that
the disintegration of traditional values and authority
leaves a vacuum which has in more critical situations to be
filled with an outside, public authority, namely the
police. Villagers are, however, knowledgeable about the
different bureaucratic bodies and the scope of their
authority, and they are adept at finding their way in the
system and knowing about their rights. (This was
demonstrated when a young woman was refused her job back
after a year's maternity leave. She and her husband went to
the local authorities to clarify her rights and her boss
was forced under the threat of a court case to accept her

2.2.1 Protracted conflicts between households

Although a court decision was finally made concerning
the two households who disagreed on right of way, the
members of the households and their closest relatives are
still not on speaking terms two years after the initial
conflict. The hostility between these two households
gradually extended to those loyal to household A and those
loyal to household B, with the result that, for instance,
those related to household A would not talk to members of
household B and vice versa. Sometimes the hostility pattern
is quite intricate and it is not obvious immediately why
members of different households are not on speaking terms.

I was told that there had been periods when "nobody in
the village spoke to each other". (the speaker was
referring to the Muslim community exclusively, for, as
already noted, Catholics keep out of Muslim neighbourhood
quarrels and vice versa). Referring to contact between
households, not their individual members, this statement
reflects that it is household units which are seen to
interact in the community. These periods were usually the
result of several conflicts running at the same time, or
more serious conflicts involving the whole village in
intricate patterns without two clear-cut camps. Conflicts
may go on for years between the main protagonists if they
feel so insulted that their pride prevents them from
initiating a reconciliation, whereas those who have been
involved on the periphery of a conflict will usually
normalise their relationship after a shorter period of
time. When asked what was needed for the conflict to end,
a man who had not been on speaking terms with his best
friend and neighbour for a year, after having been
reproached by his friend's wife for having turned the water
supply off to increase the reservoir, said: "he will have
to offer his hand and apologise first, because he was in
the wrong, and I will accept it".

2.3 Hosp itality and institutionalised visiting

Hospitality is closely related to the reputation of
individual households; indeed the verb for offering
hospitality (tastiti) has thesame etymology as the word

for honour (cast). A household, which is always seen as a
unit and therefore reflecting on men and women equally,
gains social standing ("honour") from the way in which it
receives a guest. This link between hospitality and honour
has also been pointed out in Greek ethnography. Herzfeld
notes that in Crete "social worth [i.e. .filotimo,
"sometimes glossed as honour"] is hospitality" and that the
latter is the primary category (1987:87).
The serving of food and drink is an important part of
treating a guest well. I was told by older informants that
the first thing to ask a guest when he or she arrives in
your house, whether a stranger or not, should be "would you
like to eat or to drink?" However, a deteriorating economic
situation, combined with aspirations towards new consumer
goods, often makes it difficult (or of lower priority) for
people to honour (astiti) guests in the way they are
expected to.
Nevertheless, there is a sense of shame and inadequacy
in not being able to offer guests much in the way of food,
as people pride themselves in treating guests lavishly. The
more prominent and rare the guest (in terms of being
"outside" the village), the more lavishly s/he is treated,
and it is important for a household to surpass the
generosity displayed by its neighbour or co-villager in
relation to the same event or guest (for example when the
hoda visits, see chapter 8 or when hosting a religious
gathering, see chapter 9). Lavish hospitality is thus an
expression of both the moral superiority of the host (who

attempts to leave his guest with future obligations that
cannot be easily reciprocated) and of the political
potential of the guest (who is now indebted to his host)
(cf. Herzfeld, 1987).

2.3.1 Women's visitin g Tatterns

The most conspicuous activity in Dolina for a newly
arrived anthropologist is the coffee visits of the women
throughout the year, and the sijelos (social gatherings in
peoples' houses) attended by both men and women during
(winter) evenings. On a day-to-day basis the most sustained
informal interaction between households is through women
and the coffee-visits by which they frequently and visibly
represent their household in the village community.4
About twice every day, my hostess would say to me:
"Come on, let's go and have coffee!" (Hajdemo na kalu).
This would be during the day only. In the evening people go
na sijelo; then women do not go on their own, but in the
company of their husband, in-laws and close neighbours.
When we went would depend on her duties in the house, but
the visits had to take place while her husband was at work.
He would expect her to be at home whenever he was there and
ideally also when he was not there. She, however, felt that
what she was doing while he was not at home was not really
a concern of his as long as she fulfilled her duties
towards him.
We would visit close neighbours more frequently than
those living further away. A woman is obliged to go and see

all her immediate neighbours in turn during the week, while
other visits further away have to come second. Frequent
visits are seen to reaffirm friendship. If for some reason
she goes several times to visit one house consecutively
without visiting another, people will start to talk, and
the members of the ignored household, particularly the
woman, will wonder if they have upset their neighbour in
some way. On special occasions when there is some sort of
celebration, it is shameful for one of the closest
neighbours not to be among the first to visit. Reporting
from a Bosnian village in the 1960s, Lockwood (1975) argues
that relations between neighbours are more important than
those between kin (see also chapter 1), and he quotes the
example of a couple who had eloped and were criticised
because they were neighbours. In Dolina I did not find that
marriage between neighbours was considered bad or
incestuous, unless the couple were related (neighbours are
often relatives). In any case, such relations are
cultivated on a daily basis, and close neighbours (who may
or may nor be at the same time relatives) are relied on for
help and support when needed. On one occasion, when the
senior woman in a certain household felt that a cof fee-
visit to her on special occasions had not been given
priority by her closest neighbour, she told her: "I am your
closest (lit, first) neighbour and therefore your most
important one" 5 . On being asked, members of both households
involved would agree that this is the way it is: when you
need help in everyday life, or if you get ill, it is your

first neighbours who will be easiest to reach, while your
kin may live in a different hamlet or village.
The importance of friendship and mutual help between
close neighbours is particularly apparent to women who may
find personal support and understanding that they will not
find among members of their husband's family. However, in
discussing matters internal to the household there has to
be a fine balance between seeking personal support on the
one hand and not betraying the household as a unit on the
other. In fact, as we have seen, men often blame women with
their gossip as the source of neighbourhood quarrels
between households. Women's precarious role in this respect
has also been noted in Greece (see e.g. du Boulay, 1974;
Dubisch, 1986; I-Iirschon, 1978; for a fuller discussion see
chapter 7).
Women's daily routines, including the coffee-visits,
are very much structured around the timetables of husband
and children; the week changes character according to what
hours husbands work and children go to school. Children go
to school either in the morning or in the afternoon: for a
week at a time some classes will attend in the afternoon,
others in the morning, with the pattern being reversed the
following week. Children will, until they finish primary
school, also attend mosque school either in the morning or
in the afternoon, depending on when they go to state
As will be described elsewhere, a daughter is from an
early age brought up to assist her mother with household

chores, and a mother who has a teenage daughter will
usually delegate major tasks to her. A woman's work-load
during the day is therefore to some extent dependent on
whether her daughter is at school or not. A married woman's
daily routines are, however, also affected by the presence
or absence of her mother-in-law, or as a mother-in-law (or
if she herself is a daughter-in-law), but in most cases
most importantly by the presence or absence of her husband.
A majority of the men commute daily to work at one of the
factories in the industrial suburbs of Sarajevo. They work
three shifts: the morning shift, called p.rva smena ("the
first week"); the afternoon shift, called drug-a smena ("the
second week"); and the night shift, called treáa sniena

("the third week"). What week a woman's husband or grown-up

sons work decides what time she is free to go "cof fee-

visiting" (ide na katu). Most women prefer to have their
husbands away during the day; they feel quite constrained
in their activities when their husband is around. A woman
is almost inevitably asked by other women what "week" her
husband is working whenever she is asked to come around to
coffee or when actually there. A negative answer to an
invitation is easily justified by the explanation that the

husband is working a certain week and is either at home or

due back from work. Likewise, leaving a coffee-visit is
acceptable if the husband's arrival is imminent.
Women's social activities are in most cases restricted
by the presence of her husband, as she is then required to
attend to his demands; and in fact some husbands do not

approve of their wife "going around in the village" (hodati
p0 selo) at any time. A husband who behaves too
restrictively towards his wife, is, however, not approved

of either, by women or by men (at least not in public and

in the presence of women). On the contrary, there was one
particular settlement (the Seliuovi6 settlement) where the
men were notorious for their restrictive attitude towards
their wives and womenfolk. They were said to be like
iptars (i.e. Yugoslav Albanians) in this respect. The

first time I heard this was from a eighty-year-old male

informant. To be "like a iptar" is usually a derogatory
characterisation. On the other hand, there is one woman who
was married to a Selmovic but who had formed a new
settlement away from his kin. She would stress that even if
her husband was a Selmovi6, he was not like them, since he
allowed her to go wherever and whenever she liked. This
woman is, notably, considered by most villagers, both men
and women, to spend too much time "walking about the
village", and is often characterised as "devilish" because
of her "talk". She is, however tolerated by most people and
her conspicuousness makes her a welcome scapegoat. Because
she goes around a lot visiting people's houses, she is
maybe the most important source of information about
household events in the village. In other words, villagers'
feelings about her are ambivalent; her company is feared,
but at the same time sought since she is a source of
information and gossip about others. Indeed, any
unfavourable rumours about a 'certain person will almost

inevitably be traced back to her, whether she is the actual
source or not. The villagers' judgement of her should be
understood in relation to their general moral condemnation
of "walking about a lot", which is closely connected to the
ethos of household loyalty and the fear of women's gossip
(for a further discussion see chapter 7).
Coffee-visiting is not only the major social activity
of married women but is also critical in integrating the
Muslim community in the village. These visits enhance
Bosnian Muslim identity through the use of a cultural code
which is never used in the public, pluralist sphere. This
relates to a specific vocabulary (such as greetings) with
Turkish and Islamic origins, the serving and eating of
specific food, how a person is dressed and comportment
generally. As we have noted in chapter 1, Muslims and
Catholics do not casually visit each other frequently,
although a Muslim household might have a special friendship
with a particular Catholic household. The women do,
nevertheless, visit each other on special occasions such as
a wedding, a birth, or illness. During such visits there
are frequent references to the differences between the two
groups, with customs being described as specific "among
you" or "among us" or being "yours" or "ours" (cf. chapter
Coffee-visits, then, whether among Muslims alone or in
a mixed group, are arenas for exchanging village gossip and
confirming and enhancing Muslim moral values. This is, I
believe, why men, albeit reluctantly, accept women's

socialising; since men spend most of their time outside the
village they rely on women both to inform them about the
latest village events and to recreate Muslim group
characteristics which they, as proletarianised workers in
a pluralist Yugoslav world, can express only rarely. This
does not mean that men are completely absent from daily
socialising activities. In winter particularly, villagers,
both men and women, socialise at sijelo: several household
members, often together with members from other households,
go together to visit a neighbouring household. They spend
the long evenings socialising, drinking coffee, exchanging
the latest news about life in the village and talking about
the tasks that lie ahead in spring and summer in the fields
and in the house. Men who wish to pay their respects or
congratulate a particular household with a bride or a child
may go to visit na sjielo in the evening with other family

2.3.2 Ritualised visits

Those occasions in a household's life-cycle involving
a change in status of individual members are rarely marked
by striking formalised rituals; even marriage is, as we
shall see, in the majority of cases a fairly low-key event.
They are, however, marked by obligatory visiting which
could be seen as a secular ritual. All major events in a
person's life (which involve a change of status and will
therefore affect the structure of his/her household) are
recognised by the community in the form of a visit by at

least one representative, usually the married woman who acts
as the household manager, from each of the households in
the hamlet as well as from many further afield in other
hamlets within the larger village. On happy occasions in a
household, such as the arrival of a new bride, the birth of
a child, or a son returning from the army, neighbours and
co-villagers are expected to come and visit na slatko (lit.
for sweets) in the days; usually up to a week, after the
event has taken place. Some who have not had the
opportunity may have to wait longer to visit. The wife of
the household does not usually need to invite people, as
the rumour that something has happened travels fast. The
female head of the household will usually have prepared
sweet cakes to be served in addition to sweet fruit juice
and coffee. Sometimes a woman prepares cakes and invites
her best neighbours and friends to come na slatko to
celebrate a major purchase like that of a cow, but this
would be more for fun and an excuse for sociability.
The "sweet visit" may also be called na radost
(with/for joy). This is in opposition to the visit na
a1ost (lit, for sorrow) which takes place in the days
after the death of a household member, when neighbours and
relatives come to show sympathy with the bereaved. Old
villagers would also call the visits which take place
immediately after a daughter has left her native household
to marry na lalost; others, however, would call this na
slatko or na radost. When confronted with this confusion a
man in his thirties was quick to answer: "Before, parents

were sad when their daughter left them, but today they all
mean trouble and parents are happy to get rid of them." (he
said literally that they were corrupted, pokvarenc).
These occasions when co-villagers come together to
share in sorrow or in joy are radically different from
other ritualised events which are specific to one religious
group, as they integrate the community as a whole;
Catholics will visit their Muslim neighbours and vice
versa. These coffee-visits are always during the day and
are therefore usually only attended by women, who will
usually bring a small present of something sweet, usually
a packet of biscuits. The packet is discreetly left on a
table or a shelf, and the hostess says thanks, if and when
she discovers the packet, in an equally low-key manner with
the words: "thank you, it was not necessary".
The two most frequent visits for joy are those
celebrating the birth of a child and the arrival of a bride
respectively. The first is associated with the more
specific term, babine and the second is called serbe. Both
are occasions for women to come together to share
experiences and to give encouragement to the newly arrived
bride or the new mother. The importance women obviously
place on paying a visit on these occasions stresses the
significance of these two major status changes in a woman's
life, her marriage, and her becoming a mother.6

Babine is the name both of the woman's forty days'

"lying-in" period after childbirth, and of the gifts

presented to her, which are usually sweets, or some
material for sewing clothes for the child. (Some also leave
money underneath the baby's pillow. I was told by women in
Dolina that this is a custom more rigorously observed in
other villages in central Bosnia.) The woman, who usually
lives with her mother-in-law, will often have one of her
own female relatives, e.g. an unmarried sister, to come and
stay for a month or more while she is recovering. The
female relative will take on the responsibility for all the
household chores, serve guests and help to look after the
newborn baby. Babine is an occasion for women to come
together to remember and nowadays, increasingly, to share
their experiences at the hospital in Sarajevo. A hospital
stay provides one of the few opportunities for Bosnian
village women to experience a close community with women
from completely different social and religious backgrounds.
(In this respect women's sharing of hospital memories is
reminiscent of men's reliving their Yugoslav army days when
visiting to celebrate the return of a young man from the
service.) As soon as the forty days of confinement have
passed (beliefs associated with the vulnerability of women
after birth are discussed in chapter 9), the new mother is
expected to drop in on those neighbours, family and friends
who visited her at babine. She should then in turn give
presents to (darovati) the households she visits.7

erbe ( sherbet) takes its name from the sweet drink,
either water sweetened and flavoured (usually with
rosewater) or sweet fruit juice, which is offered to
guests as a refreshment before the coffee at religious or
secular celebrations. The sex-be plays a significant role
when women visit a household to welcome a new bride to the
village. The bride will serve the serbe, which should be
drunk immediately. When she comes to collect the empty
glasses the guests should leave some money for the bride on
the tray. When women go on these visits they satisfy their
own curiosity about the new bride, but they also welcome
the bride to the neighbourhood and the village, and show
the desire to integrate the new member in the conununity. In
the absence of a more public and ritualised marriage feast,
the serbe marks the change in status of the individuals
concerned (and therefore the resulting changes in the
household to which they belong), but above all it
establishes a relationship between the stranger and bride
and the community of women.
At erbe the visiting pattern is the same as the one
described for any "sweet visit": close neighbours and
friends of the household are expected to visit the
household having the serbe, sooner or later. People will
remember and comment on who came and who did not, who came
quickly and who was slow to react. Women may visit on the
day immediately following the bride's arrival or in the
course of a week or even three weeks if the relationship is

distant or there has been no possible opportunity before.
A woman who does not have a particularly close relationship
with the household in question is more free to come
whenever it suits her without upsetting the host, who will
anyway be pleased and honoured by the visit. Close
neighbours and friends are, however, expected to visit
sooner rather than later. Women will usually go during the
day, whenever they find it convenient, but they will never
go alone. Groups of sisters-in-law or close neighbours and
friends decide to go together. Men may also go, but never
during the day. They will go in the company of their wives
in the evening when they are back from work, and when they
know that the male head of the household is at home.
The first greetings exchanged between the bride and
her new co-villagers will be several good-humoured
questions: "Have you got used to this place?"; "Do you get
along?" (implicitly "do you get along with the other
household members, primarily the mother-in-law?"); "Do you
obey?"; and turning to the mother-in-law, they will repeat
the question: "does she obey?" The very shy, young girl can
only answer in the affirmative while concentrating on doing
everything (especially the serving) right, as she knows
that all present are observing her critically (albeit with
sympathy). In fact to go to serbe is an opportunity for
women to reminisce about their own arrival in a strange
village and household. Memories of this event are rarely
rosy: a woman will stress how poor the household was, how
she was lacking in everything, food and clothes, how strict

and often unpleasant her mother-in-law was, and how her
husband came home drunk and never supported her against her
mother-in-law. There is much humour and laughter during the
exchange of experiences; the humiliation (especially as
junior women) and the struggle these women often coped with
is never elaborated on, but is nevertheless implicit in
short, factual statements.
As some guests arrive others may be leaving, and the
bride will be busy washing glasses and coffee-cups, mixing
the serbe and making and serving the coffee. All of this is
discreetly supervised and organised by her mother-in-law.
At points where the bride has to leave the room to wash
dishes or fetch drinks, the women visiting will take the
opportunity to ask the girl's mother-in-law if she gets
along with the new member. The mother-in-law may either say
that they get along well, or she may already start
complaining that the young bride gets up too late in the
mornings, and is lazy and does not work as required. The
guests may ask the mother-in-law questions like "whose is
she?", "where is she from?", who has she got?" (referring
to the girl's relatives). Those who know people in that
village or area where she is from will ask for news about
them. "Does she know A?" or "Is she related to B?" The
question may be about people as peripheral as a brother's
wife's aunt who is married in that particular village.
These are all questions seeking to place the new woman into
an already existing network of neighbours, relatives and
in-laws and aptly illustrates the importance of women as

links with households and a social network beyond the
Men who do not go to drink erbe are not reproached,
whereas women would be. As a household is seen to act
collectively in ritual contexts, it is sufficient that one
member go on behalf of the household unit. But since the
serbe is seen primarily as welcoming the bride to the

village social network, and since her network will mainly

consist of women, her incorporation into the village
community is seen as the responsibility of women. It is
different when a household invites na slatko on a son's
arrival from the army; this is seen as a celebration to
some extent for the mothers, as a son has returned home,
but mainly for the men: their junior member has now been
initiated into their ranks (although he is not considered
to have attained the full status if he is still unmarried).
It is an experience that can only be shared by those who
have been through it, namely, other men. By the same token,
to go to babine is mostly the affair of women, as only they
can understand or share the young mother's experience of
birth at the hospital in Sarajevo.
In interactions which link the household and the
community, women's behaviour is particularly crucial, since
women have all initially arrived as strangers in the
household they are now representing. Their loyalty is
therefore not taken for granted by men and senior members,
but has to be reinforced through moral injunctions. On the
other hand, as outsiders initially women are able to link

households with the outside world and with other households
in a network of affinal relations. I shall therefore
dispute a common dichotomy in anthropological literature on
gender, especially in the Mediterranean area where women
are associated with the house and the inside, while men are
associated with the outside and the larger community. As
noted in the Introduction women can be seen as mediators
between the household (inside) and a larger community
(outside) •8 Women in Dolina are potentially powerful
because they are the link between the household and a wider
network of households and contacts, but their freedom to
draw on this pool of people and resources is restricted and
controlled through moral injunctions expressed by senior
members of their household and community. In the next
chapters we shall explore in more detail this
characteristic of women as at the same time both of the
household and extrinsic to it.

Footnotes chapter 2

1. There are certain days a year when members of the youth

organisation (Omladinska Organicasija) will have akcija, which
will include e.g. clearing a green area. The youth organisation
has committees in every commune, but has little influence or
relevance at village level.
2. Maa1ah is of Turkish origin and means literally "what God
wills will be". It is used to express positive surprise, for
instance at the arrival of guests. More specifically, however,
it is said by a person when s/he sees somebody beautiful, a
child, young man or woman, so that the seer does not, albeit
unintentionally, cast the evil eye (cf. chapter 9).
3. Lison-Tolosana notes that in villages in Galicia the teacher
or parish priest (i.e someone who without being a native lives
in their hamlet or parish) takes on the role as mediator in
similar situations. Their role is then to "assume the defense of
the priority of communal values when opposed to the private
interests of each house" (1973:827).
4. But they are increasingly extending their activities outside
the village: for instance, at parents' meetings at the school.
5. The significance of being "first neighbours" is also noted
among the Basques by Sandra Ott (1981).
6. In her 1978 paper Renee Hirschon points out the similar
symbolic character in the status of both bride and mother in her
Greek material. Traditionally both the bride and the new mother
were strictly secluded from life outside the house (as was the
custom in Bosnia), as these were the times when women's
vulnerability was at its peak and, referring to body symbolism,
their "open" (and therefore ambiguous) character most conspicuous
(Hirschon, 1978: 81).
7. The ritual gift exchanged in Bosnia is extensive, and more
contexts in which gifts are exchange will be discussed in other
chapters (particularly in relation to marriage, but also in the
non-secular sphere of religious rituals). Suffice it to note
here, however, that gift-exchange in Bosnia is immediate rather
than postponed. Gifts that are given for instance on the occasion
of birth will not be "returned" when the gift-giving household
has an identical occasion; rather gifts should be "returned" as
part of the gift-exchange connected to that particular occasion
or event.
8. Lison-Tolosana notes with reference to his Galician material
that the house "provides the basis for a moral dichotomy of all
that lies inside it as opposed to all that lies outside it."


3.1 Courtshi p in earlier generations.

Courtship is my translation of the word aikovanje. It
comes from the Turkish asik, which means to kiss or to
love, and is used to describe affectionate talk between a
maiden (cura) and a youth (momak)'. Originally, aikovanje
was strictly ritualised in Bosnia. Marriageable youths
would go to court girls below the window of their rooms,
(in towns they would go to the door leading to the
courtyard, where there was a special wooden window called
a pender). Muslims usually courted on Fridays and during
holidays. This specific Bosnian custom is a favourite theme
in epic folk-songs (cf. Y. Lockwood, 1983).
The etiquette of courtship has changed considerably
over the last forty years or so. Informants in their
sixties would stress how young people were never allowed to
interact directly with the opposite sex; there was always
a mediating agent - a friend, a cousin or neighbour - who
would act as a go-between in initial conversations between
the two. The two were never left on their own and a
maiden's virginity was thus protected.

As soon as a girl became sexually mature (srela), she

would start attending sijelo, gatherings in private houses
during winter evenings, when the house would be full of
young people; girls would sit on the sofa, boys on the
floor. They would sing folk-songs and sometimes dance the
kolo (a Slav traditional circular dance) around the hearth.

Older men and women would also gather, but in other rooms.
When dancing kolo a boy and a girl were not allowed to
touch hands, but held on to each end of a handkerchief.
During such a gathering a boy might ask a girl if he could
court her. He would never ask the question directly, but
through a connection: a friend, sister/brother, or
neighbour of the girl. The boy would then go to her house
after dark, start knocking softly at her window-pane,
asking if he would be allowed to flirt with her, and then
duck out of sight below the window. She would not be
allowed out; he would be allowed into the kitchen if there
were others present. If a girl was beautiful, two or more
young men might arrive to court her at the same time; if
more than one appeared she would tell the one she was not
interested in to go home to bed; the other she would tell
to stay. If she could not decide she would remain silent
and stay in bed.
One evening after a period of courtship the boy might
ask her to marry him. If she accepted, she had the choice
of marrying him publicly with svatovi (wedding guests or -
procession) or eloping "in the old way" (ukrasti se; lit.
"stealing oneself away") through the window. (For a
discussion of these and other kinds of marriage see chapter
4.) When talking about the one fairly recent instance of
elopement in the village, informants would excuse the
girl's behaviour somewhat on the grounds that her parents
were very strict (some would say excessively so) and had
not allowed young men to visit their daughters at home. Two

other women who had daughters the same age as the girl who
eloped "in the old way" had allowed the boys inside the
house. They considered this to be a better strategy,
because they said they could imagine all sorts of things
their daughters might have got up to if they had "run
around outside". Their daughters, however, never went to
visit a boy's home before marriage, since, as one of the
two women put it, what would there be for her daughter to
see in a strange house, a house which was not hers?

3.2 CourtshiD today

Today, there are many opportunities for young people
to meet away from their elders, peers and relatives. They
rarely meet at gatherings at houses in the village. The
village dance, the coffeehouse (kafana) and modern coffee
bars (ka.fiáe) outside the village have superseded the
sijelo. (For a discussion of the differences between kafana

and kafié, see chapter 7) For some, the dance has already
become old-fashioned (it was started in the fifties), and
the new coffee bars are preferable (Cf. chapter 7). The
weekly dance is visited chiefly by the youngest (fourteen-
to eighteen year olds), but is still the main arena for the
majority of Muslim village girls, since they are usually
not allowed by their parents to go to coffee bars.
The dance is an important event which village girls
plan and look forward to for the whole week. It may be the
only time in the week they have time off and can meet with
friends or a boyfriend. The fact that the dance is where

most young people in Dolina eventually find a marriage
partner (and that this is the main purpose of attending)
endows the Saturday dance with a ceremonial importance. A
girl will usually be allowed by her parents to start
attending the dance as soon as she has become srela (i.e.
sexually mature): permission is an acknowledgement of
marriageable status. However, it is becoming increasingly
common among younger parents to equate "maturity" less with
sexual maturity and more with educational maturity.

3.2.1 The dance

The dance (iqranka) takes place throughout the year
except for summer, when most teenage children are busy
helping their parents on the fields and there are other
events like the fairs (teferié) taking place. Every
Saturday at around eight the young Muslims of Dolina meet
their counterparts from other villages in the region at the
community centre next to the municipality school. 2 The
community centre or zadruqa 3 is a low concrete building
with a dance floor and a small stage. The Saturday dance is
organised by the youth organisation in the municipality
(oØtina), and is part of the ruling Communist party
structure. There are also dances held on Fridays and
Sundays in other villages in the municipality, but only
Dolina boys will attend these. Each place always holds its
dances on the same day. This means that young men often
come from far away to attend the only dance in the region
on Saturdays. The community centre is situated by the main

road to Sarajevo and is therefore easily accessible by bus,
car (if you are lucky enough to have access to one) or foot
(if you do not live too far away). Most young people go
there by foot. Some gir1may be lucky enough to get a lift
home; otherwise, they will generally make sure that they
walk home in the company of at least one male, usually a
Usually, people hang around a while outside the
building: you can see who is arriving, you can walk around
more freely, and you can disappear for a while. Some
parents only allow their daughters to go to the dance
itself, and would never give permission for them to go to
any of the kafanas (traditional cafe with live music)
further up the road. Some girls are obedient, others are
more inventive and take risks. The point is that whatever
you do you will leave your house for the dance in company
with other village teenagers (the boys walking ahead of the
girls), and you will return with the same people. In the
meantime, if you have friends with a car, you can have
toured all the kafanas on a 20km stretch. Your companions
are loyal; they will be your alibi. Unfortunately, you may
be spotted by young, usually married men, who may talk
among themselves and at their work-place, where your father
happens to work. An eighteen-year-old girl in the village
was severely beaten by her father after a young, jealous
man had been telling what she at any rate called lies about
her. He probably knew that he would be believed, as the
girl in question had for several years been challenging her

restricted freedom of movement. This girl used the dance as
a cover-up for touring kafanas with her colleagues and
friends. As gossip spread she had to put up with
condemnation from women at home ( who somehow secretly
admired her), a bossy mother, a violent father and young
men who treated her disrespectfully. Village women in
particular consider it shameful for a girl to go to
kafanas. Girls and boys usually start to attend the
Saturday dance between the ages of fourteen and sixteen,
usually in their first or second year of secondary school.
Those who do not attend secondary school will start when
they finish their eighth and last year at primary school
and stop going to Quranic school. Neither male nor female
ever walks around on his or her own. They always walk in
company of one or more friends of the same sex. The initial
obvious contact should be made by the boy. A girl will not
approach the boy in the same way, but may show interest in
more subtle ways by throwing glances, or by being friendly
with a friend of the youth she would like to approach.
(Thus it appears that the boys choose while the girls are
chosen.) If you do not have a suitor already, the point is
to walk around (i.e. push your way through the crowd inside
and take small breaks outside) in order to see and be seen.
You are communicating that you are searching. You can also
dance, as you are not dependent on having a partner: the
dance, called kolo, is a traditional circular one in which
anybody, male or female, can partake at any time.
Girls who are morally well behaved (fine), will sit

down next to each other on two of the few chairs placed
alongside the wall, or withdraw to a corner of the room. A
girl is supposed to refuse any offers to go to kafana by
car or to go somewhere with her boyfriend on her own. Yet
few girls comply with the ideal moral behaviour which is
propagated by their mothers and senior female relatives.
Most of the girls defy these injunctions on the grounds
that their mothers do not know anything because they
married young and did not experience anything. The few
girls who are obedient are often criticised by their more
courageous and experienced friends of the same age. Below
I quote a discussion between three girls which reveals
their different attitudes towards courtship.

3.2.2 Contemporary attitudes towards courtship

Three maidens, two of them sisters, aged between
seventeen and nineteen were meeting in the latters' house
before going of f to the dance. The neighbour of the two
sisters criticised the oldest, who was getting married, for
the way she was "conducting the courtship" (aikovati):
always being obedient, sitting waiting for him in the
dancing hall every Saturday for a year. "You do not know
anything about him, his behaviour or whether he likes to go
around to kafanas and run around with women", she said. The
nineteen-year-old girl, however, said shyly that her
parents did not allow her to do otherwise. If she did have
doubts about him she did not disclose them, but said she
thought that since he had come to see her every Saturday

night for a year and only asked to hold her hand from time
to time, he must be a good guy.
It is not uncommon for either girls or boys to flirt
(aikovati) with more than one suitor at a time. The rivals
are usually from different villages and therefore may not
know about each other. A eighteen-year-old maiden
explained: "Take for instance Jasna, she is now quarrelling
with the boy you last saw her with, and she is now flirting
with somebody else whom she has been flirting with on and
off for three years; he, however, has somebody else. You
see, we usually flirt with several boys at a time, then
there is quarrelling, then a break, then someone else and
so it goes..."
Two twenty-four-year old girls were discussing
courtship and how they spent their time dating boys. They
have both finished secondary school and are now working,
one of them in a hotel close to Sarajevo, the other at a
factory in the nearest market town. These girls are
considered more "modern", at least by themselves, than most
other Muslim girls of their age from Dolina, since they
work and would rather go to a coffee-bar than to the
Saturday dance. Nevertheless, when they meet they usually
express discontent with the many restrictions (embodied by
their mothers) they have on behaviour which reduces their
fields of experience and forces them and their 'village-
sisters' to: "pass (as one of the girls expressed it) our
time in nonsense". The oldest of the two and the one who is
more independent of her parents, as she is not living with

them) said: "If we had listened to our mothers and all
their prohibitions, we should never have experienced
anything. Going to secondary school, which we did not
really take so seriously, provided us with the opportunity
to have some fun, to go out to kafice (modern coffee-bars).
The second one said with regret: There are so many things
I would like to do: for instance, to go to Sarajevo, go out
more..., but my mother stops me, she even stops me seeing
my boyfriend because he is a taxi-driver and has just
divorced his first wife." (For a further discussion of the
conflict of values between mothers and daughters see
chapter 7).

3.3 The choice of narria ge partner

Courtship is part of the process of marrying. During
this period, which may last from a couple of weeks to
several years, the two young people will use their meeting
(which generally take place only once a week, for reasons
of distance and cost) to assess each others' qualities as
marriage partners. My data show that a greater number of
women in the parent and especially grandparent generation
married within the village, albeit usually into a different
mahala. Today, however, a majority of young women marry out
of the village. There are two main reasons for this
pattern. First, the reason given by the villagers
themselves is that it is difficult to find anybody from
one's own generation who is not a cousin (see next
section); marrying within the; village for two or three

generations has left most of today's youth with extensive
kinship ties throughout Dolina. Secondly, today's young
people are more mobile than their parents and grandparents
were. Some have cars, there are buses; the young men
travel to dances and fairs outside the village. There is
thus a larger pool of potential marriage partners spread
over a larger geographical area. It is my impression that
today's generation of young girls are more calculating and
aware of their own demands and requirements than their
mothers were. On the other hand, a marriageable girl often
has to devise sophisticated ways of getting information
about a boy, his family and background in order to know in
the case of an eventual marriage what she can expect. This
is information to which her grandparents, who mostly
married within the village would have had easy access. A
girl will never visit a boy in his home before she marries
him. Since, as a rule, he is not from her native village,
she has to rely on information from a third party about his
family's social and economic standing. She will ask: "Is
he good?" (Da ii on vaija). A youth will ask his friends
the same question: "what do you know about her family? What
family does she come from?"

3.3.1 Restrictions of choice

Bosnian Muslims are exogamous within the kin-group and
endogamous within the ethno-religious group. Among the
Muslims as among their Christian compatriots genealogical
reckoning is primarily agnatic, but uterine kin are also

included in the exogainy rule. Although people generally can
list their family links many generations back through the
direct agnatic line, knowledge about uterine links is more
scanty. Muslims, like their Christian neighbours, have a
taboo against marrying relatives (collaterals) within the
ninth "generation" (koljeno). 4 That is, by the number of
generations from ego or alter up to an apical ancestor. If
ego and alter are not the same formal generation, the
longer of the two descent lines is used to establish the
degree of relationship. 5 In addition there is a taboo on
marriage between those related through milk; i.e. a person

who was nursed by a woman other than his or her mother

cannot marry a person who been nursed by the same
woman. Persons nursed by the same woman call each other
sister or brother through milk (sestra/brat P0 mlijeku) •6
By contrast, the ideal marriage among the Muslims of

Anatolian Turkey, which is the most obvious example for

comparison, is with the father's brother's daughter - a
union which the Bosnian Muslims would consider incestuous.
Filipovic reports that "the common Islamic practice of
patrilineal parallel cousin marriage was unknown in Bosnia
and Herzegovina, except among some landowning aristocracy",
(quoted in Lockwood, 1972:71). The "ninth-generation"
taboo, however, is often broken. First, many Muslims within
the cluster of neighbouring villages are usually related

somehow or other 7 . Secondly, most people, especially those

of the younger generation, have merely a sketchy knowledge

about their genealogies and ofwho their cousins are (this

is particularly true for the female links). Most know about
their first, second and even third cousins if they are
living within the same village, (girls usually have a warm
and close relationship with their male cousins, whom they
can naively flirt with and use as sympathetic and loyal
companions when going out 8 ), but knowledge about
relatedness further back is rare. Although attempts are
usually made to tell younger relatives about their kinship
ties with those of the opposite sex they are likely to
meet, two young people often find out by chance that they
are related. On asking each other questions upon the first
encounter to establish common friends or acquaintances,
they may well discover family bonds. Some couples go out
together without knowing that they are related, but as soon
as family ties are established, often by an older member of
the family, the parents usually forbid the two to have any
further contact. Some only discover kinship ties after they
are married, because older family members who can trace the
family tree may not have been told of the courtship. An
eighty-year-old grandfather of a man who had married his
second cousin without knowing complained: "Nobody asked me,
and when I learnt about the marriage i-1 was already too
late." On one occasion I overheard three girls
discussing a young couple who were in love with each other:
"She is a Palalija and he a Deli6". By establishing the
identity of the two through family name, the girls were
signalling that the family connection was important. The
mother of the girl did not permit the relationship because

the two families were related. One of the girls, herself a
Palalija through her mother, was very surprised at hearing
this. The two others could only restate that the two were
actually related (familija) and even "close family" (fina
familija usually refers to agnatic ties and implies that
the connection is easily traceable, i.e. second or third
cousins). The girl who was surprised at the family
connection, because it would ultimately involve herself,
claimed that she would not be able to find one single
marriageable youth in the village to whom she was not
related, both of her parents being natives of the village
and both agnatic and uterine kinship ties known and easily
traceable. Discussing the kinship ties between the young
girls concluded that they were all related, but one of them
stressed that this was particularly the case with her and
one of the other girls because her father was related both
to the other girl's father and to her mother. (The two
girls were second cousins on both sides.) This indicates
that even if genealogies are primarily agnatic they include
all collaterals (fathers and mothers side) in cases where,
first, mother's kin are part of the patrilocal context i.e.
where ego's relatives on both mother's and father's side
are neighbours, and secondly where mother's kin are also
ego's affines. The word prijatelji is used to designate
both one's own affines and those of one's agnates and the
term is thus not only restricted to ego's own generation.
(For instance: ego's father's brother's affines are also
ego's affines). (Hammel notes that there is no separate

term for uterine kin since familija usually refers to
agnatic kin.) In fact, the exogamy rule is ultimately
weakened by a preference for marrying one's prijatelji
(primarily through the agnatic line) since affines in one
generation are turned into agnates in the next. I suggest
that more distant relatedness through the mother is known
and therefore becomes more important as a restriction on
choice of marriage partner when these relatives are also
agnatic affines. A pattern which will be generated in the
next generations if for instance two female first cousins
through their fathers marry two brothers. (The paradox is
of course that there is a preference for marrying agnatic
affines, but an exogainy rule which encompasses both uterine
and agnatic kin.) The central role of prijateiji in
people's social networks will be discussed in more detail
in chapter 5. Another restriction is on marrying
Christians. There are only a few instances of marrying
across ethno-religious lines in mixed villages. In Dolina,
the only mixed marriage was between a Muslim man, and
notably, a Serb/Orthodox woman, i.e. from a group which is
not present in Dolina. People in the village would still
comment on "what a pity" they thought it was that she was
a Serb. Young people may fall in love with a girl or a boy
from a different ethnic group, but the social cost of an
eventual marriage, in terms of opposition and condemnation
from family and co-villagers, renders it highly
unattractive, and they are usually careful to establish
ethnic background before initiating a courtship. Young

Muslims and Catholics would agree that when you fall in
love with somebody, you always have to consider if s/he is
your religion.

3.3.2 Criteria for choice

In choosing a marriage partner there are certain
aspects a girl takes into consideration. It is preferable
for the boy to have built his own house separate from his
parents'. A girl is reluctant these days to share a house
with her mother-in-law, and would prefer to run her own
household from the start of the marriage. Earlier, when
material standards were lower, and Sons had no income of
their own, or at any rate not enough to build a house, the
young bride would have had no choice in the matter. Another
preference is for a boy who lives in more urban area, or at
least in a village which is close, in terms both of
distance and of accessibility, to a market town and to her
native village. If a boy lives in the hills (Izvive na

strani"), his marriage prospects among the girls in Dolina

are slim. It will also be counted against him if he and his
family own much land or livestock. 9 This implies that the
potential daughter-in-law will have to work very hard, both
on the land, milking and looking after the livestock, and
in the house, cooking and cleaning for her husband and in-
laws. This last factor may be particularly influential if
the girl has had much hard agricultural work in her
parents' house. Even those men who own much land, are
seldom actually full-time farmers. They usually hold jobs

as skilled or semi-skilled workers; some are taxi drivers,
some policemen. This means that women are left with most of
the responsibility for agricultural work.
The priorities are such that if a potential marriage
partner does not possess the preferred characteristics, he
will usually be ditched for someone else who does, even if
the girl says she loves the former more than the latter
(girls who insist on marrying for love are criticised for
being ignorant, especially by older women, who have learned
the importance of material standards and the relationship
with the mother-in-law). The story of Aida, a nineteen-
year-old girl, is typical. She had been "courting" a
certain boy for two years. She was very much in love with
him, but as she obtained more information about his
background, she was increasingly doubtful about his
eligibility. He had a good and steady job, and owned a car.
(Owning a car usually makes a marriageable youth more
eligible; he is seen as hard-working and steady (solidan),
and he can provide her with the prospects of "getting
around a bit".) However, the fact that he lived "in the
hills", had much land and livestock, and shared a house
with his parents all went against him. When Aida made
enquiries about his mother through a third person who knew
his family, she was told that her potential mother-in-law
had a reputation for being a trouble-maker, and she was by
now very sceptical indeed. In addition to her own
reservations she now had to put up with those of her
mother, who made a scene every; Saturday when Aida went off

to the dance, to see the young man. Aida was getting very
tired of struggling against her doubts and handling all the
problems at home, so when she eventually met somebody else
who lived in one of the market towns and had a house of his
own, she married him after a short acquaintance, but
without telling her first boyfriend, who she feared would
be "blind with rage". Even if Aida did not love the one she
finally married, she was sure that she had her priorities
right and that she would learn to love her husband. She was
happy living in a modern house, with hot and cold running
water and a bathroom, and without a mother or mother-in-law
to boss her around. She and her husband would often go on
trips in his car, and she was happy to have seen more
places within a year of her marriage than she had seen in
her entire life in Dolina.
The majority of girls who seek a marriage partner with
a good material background, which usually means that he has
secondary education, must in return accept that this
category of boys seeks a potential wife with the same
qualities. A young female informant put it this way: "When
our mothers were young, young men would ask them if they
knew how to milk, but today they will ask how much
schooling we have had."

Footnotes chaDter 3

1. Although I recognise that maiden for a young woman and

youth for a young man have archaic connotations in English
these cover best the meaning of the Bosnian words which stress
the unmarried status of the two. Cura carries the meaning of
an unmarried virginal girl which is what is conveyed in the
English "maiden".
2. About ten years ago the Catholics in the area had their
dance at the same place. Then, Catholics had their igranka on
Fridays, while Muslims had theirs on Saturdays. In both cases
the organisers were from the Communist youth organisation. I
have been told that in those days Catholic and Muslim youths
were not supposed either to speak to each other or to greet
each other.

3. The building was a joint community project built in the

fifties. The municipality contributed money and building
material, villagers their labour. The use of the word zadrug-a
indicates that the community centre is defined as "social
property". For further explanation, see the discussion on the
zadruga in chapter 6.

4. See du Boulay (1984:538) for a discussion of a similar

system of reckoning in "generations" (zinaria) in Greece.
5. I am using here the definition formulated by Haminel who
notes that this is also the method used by the Roman church
and that reckoning of relationships through "generation" is
common throughout rural Yugoslavia. The Family Law for BiH
states the prohibition against marriage between a man and a
woman related in lateral line through the fourth degree
inclusive. (Hammel explains that "degrees of relationship
between persons is accomplished by tallying the number of
intervening births. Thus, a parent and a child stand in the
first degree, siblings in the second"..etc, (1968:8). This is
also what younger Christians in the village will quote,
although the older generation will say that they have the same
prohibition as the Muslims; until ninth "generation".
6. Holy, referring to the Bert! of Darfur, has noted that
the belief about milk as creating the child's substance is
supported by reference to the Koranic notion of a special
relationship [rida'a] between a child and a woman, other than
its own mother, who nursed it, which creates a bar to marriage
between those related through milk" (1988:481)
7. Kinship terms especially those denoting kin of second
generation are different from those used by Christians in
Bosnia. The terms used by the Muslims are derived from
Turkish, while those used by Christians are Sla y . Both groups,
however, di4vij between say an uncle through ego's mother and

one through ego's father.

8. This is accordance with the observation made by Lockwood in

a Bosnian village in the l96Oies. (Lockwood, 1975).

9. For a confirmation of this trend in a number of other

European countries see S.H Franklin, 1969.


4.0 Introduction
Having discussed the first stage, courtship, in a
series of three (consisting of courtship, marriage and
gift-exchange between in-laws) which have been identified
as distinct in the marriage process, I shall now proceed to
a presentation of the second stage, namely the marriage
The second stage is when the girl (cura) goes and
lives with the boy (momak) and his family and gains the
status of bride (mlada). The actual moving of the bride
into the bridegroom's house and the implied consummation of
the marriage is the main 'rite-de-passage' in the marriage
process. As we shall see those who marry after only a short
period of acquaintance usually choose a radically different
wedding procedure from those who have been courting for a
longer period of time.
The different words used by the villagers when
referring to a marriage reflect how they themselves
categorise different ritual units and wedding customs.
Svadba and svatovi are used about the wedding celebration.
Informants would say that the two words meant the same, but
judging from actual usage they referred to different kind
of wedding procedures. I shall return to this point; in the
meantime it should be noted that svadba is translated as
"wedding feast", while svatovi is translated as "wedding
procession" or "wedding guests". Another word, vjenàanje,

is used to refer to the marriage ceremony, either the one
held at the town hail (civil marriage) or the one held in
front of the Imam (marriage ceremony according to Sheriat,
or Islamic law). The bride is called miada (lit. "the young
woman") and the bridegroom is called m1adoenja (lit.
"young married man"). The verb "to marry" has a feminine
and a masculine form: se ozeniti (of a man), derived from
the word for woman or wife, 'ena and se udati (for a
woman), derived from the verb "to give", dati. The
morphology reflects the fact that post-marital residence is
patrilocal and the idea that a girl is given in marriage
while a boy gains a wife. (Interestingly, a boy who marries
a girl and goes to live in her native village will use se
udati to say that he has married.)

4.1 The different marria ge procedures

The change in status from unmarried to married is
marked in more or less ritualised ways according to the
wishes and financial status of the couple and families
involved. There are three main choices open to young people
in Dolina wishing to marry. The first of these, which is
presented as the ideal, is to have what they would call a
"proper" wedding (svadba) or a "proper wedding procession"
(svatovi). This is a public, planned wedding, which is
known to the households involved as well as to the wider
village. The second is marriage by elopement, called
ukrasti se, which literally means "to steal oneself". This
is elopement agreed upon by the couple, but not known to

their parents. The third, which is closely related to the
second, is what Kajmakovi (1963) calls "fictive abduction"
of the girl. This is when a daughter's imminent marriage by
elopement is known to her parents, but they pretend not to
know, even if the village is buzzing with rumours. It is a
strategy which is a mixture of the first and second
options. It includes secrecy on the part of the bride's
household, but a wedding party or guests in the
bridegroom's home. It is in connection with these "fictive
elopements" that most confusion about categorisation
occurs. For the sake of clarity, I shall call the former
and secret "real elopement", and the latter, following
Kajmakovic, "fictive elopement".
Below I shall give an ethnographic account of all
three categories of marriage. Having outlined these
categories, however, it should be noted that not all
marriages will fit squarely into one category. The
distinctions may be particularly blurred between the two
last categories, real elopement and fictive elopement, a
point which I shall return to in due course. First,
however, I shall give a short account of wedding customs
for the pre-war generation in the period from about 1930-

4.2 The wedding about 1930-1950

This rough outline of the wedding procedures common
thirty to fifty years ago is meant to provide a comparative
framework for those of the l9aOs. The account is based on

the information from four village women about their own
weddings. They all married within the village, like the
majority of women in the generation born before 1945. This
is significant in as much as it affects the formal
procedure of the wedding ritual, and it may help us to
understand some of the changes that have taken place over
a period when brides have been increasingly married in from
other villages.
After a period of courtship the boy would ask the girl
to marry her, and the couple would agree on a day that he
should come and fetch her. (Most marriages would take place
in winter, when there was less work to do.) That day the
bridegroom would arrive with wedding guests (svatovi); they
would be girls and boys from the village, his neighbours
and relatives. (Today they arrive by car instead of by foot
or horse, and the gunshots have been replaced by the
honking of cars.) If the girl had been asked for in
marriage, usually by the boy's father, the groom and his
wedding guests would enter her house, otherwise they would
not. Those of the women who married after the war would
have had a senior female relative to accompany, instruct
and support them from their native village to their new
home. When arriving in the groom's house the bride would
first have her hands coloured with henna. She would then be
left in budak. (This literally means corner, but is used
to denote the corner of two sofas where the bride would
sit.) She would be required to sit, completely veiled, on
"display", easily seen by anybody, members or neighbours of

the bride's new household, who came by out of curiosity.
This seclusion of the bride would last for about three
days, the duration of the wedding celebrations. 1 The viewing
was certainly less significant when the bride was from the
village and already known. The women would nevertheless
recall this part of the experience with embarrassed
laughter, not least on recalling the complete veiling,
which was an unusual and awkward state for the young girl
to be in. While the bride was sitting on display, there
would be music and dance for the wedding guests.
The religious wedding ceremony was supposed to take
place ten to fifteen days after the bride moved to the
bridegroom's house (informants disagreed on the exact
number of days, but ten was the most common figure
mentioned). During this period the couple were not supposed
to sleep together and were given separate rooms or beds.
However, some older women would modify this picture
considerably: "Well, such was the law, but when we think of
it few actually followed the rule, the young couple just
went to the cow-shed...". The main difference between the
wedding procedures of a woman who married in the 1930s and
one who married, say, in the 1950s was in the official
marriage ceremony. In the thirties marriage ceremonies
undertaken by religious clerks and according to the
prescriptions of the religious community (either Catholic,
Orthodox or Muslim) were accepted as legal without a civil
ceremony. When Vasvija married in 1931, her husband went to
see the Islamic legal officer (kadija) in the market town

with two witnesses and set up a marriage contract according
to Islamic law. Rahida, who married in 1952, however, had
to sign a secular marriage contract before she could marry
"in front of a hoda". But she was only seventeen when she
arrived as a bride in her husband's home, and, according to
state law, she had to wait until she was eighteen to take
part in the secular wedding ceremony, and by implication
the religious one also. She married "in front of the hoda"
in the way it is also done today: in his home with two or
three male witnesses, usually the groom's father, father's
brothers or male cousins, herself and her husband. After
the ceremony about ten people, who were specially invited,
from among the husband's closest relatives on his father's
side, had supper together.
When comparing the wedding rituals which were
prevalent about thirty to fifty years ago with today's, the
most striking difference is the more compressed character
of the ritual today, which means that some practices have
been lost. The most significant is perhaps the lack of
emphasis put on the consummation of the marriage. This
event was earlier marked out as the final stage in the
wedding celebrations. -

4.3 Wedding irocedures 1988

4.3.1 Svadba and svatovi
After a period of courtship lasting anything from a
couple of weeks to several years the ideal is for the

couple and their respective households to start preparing
for what the villagers would call a real wedding feast, the
svadba. Svadba is used to denote a big wedding feast with
many guests (usually including the whole village), food and
drink, music and dance. However, although older informants
hold it up as the marriage custom which was predominant in
their youth, the svadba is actually a rather rare
occurrence in Dolina these days. When asked what marriage
customs consisted of today, these informants commented on
the sad state of affairs by answering "We have no customs
any more." (One could say, rather, that the older
generation is not prepared to acknowledge the new,
unfamiliar customs, and admittedly the multiplicity of
different approaches makes it awkward to give an account.)
Yet my data on actual marriage procedures thirty to fifty
years ago show clearly that a real svadba was a rare event
even then. In effect, it was the privilege of the more
wealthy families, as it is today. Presenting svadba as "the
traditional wedding custom" is thus an expression of
aspirations, and indirectly a comment on inequality among
the village population. Svatovi (i.e. wedding procession),
the most common form of wedding procedure, is used to
describe a wedding where the bridegroom arrives with his
wedding guests to pick up the bride from her home. A
svatovi varies more in scale than a svadba; it is usually
much more modest, with fewer guests, less food, and usually
no music or dance. It is a wedding which is less expensive
to hold than a svadba, thoughalso less prestigious. The

approximate date of the wedding celebrations will be known
to the villagers weeks beforehand. The feast, which will be
held in the bridegroom's village and sponsored by his
household, will be attended by at least one representative
from each household in the village.
During my stay, I did not have the opportunity to
observe a "real" wedding feast. For the difference in
customs between svadba and the elopement marriages, I
therefore have to rely partly on informants' accounts and
partly on descriptions from Bosnian ethnographers. However,
one "real wedding" did take place a couple of months before
my arrival in the village. According to my informants it
was the first real wedding feast in at least ten years.
The son of one of the wealthiest households in the
village was getting married to a daughter of migrant
workers in Austria who were equally wealthy because they
had money abroad in hard currency. The bridegroom's
household, who have the biggest house in the village, owe
their wealth to much land, but mostly to the remittance
sent back by two sons working and living abroad. Describing
what a big wedding party this was, informants would mention
the number of cars which were parked opposite the
bridegroom's house. Some say there were twenty-five, others
thirty. On the evening of the wedding feast the
bridegroom's father went around to the neighbouring
households and invited them na sijelo (see chapter 2) in
other words, he did not explicitly invite them to a
wedding party. Those who refused the invitation later

complained that they had not been invited to the wedding.
Nevertheless, at the party most households were represented
by at least one member. There ver . food, drinks, live music
and dance. The same kind of party took place in the bride's
village a couple of days afterwards, before the couple went
abroad. This is an unusual procedure, as the main wedding
feast would traditionally be held in the young man's
household; it undoubtedly served to underline both
families' wealth in the eyes of the villagers.
Informants would point out one of the major
differences between a prearranged marriage (i.e. one
including a big marriage feast) and an elopement: in the
case of the former the gifts would be given and displayed
immediately. This reflects the fact that svadba is the
wedding custom of the financially resourceful, who use the
occasion for a blunt display of economic status.

4.4 Elopement
I shall now proceed to a discussion of elopements.
First, I shall clarify the morphology of the key term
ukrasti Se. Secondly, I shall give a short description of

the main, elements which used to define a marriage by

elopement. Lastly I shall present and attempt to analyse
the new strategies.
Ukrasti se is derived from the verb krasti, "to

steal", in its reflexive form. The literal translation

would be "to steal (oneself) away", as in the expression
"the . child stole out of the house". An immediately obvious

translation of ukrasti se in the context of marriage would
be "abduction" or "bridetheft". Such a translation,
however, would be highly misleading, since the expression
in the Bosnian context implies active participation by the
girl who is "stealing herself away" from her parents. A
more apt translation would therefore be "elopement".
Moreover, there is a another word, otmice, which
corresponds to bridetheft.
Marriage by "stealing away" has changed significantly
over the last thirty years. Older informants would deny
that today's elopements are "real" "stealing away"
marriages. The classic sequence of events for a stealing
away "in the old way" (starinski), prevalent twenty to
thirty years ago, is as follows. The girl would have been
courted in the traditional manner, with the boy standing
outside the girl's bedroom window (see chapter 3). One
night he might propose. If she accepted, and they wanted to
get married "straight away", the girl would simply escape
through the window and leave with her suitor for his home
to become his wife. This would take place entirely without
the knowledge of the girl's parents. Next morning the
mother would find her daughter's bed empty, and later in
the afternoon male relatives of the bridegroom would come
to visit the bride's parent na inir (for peace). The first
time the daughter came to visit her mother after eloping
through the window, she would ceremonially enter through
the window but leave through the door. This is the only
kind of elopement considered by my older informants to be

"real elopement". 2 Real elopement is defined by two
criteria: first, the marriage must be secret and known only
to the girl and the young man who have agreed to get
married and, secondly, the girl should leave her home
through the window. The centrality of this symbolic act is
reflected in the saying "I left through the window" which
has become a euphemism for "I eloped". (Similarly, women
will say "I left through the door" if they have married
with svatovi.) Today, neither of these criteria are usually
fulfilled by the bride and her parents, although the
parents would still insist on characterisirig their
daughter's wedding as elopement or "stealing away", for
reasons I shall return to shortly.
According to informants, the last time a girl "stole
away through her bedroom window in the old-fashioned way"
was fifteen years ago. In some more remote mountain
villages girls still "steal away" in this way. In Dolina
today, however, there are two slightly different
procedures, both of which are called ukrasti Se. A girl
either elopes directly from a dance or a fair, or the groom
comes to fetch her from her house, and she leaves through
the door, easily observable by parents and neighbours. The
first procedure can be seen as an extension of the
traditional custom in as much as the girl still elopes in
secret. Although she does not leave through her bedroom
window she still leaves with her boyfriend from the arena
where the courtship has taken place; her bedroom window has
been replaced by the dance and the fairs. The second

procedure, however, is merely an elopement in name. The
bride's departure is not secret and she leaves from her
home, through the door; this is the fictive elopement
referred to above. Yet although the same term, ukrasti so,
is used to describe the two procedures older informants
regarded them as different. They would deny that the second
procedure was a real elopement, "since everybody knew". It
is this second, fictive elopement that has become the most
common marriage procedure in Dolina today, although it does
not have the status of the svadba or marriage feast, which
is still held to be the cultural ideal.
These new procedures, which have come about as a
result of change in gender relations, social values and the
economy, gain their legitimacy from the long memories of
elopement. It is a manipulation of an old concept to fit
and legitimate new procedures. I shall in the following
paragraphs discuss these in detail.

4.4.1 Real elo pement. modern style

As already mentioned, the ideal is for the couple to
go through a period of several months to a year or two of
courtship before marrying publicly. It is not uncommon,
however, for some girls to go of f with a boy after only a
short acquaintance, believing that he will eventually
officially marry her. This is often done directly from the
Saturday dance, and is the modern version of real
elopement. These elopements take place without the
knowledge of the bride's and inmost cases the bridegroom's

parents, as they are more or less impulsive decisions.
These "marriages" as a rule do not last long, and it is
usually the girl who decides to leave and return to her
Young female informants would say that young men
exploit girls who want to get married, by suggesting
marriage by elopement. A boy will ask a girl to marry him
("to get her to bed"), calculating that she will soon
return to her parents. In some cases boys are put up to
these propositions by male friends. Some girls will marry
barely knowing the boy, or as an educated village girl put
it: "Some girls are naive and only think about getting
married. A boy may take advantage of this and ask 'would
you like to marry me?' and the girl, who the first evening
finds him attractive, and the second finds that he has a
car (a symbol of relative wealth and a steady job] will go
along with him." Once the girl is in his home he then
leaves the responsibility for her well-being with his
mother. He may continue his life in the same way as before,
going to katanas and seeing other women. The young "wife"
is ignored and will soon feel unhappy and homesick. Sooner
or later she will return to her own parents; if she is
really young her father may come and fetch her if he thinks
the place she has arrived in is unacceptable. Independent
of the circumstances of the girl's arrival, she will
nevertheless be treated by the village women as any newly
arrived "bride" (i.e miada) would; they will arrive in her
new household na erbe to welcome her into the community of

the village women (see chapter 2).
But not all girls who marry according to this pattern
have been fooled into it by an uncommitted and more or less
unknown boy: it may be a conscious strategy pursued by the
girl herself. First, she may see marriage as an attractive
alternative to the hardships, poverty and lack of freedom
in her parents' home. She would like to spend more time
with her boyfriend and friends and believes that on
marrying she will always be able to do this, as she will no
longer have her parents around to refuse her. Yet in most
cases she quickly realises that far from winning more
freedom of movement, she has to put up with a mother-in-law
who in many cases may be even stricter with her than her
own mother. More often than not, as I said above, she will
find no support in her husband. However, at least these
young brides can more easily leave their marriage than
their mothers were able to.
Secondly, many of my young female informants assumed
that a majority of these girls had sexual experience, and
that they could have agreed to marry the boy because they
thought they might be pregnant. It should be noted that
girls who marry in the described fashion are very often
under age (a minor between the age of fourteen and eighteen
years may only enter into marriage with the permission of
the Court). Furthermore, a girl has no legal right to have
an abortion without the consent of her guardian if she is
under eighteen. She cannot therefore have an abortion
without involving a senior person such as her mother.

However, she may attain legal capacity as a major through
marriage before the age of eighteen and may then have an
abortion without the consent of a senior person.
There were two clear cases of real elopement marriages
(modern style) in the village during my stay there. In both
cases, and other cases I have heard of second hand, the
girls came from and arrived in households that were poor in
every sense. If svadba is the custom followed by the most
resourceful villagers, real elopement is a strategy which
in most cases is followed by the poorest and least
resourceful. In the first case a fifteen-year-old girl
arrived from the Saturday dance in the home of a young
Dolina man. The youth was in his early twenties, and lived
in one small room which was part of the house of his older
brother and his family. He was considered to be feeble-
minded and unattractive. Apparently the room she was
offered to live in was so dirty and untidy that she refused
to stay there. She stayed with some neighbours until her
bridegroom had arranged for his sister-in-law to clean and
rearrange the room. Meanwhile the girl had to borrow
clothes from a neighbour as she had not brought anything
with her and her father had not yet arrived with her
clothes. The rumour was that the bridegroom had married
(i.e. brought home) the fifteen-year- old girl as a joke,
set up by his friends. Allegedly, somebody else who owned
a car had asked her to come with him from a dance; in the
back seat was the twenty-year-old Dolina youth, and she had
apparently consented to go with him instead since the owner

was already married. When women went na serbe to welcome
the new bride they wanted to verify the story, but since it
would have been rude to repeat the rumour to her face, they
asked more subtly for how long the bride had been Mcourting
with him". She smiled shyly and answered evasively that she
had not known him for very long. The other case also
involved a fifteen-year-old girl. She was from a poor
rnahala in a large town, and had arrived with her bridegroom
from a fair immediately following his return from the army.
In both cases the miada left after some weeks, as most
women in the village had predicted, on the evidence of the
low degree or total absence of formalised rituals.
When a boy asks a girl, "Will you marry me?", the one
who asks (the boy) and the one who is being asked (the
girl) may well interpret the question and its implication
in significantly different ways. The girl may have a strong
wish to get married, having been brought up to see this as
her main aim, and being bored by her inferior status which
is both liminal and peripheral. The girl would often
understand the question as an invitation to change her
status and life-situation, while the boy may ask knowing
that it does not necessarily mean taking on any commitment
through an elaborate ritual involvement of the two families
or households concerned.

4.4.2 Fictive elopement

We saw earlier that a true marriage by elopement is
supposed to be known only to the girl and boy concerned. If

it is known to the two immediate households involved, it is
This kind of marriage is decided on beforehand and is
typically the result of courtship which has lasted over a
longer period of time and is known to most villagers. The
groom has told his parents in time for them to buy the
presents they are required to give the bride when she
arrives, and the food that the bridegroom's company of
followers and other guests will be served when they arrive
with the bride. At this stage, since no one else knows
about it, and the intention is to keep it secret, the
marriage retains some of the characteristics of elopement.
This state of affairs rarely lasts in a village community.
All three fictive elopements I observed, were talked about
weeks before they actually took place, and the bride and
bridegroom would complain after the marriage that it was
impossible to keep anything secret these days. But in fact
the behaviour of those most closely involved is ambivalent.
Hints may be openly dropped by the bride's mother; some may
have seen the bride-to-be in town with her boyfriend buying
rings; others may have noticed her buying new shoes or at
the hairdresser's; all these scarcely concealed clues
together with the fact that the girl has been dating a
certain boy over several months lead people to conclude
that she is getting married. In addition, her sisters or
girlfriends usually know and are secretive in a way that is
also interpreted in favour of marriage.
This kind of behaviour has become an essential element

in the ritual procedures pertaining to a fictive elopement.
The reasons for the elaborate charade are clearly economic.
Whenever a couple's marriage plans are known to the
household concerned, the broadcasting of that knowledge and
the consequent wedding-feast are seen as the traditional,
obligatory next steps. Conversely, a public wedding without
conspicuous communal consumption would be considered
shameful. But a real wedding-feast costs more than most
villagers these days are able or willing to spend. The
obvious face-saving solution is simply to pretend that the
marriage is an elopement, i.e. entirely without the prior
knowledge of the immediate families. By this manoeuvre the
event is conveniently pigeonholed into the other
traditional category of marriage, "real" elopement "in the
old way"; events are officially taken out of the parents'
hands, and they are absolved of all financial
responsibility. This idea is confirmed by Kajmakovic
(1963), who points out that "fictive abduction" is becoming
increasingly common, and suggests that this phenomenon is
due to economic factors: i.e. the wish to avoid the
obligations and great expenses of gift-giving and
hospitality. It is significant that fictive elopement, with
its motive to econoxnise resources should first appear in
the sixties during a time of rapid industrialisation,
rising living-standards, work migration to northern Europe,
and massive introduction of consumer goods. This pattern
ties in with the redirection of household resources away
from hospitality and conspicuous consumption shared by the

community as a whole, and towards consumer goods and
improved housing for the core-family (see chapter 6). Yet,
despite their popularity, fictive elopements invite adverse
comments particularly from members of the older generation,
who would utter critically: "They say she eloped, but half
the village knew about it. They only pretended not to know
to avoid having to spend money on a wedding feast. 3 As we
shall see, this attitude stems partly from the
unpredictability of the ceremonies surrounding fictive
elopement and the consequent social insecurity of those
Three case-histories follow : the first showing the
unpredictability of procedures surrounding fictive
elopement, the second illustrating how rumours of marriage
are typically broadcast, and the third a representative
"modern" wedding.

Case-history 1.
The confusion surrounding wedding procedures was
most strikingly illustrated by the reactions of neighbours
to a household where the daughter was marrying. This
marriage had been talked about for months, and the
villagers had expected it to take place every Saturday
night for some time. One Saturday afternoon the rumours
became increasingly convincing. Somebody knew that the
girl, 1-Ledija, had been to the hairdresser and had her hair
done the day before. Women were debating whether there
would be svatovi (wedding guest arriving with the

bridegroom) in the bride's home or nothing there at all, or
whether she would leave directly from the Saturday dance.
Some neighbours of the supposed bride were called na
sijelo later that evening to a household in another
neighbourhood, where I was also a guest. People began to
assume that there was not going to be a marriage that
night. Later the company was told that there was going to
be a wedding after all. I left with some of the guests to
go and have a look. On our way we saw five cars driving up
towards the bride's house. It was noticed that the drivers
did not use their horns (the modern equivalent of firing a
gun). The question onlookers were asking when the
bridegroom and his guests arrived in the village was: will
they enter the house? If they stayed outside, the marriage
would be classified as an elopement, and the neighbours
would have to keep away. If, however, the wedding
procession did enter her house it would imply a marriage by
svatovi rather than elopement, i.e. one agreed on

beforehand and known to the bride's parents, and neighbours

would traditionally be invited na sijelo to celebrate her
marriage (albeit in a more modest fashion than in the
bridegroom's home later that evening). When some of the
onlookers realised that the bridegroom and his company had
entered the bride's house, they wanted to go over and
participate, but an older woman thought maybe it would not
be right, since we had not been invited. Besides, she
thought it would be the custom to bring a gift (dar) as a
guest to a wedding, and she had nothing to give... Others

disagreed: two women from the neighbourhood had already
come over, so why could not we go as well? However, while
this discussion took place and people were trying to decide
on what to do, we heard the cars honk on their way out of
the village. There was a short silence before a woman
commented: "She has left." The wedding procession had
lasted less than an hour and we had all missed it. The
bride now left with her bridegroom to his home in a village
across the mountains from Dolina.

Case-history 2
It was being rumoured that nineteen-year-old Ref ika
was getting married, and some thought it was bound to
happen on Saturday after the dance. On the Friday I went
with a friend to visit Ref ika. When we arrived the mother
was doing her hair. My friend asked her if she was going
anywhere. The mother answered simply that guests were
expected on Saturday. She knew that her daughter was about
to get married and that the bridegroom would arrive with
wedding guests (svatovi), so she had been washing, baking
cakes and had her hair done. On the day she would also make
sure she put on one of her nicer dirnije. The rumours about
her daughter's marriage had been strengthened by minor
events in the previous two weeks. She had been with her two
daughters to one of the "tailors" in the village. On
handing over the material and giving instructions for the
kind of dresses she wanted, she had stressed that the
oldest daughter's needed to be finished by Saturday and

that this was the most important; the other orders could

Case-history 3
Senada, a nineteen-year-old, had agreed with her
boyfriend that he should come and fetch her that Saturday
evening. She had spent the day packing her trousseau, which
she would come and fetch at a later point, and those
clothes she would need in the coming weeks. She had dressed
up in a nice skirt and blouse, had her hair done and put on
make-up. The time was approaching eight. Senada was
constantly looking out of her window. She was getting
worried that he might have changed his mind. He arrived
some minutes later. There were two cars, as the bridegroom
was accompanied by his two brothers and his sister-in-law.
Everything went very fast from then on. Senada's mother
invited the "wedding procession" (svatovi) into her house,
but they refused. This was because the procedure was
supposed to be an elopement, albeit fictive. The bridegroom
was in a hurry. In the meantime neighbours had gathered
outside the house to bid Senada farewell; she embraced all
the women, who were crying. She told her mother firmly to
stop crying as it made things more difficult for her.
Senada's sister-in-law accompanied her in the car to give
her support when she arrived in her new home. On leaving
the hamlet, the drivers hooted in farewell. After Senada
had left, women gathered in the house of her mother na
za1ost (for sorrow) to comfort her and share her

Senada's marriage procedure is typical of fictive
elopement in that it combines elements from the true
elopement (ukrasti se) and the public wedding-feast. On the
one hand, rumour had it that the bride's mother was grumpy
and angry because people in the village had been discussing
her daughter's imminent marriage, weeks before it took
place. I was told that the mother wanted to insist on it
being an elopement because "they (i.e. the bride's
household) do not like to spend" (Oni r.e vole.. troèiti,

refers here mainly to food). On the other hand, the parents

on both sides were informed about what was going to happen,

and the bridegroom's parents had already been to visit the
bride's closest kin (without, however mentioning their son
and his relationship with the daughter). And although there
was no intention of giving a wedding feast at the bride's
home, there was going to be a wedding procession
accompanying the bridegroom on fetching the bride and
guests in the bridegroom's home upon the bride's arrival.

4.5 The marria ge ceremony

The marriage ceremony or vjenanje is the official and
bureaucratic confirmation of a marriage. The ceremony takes
place at the nearest town hail (civil marriage) and,
depending on the wish of the couple, may or may not be
followed by a religious ceremony conducted by a hodza
according to Islamic law. The latter may, however, only
take place after a marriage contract has been signed at a

civil ceremony (Cf. section 4.2). The civil marriage
ceremony may take place from a week to a year (or even
years) after the wedding. It is not uncommon to postpone
registering the marriage until the first child is born and
a trip must be made to the town hail to register the child
anyway. The ceremony requires two witnesses (who will
usually be friends or young relatives of the couple) and
the couple may or may not dress up for the occasion. When
the ceremony is held during the weeks preceding the wedding
it is becoming increasingly common to stress the ceremony
as a festive event. The couple and their witnesses (the kum
and kuma)will dress up and after the ceremony they may go
out for a meal. It may be a low key event with only close
friends attending or a big party with relatives and friends
of both the bride and the bridegroom. Should the couple
want a religious ceremony this should take place within two
weeks of the wedding (cf. section 4.2). As already
mentioned the ceremony will take place in the bridegroom's
home and will be lead by the local hoda. The two or three
witnesses required will be the groom's closest male patri-
kin. After the ceremony the participants will be joined by
close male and female relatives of the groom's father for
The vjencanje is surrounded with less excitement and
receives less attention by neighbours and family of the
bride than the wedding - which as we have seen engage the
bride's family and neighbours. The vjenanje is in the case
of the civil ceremony an event ( and a bureaucratic

necessity) involving mainly and often exclusively the young
couple and their two witnesses. The religious ceremony
involvesthe couple and the bridegroom's close relatives on
his father's side. Both ceremonies are restricted in public
accessibility and concern the bride's relatives and
neighbours as the wedding itself albeit cast as a 'secret'

4.6 Conclusions
The combination of the two traditions (true elopement
and public wedding feast) in fictive elopement means in
general that the part of the procedures taking place in the
bride's village and household is marked by quasi-secrecy
and lack of celebrations (as is the case with real
elopement), while the events in the bridegroom's household
when he arrives with the bride are similar to those at a
"proper wedding", albeit on a smaller scale. Individual
couples "combine" according to preference, practicality and
resources. As a result, there is a general confusion at the
lack of predictability in the marriage celebrations. This
was clearly shown in the first case-history where there was
widespread insecurity about the correct response to this
particular wedding. However, uncertainty about procedures
at weddings is only one example of how rapid economic
development has weakened and fragmented traditional values
and customs, Villagers have become disenchanted with
rituals, worrying about their lack of knowledge on any
public occasion. I would assume that social life in the

village has never taken place according to a ritual recipe
book, and that there have always been disparities in ritual
procedures generally and wedding procedures specifically.
The main difference, I would argue, is that today people
are questioning even established patterns. Many rituals
which were earlier communal have taken on an increasingly
private character, pertaining to the household, rather than
to the community as a whole. This 'privatisation' leaves
the community unsure about corporate actions, while the
individual can no longer legitimate her acts simply by
referring to what everybody else does. Traditional values
and the customs based on them can no longer be taken for
granted. The impact of transport facilities, communications
and the media (in particular television), has made people
more aware of different ways of life. But although they may
therefore be readier to accept disparities within their own
village society, the individual is left more vulnerable as
a consequence. (This vulnerability may ultimately leave the
villagers amenable to more doctrinal and fixed structuring
principles; a topic I shall return to in the last part of
the thesis which deals with Islam.)

Footnotes charter 4

1. Campbell reports a similar custom of keeping the bride

secluded among the Greek Sarakatsani in the early sixties. He
points out that the seclusion "fits the feelings of shyness
and shame which a bride is expected to experience (...]"; but
that it also protects her from the dangers of the evil eye and
the destructive force of envy (1964:62).
2.Usage of the word "real" (which is a translation of pravo
and may also mean "correct") by the older generation when
referring to traditional rituals and the way they practised
them as opposed to the way they are practised today, may
deserve some attention.
3. To say "they do not like to spend" (oni ne vo1 troiti) is
a negative characterisation of a household and is always
uttered in a reproachful tone in contexts where the issue is
major communal rituals. It is obvious that "not liking to
spend" is contrary to the ethos of conspicuous consumption in
connection with major life-cycle rituals.


5.0 Introduction
We have seen in the preceding chapter that the
institutional importance of marriage has changed character
with time. There are indications that marriage is now
concerned less with the two patri-groups involved and more
with the conjugal couple and their individual relationship
with each of the households. Yet in spite of the weakened
importance of marriage as an alliance, the custom of visits
and gift-exchange between the bride's and the bridegroom's
patri-group persists. A marriage is only fully acknowledged
and established when the gift-exchange obligations, which
are conducted according to a set of rules fixing the order
and amount of the exchange, have been fulfilled.
The custom of gift-exchange is occasioned by any
change in status of a member of the community and the
attendant necessary reconstruction of relationships and
statuses within the village (cf. chapter 2). The most
elaborate and extensive gift-giving is in connection with
marriage and the establishing of a relationship between in-
laws. The particular visit called pohod and the associated
exchange of gifts establish a relationship between the
bridegroom's household and family, of which the bride is
now a member, and the bride's family, which as a rule
belongs to another village community. (Marriage is
therefore often a welcome opportunity for a household to
extend the social network outside the village.)

All known relatives of a son or a daughter-in-law are
called prijatelj or "friend", but this term has an even
wider application, since any two people who have relations
connected through marriage will call each other "friends"
(prija is used for a woman, prijatelj for a man).
"Friendship" is not automatically established upon marriage
but has to be confirmed and strengthened through gift-
exchange and reciprocal visits. The main visits are the na
rnir and the pohod.
In the case of an elopement marriage, representatives
of the bridegroom's household should go and visit the
bride's family as soon as possible, preferably the day
after her departure, "for peace" (na mir) (see chapter 4).
Going na mir is required only in those cases where the
daughter has left for marriage without her parents'
official knowledge. The bridegroom is accompanied not by
his parents, but by male representatives of the family,
usually an uncle or brother. 1 The bridegroom's household
will bring presents, usually coffee, sugar and cigarettes,
and exchange news and wishes for a good "friendship". For
the girl's parents, the immediate purpose of the visit is
to learn where their daughter is, with what family and in
which village. If the bride did not eloper but had a
wedding procession or a wedding feast (svatovi or svadba;
see chapter 4), her bridegroom and his attendants will
present her household with coffee, cigarettes and sugar on
the day they come to fetch her. This is the first in a
series of visits and gift-exchanges between the immediate

families and households of the young couple in order to
establish a good "friendship", culminating in the pohod.
The mutual visits by in-laws used to have a much more
elaborate pattern than is the case today. According to
Kajmakovic, who collected her material during the sixties
in a region not far from Dolina: "Already two or three days
after the wedding the bride's brother will come to visit u
prijatelje. After him, the bridegroom and some relatives
will go u pohodu (pohod: see section 5.1.2) to the bride's
parents. Then, the bride's mother will go with some women
to visit her daughter. The bride will then return the visit
with her mother-in-law. Lastly, the bride's father goes to
visit his daughter. At all these visits the hosts are
presented with gifts." (1964:200) Kajmakovi6 goes on to
explain that usually on the fourth day after the bride
left her home representatives from her household would come
and deliver her trousseau (oprema: see below). On receiving
the trousseau those carrying it will be given gifts. The
bridegroom's parents will also send gifts for the bride's
parents: her mother will receive material for kat (baggy
trousers and a blouse of the same material worn on special
religious occasions), while the father will receive
tobacco, coffee and sugar. (Significantly these items will
later be offered to guests who come to visit. They are
central to the 'displaying of hospitality' and therefore
ultimately to the reputation of the household).
Today, the different rituals in association with
marriage consist of fewer sequences, and household members

do not visit individually over several days, but go
together to the main gift-giving event, the pohod. The
important fact remains, however, that gifts go both ways
i.e. between the bride's and the bridegroom's household and
that the gifts given by the two households should match in
value. This is with the exception of the oprema which is
given to the bride by her native household.

5.1 Weddin prestations

5.1.1 "Oprema"
There seem to be two categories of prestations that
move between in-laws at marriage: first, dar, which goes
both ways between the two households involved and is an
integral part of the pohod, and secondly, oprema, which
goes to the bride and her future household from her
parents. In the villagers' usage oprema is the equivalent
of both "trousseau" and "dowry". 2 (The dictionary
translation of the word oprema is "trousseau", and the word
for "dowry" is miraz. However, I aever heard this latter
word used to denote any of the prestations in connection
with a marriage.)
The "trousseau" may consist of furniture and
kitchenware in addition to what the girl herself brings to
the house (embroidered and crocheted pillowcases, table-
cloths which she has made). The larger items like furniture
are not displayed and are rarely given at the same time as
the personal dar given at pohod, described below.3
According to informants, large items were not customarily

given in Dolina, but were known to be the custom in other
regions, particularly west of Sarajevo towards Herzegovina.
A mother would often worry that her daughter would marry
somebody from that region: parents would feel they had to
equip their daughter according to the standards in that
area; for some this would mean economic hardship for years.
The oprema is, unlike the dar, outside the realm of
public gift-exchanges between in-laws. Nevertheless, there
are usually rumours about what has been given and villagers
will comment on how well certain parents have equipped
their daughter in marriage (Oni su nju dobro opremili).
Rheubottom argues, on the basis of his material from
Macedonia, that the trousseau "symbolises the exclusion of
the bride from her natal household. In giving her
compensation for labour and assistance, her family end any
claims she may make for shelter and support. (...] In
giving the trousseau, the bride's natal household has
redefined the boundaries of their membership (1980:234) And
he continues: "as the boundaries of her natal group close
firmly behind her, and as their involvement in the exchange
ends, a complex series of changes is occurring within the
groom's group." (1980:243) From now on the gifts that are
exchanged are taking place solely within the groom's group;
agnatic solidarity and "clan boundaries" are emphasised and
affinity indirectly denied. This pattern is significantly
different from the one found in Dolina where gifts are
exchanged between the bride's and bridegroom's household
after the oprema has been handed over to the bride. Here

the two households' conunon links are stressed and their
equal contribution to the formation of a new productive and
reproductive unit acknowledged.

5.1.2 Pohod
As we have just seen, Kajmakovic reports on several
visits which take place between members of households who
have become in-laws. In Dolina today, however, the main
visit is the pohod attended by the young married couple,
their parents and close relatives. Pohod means literally
visit but is in Dolina only used about the specific first
mutual visits by the members of the bride's or bridegroom's
household with gifts. (This is a different usage from the
one Kajamakovic reports.) In fact, the first time the
parents of the newly married meet officially in their new
status as prijatelji is when the bridegroom, the bride and
his immediate family visit the bride's household with gifts
within a couple of weeks after the wedding has taken place.
Later this visit is returned by the bride's parents and
close relatives to the bridegroom's parents' household.
The word used for gift in this context is dar (plural
darovi). The more standard word pokion, meaning present, is
used in Dolina for the kind of present which does not
necessitate ritualised exchange. Dar is used exclusively to
denote gifts given at rituals which mark the change in
status of a village member; such as marriage, the birth of
a child, the first hair-cutting of a child, and when a
household finishes the construction of a new house.4

The most important exchange of dar is undoubtedly in
the context of the pohod. The date is agreed on beforehand,
and the hosts (the bride's parents) are therefore given the
opportunity to invite relatives and neighbours to sijelo,
since, they explain, "prije [friends: see section 5.0] are
coming". The bridegroom's parents bring dar to the
household's members, who are usually the bride's parents
and grand-parents, however, some may also extend the gift-
giving to collaterals who traditionally would have been
members of the extended household but today form separate
households; for instance, the bride's father's brothers and
their wives (see chapter 6). The number of family members
included in the gift-exchange depends on the social and
economic standing of the two gift-giving households.
The dar typically consists of underwear, nightgown and
material for dimije (baggy trousers) to a woman, and
underwear, shirt, material for trousers or pyjamas for a
man. Rheubottoin suggests that underwear symbolises
sexuality and fertility andTtrengthened by the fact that
these kinds of gifts are exchanged within the bride's new
household (clothing is thus a symbol of kinship). In
Dolina, however, such gifts are exchanged between in-laws
and we could therefore argue that contrary to the
Macedonian case the stress is rather more on the exchange
of fertility between the two groups rather than aftexciusive
preoccupation with the "fertility" of the groom's group
through the new bride. Some clothes like, e.g., shirt (for a
man) and headscarf (for a married woman) or dimije cannot

be directly associated with sexuality and fertility. They
do, however, symbolise intimacy as they are clothes that
should not be taken of f in public and they are usually made
of better material than every-day clothes so they are also
'display items' usually worn on religious public occasions.
A similar idea of equal contribution is seen in the fact
that both the bride's and the groom's mother carry food to
their respective pohods. In addition to clothes and
material, the prijatelji will also bring all the food which
will be consumed by the guests: sweet and savory dishes,
fruit juice, coffee and cigarettes. This food has been
prepared by the senior woman in the household and is
brought to be consumed among her affines. A household is a
unit of production, consumption and reproduction; the food
and the clothing which are exchanged between affines i.e.
the household of the bride and the bridegroom respectively
represent all of this. Furthermore, offering food is the
epitome of hospitality which we have seen (chapter 2) is
essential to the reputation of a household. The offering of
food in the bride or bridegroom's parents' house which have
been prepared and brought by their affines symbolises a
merging of the two households through the bride and the
bridegroom. The reputations of the two households are now
inextricably linked to each other.
The guests invited will be family and neighbours of
the bride's household. As soon as the bride's parents have
managed to collect the gifts for their new in-laws, they
return the visit. In addition to clothes and material, they

also bring food which will be offered to the guests (i.e.
neighbours and relatives of the bridegroom's household).
In paying back gifts, the bride's parents have to
consider not only what they received from household
members, but also what the bride has received separately.
It is becoming increasingly common for the bridegroom's
aunts to give the bride jewellery, usually gold. This is a
move away from giving the bride clothing and linen
(associated with fertility) towards giving her 'display
items' which will be worn in public. The bride's parents
will acknowledge this special gift by adding something
extra to that person's dar. In one observed case bed-linen
was added. Otherwise, the people who are most closely
related to the bride or bridegroom, i.e. parents and
grandparents, should as a rule receive more valuable gifts
than kin further removed. Grandparents will usually receive
old-fashioned underwear and shirts, made of thick,
handwoven cotton, sewn and embroidered by hand. These have
not normally been bought, but have usually been given in
dar to older members of the household, maybe at the
marriage of another of their grandchildren.5
In addition to relatives of the groom, the bride's
parents should also return gifts to the kum and kuma, the
ritual sponsors and witnesses at the marriage ceremony, who
will both usually have given the bride a gold ring.
The rules for the content of the dar are more or less
fixed and known, but highly dependent on the standard set
by the household which initiates the gift-exchange, i.e.

the bridegroom's household (parents). There is nevertheless
uncertainty about what is correct among the women (the
mother of the bride or bridegroom), who are generally in
charge of putting together the gifts. They will often ask
female neighbours and in-laws for advice. This insecurity
has a very real base, in as much as customs vary from
region to region, and women in the village are usually
originally outsiders (see chapter 3). Even if the main
components are generally the same, there is a strong
feeling among women coming from other villages that things
are done differently in Dolina, and that they have to take
care to get things right.
The gift-exchanges which have to take place when a son
or daughter marries are a major economic endeavour for most
households. This is especially true for the bride's
household, which on balance gives the most gifts. Less
prosperous households may spend months and maybe years
saving money and buying dar, while others may choose to be
less ambitious and prestige-seeking in the quality and
number of gifts given. The bridegroom's household, which
visits first, sets the standard: the most important
principle in these exchanges is that what is received and
what is given matched in value.
When all gifts to a daughter- or son-in-law's family
have been bought and prepared, the mother will go through
all gifts, checking that the content of each corresponds to
the relative status of the person, and that people of equal
kinship status receive gifts of identical value and

prestige. Any mistake made will cause shame to the giving
household: the gift received will be examined in detail by
visiting neighbours and a possible unfairness or flaw will
soon be detected and commented on in public; and the report
will soon reach the gift-givers. If the two households now
connected by marriage are economically unequal, the problem
is for the receiver to match the giver when it is his turn
to give. If the standard set by the bridegroom's family
cannot be met by the bride's, they will do their best to
attain a standard according to their means which will not
shame them.
For the bride's parents to postpone the returning
pohod for too long without acceptable economic reasons is
seen as shameful, but may be less so if the dar is
considerable. One family in the village had 'married off'
three daughters and was marrying of f a fourth during my
stay. They had a reputation for equipping their daughters
excessively, even buying them furniture. This was an
exception, however. Most families settle for the standard
mentioned above, and even this is very hard to live up to
for some households. During the struggle of a mother in
saving up for the dar and worrying that she still had to
provide her daughter with the oprema her neighbours showed
their sympathy by telling her to be happy that her daughter
did not marry a man from across the mountains in
Herzegovina, where the gift-giving customs include buying
the daughter and son-in-law furniture and gifts to fill a
whole house. They knew a certain woman whose daughter had

married in that region, and they depicted her struggles and
worries with much compassion.
I had the opportunity to follow one pohod in detail in
connection with the marriage of a friend. This case was
interesting for two reasons. First, both households
involved were settled in Dolina, albeit in different
hamlets; secondly, there was an explicitly acknowledged
difference in economic status between the two households.
The event is told from the point of view of the bride's

5.2 Preparing the g ifts; a case-history

The daughter, here called Amela, married in April by
fictive elopement. In July the bridegroom and his immediate
family, i.e. his parents and his brother, came u pohodu.
The exact day had been agreed on with the bride and her
family, the bride going between the two households
negotiating the date and the extent of the gift-giving.
Her mother-in-law was considering the more difficult
economic situation of Amela's parents and wanted to make
sure that they as in-laws did not intimidate them by
bringing gifts of a value that they would find difficult to
reciprocate. The main problem in this case was the question
of the exclusion or inclusion of aunts (tetke, i.e.
father's brothers' wives), since the bridegroom had many
more aunts than the bride. As one of the bride's aunts was
sharing a household with her grandparents, the bride and
her in-laws felt it would be wrong to give a present to the

grandparents (which was considered compulsory, even if they
were not sharing a house with the bride's parents), and
ignore the aunt (their daughter-in-law). But in that case
the bride's other aunts, living in different hamlets of
Dolina, would also have to be included. This in turn had
repercussions for Amela's parents, as they would then have
to give gifts to all their daughter's husband's aunts. The
bride's mother-in-law suggested that they should give gifts
to Amela's aunts separately, through a visit by Axnela, but
that the aunt sharing a household with her grandparents
would receive her gift at the pohod. The other aunts would
be told that this was the arrangement, in order not to make
them upset and jealous and spread a bad reputation about
their prijatelji in the village. Since this dar would not

be included in the pohod and its handing over therefore not

ritualised or public, this solution would free Amela's
parents from the obligation to give gifts to their son-in-
law's many aunts.
However, it became a matter of pride for Amela's
parents to match their in-laws' 'prestations', and in the
end they did not accept any special arrangement. They made
it clear that they would need more time to prepare the
gifts, but that they would eventually fulfil their
obligations. This would include planning and economising
and might not be possible immediately after the bridegroom
and his parents had visited. It was four months from the
pohod of the bridegroom and his immediate family before
their in-laws were able to make a return visit. During this

period, the bride's mother had been putting money aside for
buying gifts. During the summer months, in intense heat,
she picked berries in the forest and sold them at the local
cooperative. She knitted jumpers for a firm in one of the
market towns, and she sent her husband to chop wood for the
local forestry authorities. Whenever a sale or special
offer of material or clothes was reported by a co-villager
from his or her visit to one of the market towns, Ainela's
mother would travel by foot and bus to the town in question
and shop for her 'gift collection'. Some of the necessary
items Ainela would buy herself with the money she was
earning as a waitress. Her mother's friends and neighbours
would engage in the project with moral support: advice
about where to make purchases, what to give to whom, what
would still be needed and how she could best economise on
the gift-giving without being shamed (i.e. shaming herself
and her household). They would also give her encouraging
praise when they saw the purchases. On the day of Ainela's
parents' pohod, her mother went through all the gifts for
the last time with her sister-in-law to check that
everything was there. The gifts were wrapped individually
for each in-law in a towel.
A close neighbour and friend of Amela's mother,
herself born and married in Dolina, recollected her own
wedding while admiring the gifts. She remembered that she
(sic) had carried gifts only to the household (U kuói), and

not, as she said, "to the sides (na strani), like they do
now". This might at first glance seem as if the gift-giving

has extended to relatives who were not earlier included. It
is, however, important to keep in mind that the household
earlier this century was a much larger unit, usually
consisting of brothers with their wives and parents.
(Brothers who were not living in the household would not
receive gifts.) Eligibility for receiving gifts was clearly
defined by membership of the household. Today, however,
only parents, children and possibly grandparent make up the
household. To include the father's brothers in the gift-
giving exchange is therefore merely to include those who
used to be part of the bride or bridegroom's household (Cf.
the discussion of the zajednica in chapter 6). The problem
today seems to be where to draw the line with those
relatives who live outside the primary household. As we
have seen in Amela's case with father's brothers' wives who
do not live with their husbands in an extended family
household (zajednica, see chapter 6) any more, people are
negotiating new procedures in the absence of the old,
clearly defined ones. This is only one of several examples
in Dolina of how traditional customs are adapted to fit a
new social reality, born out of change in the economic
situation and the resulting tendency towards individualism
and consumerism.

5.2.1 The visit

On the agreed evening Amela arrived with her husband
and his parents and young brother to visit u pohodu.
Neighbours and relatives to Amela also came. The gifts that

Amela's parents- in-law brought were displayed among the
women, who sat in a room separate from the men. (At a big
event like this men and women socialise in separate rooms.
The gifts are only displayed among the women.) All the food
which was served, including coffee and also cigarettes had
been brought by Amela's mother-in-law.
At the point when coffee is being drunk it is time for
those present to decide on who is "guilty of" the bride's
(and bridegroom's marriage). One man and one woman are
picked. The woman who is chosen must make a display of
protesting fiercely, trying to plead her innocence, but she
has already lost her case and will be lifted up from her
seat by other women, carried to the doorway and thrown
outside. The same thing will take place among the men. On
this occasion the uncle, i.e. father's brother, and aunt
and closest neighbours of the bride were blamed. The woman
who is held responsible for the girl's marriage is called
ona koja zabuni, (i.e. "she who confuses") or ona koja
odnese ("the one who takes with her"). She and the woman

who lifts her out of the house are given gifts (underwear
and a towel). The man found responsible for the
bridegroom's marrying is likewise thrown out of the house
by male guests, and he and his accuser are both given a
shirt and a towel as gifts.
The traditional custom of "blaming" somebody for the
marriage of a son or daughter at the pohod seems to have
had more relevance when marriage came about by the
mediating skills of a third party. This would have been the

case when the young met mainly at sijelos, and a young man
would approach a girl, who would always be under the
protection of a chaperone, for courtship through the agency
of a third person (c f. chapter 3). Today, however, the
young couple usually comes together on their own
initiative. A go-between may still be used, but he is more
often a friend from the same age group, who may be the
cousin of the girl in question or know somebody who can
approach her. If the friend who has played a role in the
coming together of the couple and thus has some indirect
responsibility for the marriage is not related to the
household or its close neighbours, he or she will not be
present at the pohod.
Yet even the go-between is present, his or her
involvement will probably not have been known to the senior
men and women, since this role will have been played
outside the neighbourhood/village context. The dances and
coffee bars where couples meet are located outside Dolina
and attended only by unmarried, young people from the
region. At a traditional sijelo young people would have

been part of a social occasion in which senior married

household members would also participate, although the two
categories would usually not mix and would keep to
different rooms.

5.3 Conclusions
When the gifts have been presented and displayed and
the food consumed among prijae1ji and neighbours at the

pohod, the gift-giving obligations have been fulfilled by
the bride's parents. A good "friendship" has now been
established and the marriage process may be said to have
come to an end.
In chapter 2 I argued that a central aspect of the
day-to-day interaction which integrates the community is

social exchange. Ritual gift-giving is part of this social

exchange. Such exchanges create bonds of alliance and
commonality. The degree of strength and intimacy of these
bonds are reflected in the types of gifts given on
different occasions. The gifts exchanged between affines
symbolise commonality relating to the household as a unit
of reproduction, production and coinmensality and thus a
high degree of intimacy. I suggest that the gift-exchange
which takes place between affines stresses the common
interests of the bride and bridegroom's household and their
equal contribution to the 'creation' of a new reproductive
(and productive) unit. (Cf. Rheubottom [1980] who argues
that "wedding prestations" symbolise the denial of
affinity and the drawing of boundaries between the two
household.) It has already been pointed out (chapter 2)
that Catholics are only to a limited extent part of
Muslims' social exchange. The gift-exchange pattern between
Catholic affines is similar to that described for Muslims,
but since intermarriage between Muslims and Catholics Is
rare in the village such exchanges are equally rare between
Catholic and Muslim households. Indeed, I would argue that
the prestations exchanged between affines rather than

emphasising clan boundaries as suggested by Rheubottom
(1980) for his Nacedonian material, stresses common
identity and ultimately ethnic boundaries.
In the last three chapters we have discussed the
different stages in the process of marrying. We have seen
that individuals choose different strategies according to
economic means. It is clear that the young today act more
individualistically than their parents' generation did,
although their involvement in the wider community (i.e.the
ethnic community more generally), is still reflected,
first, in their reluctance to marry outside the ethnic
group and, secondly, in the importance of gift-exchange and
the establishment of a "good friendship" (i.e. affinal
relations). The continued emphasis on affinal relations is
furthermore an indirect acknowledgement of women (or wives)
as the vital links between the household and a wider social
network of relationships entailing mutual obligations (cf.
chapter 2). A woman may mobilise her kin in support of her
household and her affines (e.g. in terms of financial help),
but she may also mobilise their support for herself and her
children where she is in a conflict with her husband's
family. From the point of view of her husband's family a
wife's role is therefore seen as ambiguous and her loyalty
may be seen as spurious. In the next chapter a wife's role
as both an insider to and outsider of the household
dominated by her husbands' family will be examined in more

Footnotes charter 5

1. According to Hangi (1906), the father of the bridegroom would

also visit, but in Dolina I found this was never the case. This
may indicate (as suggested at the beginning of the chapter) that
marriage is today seen less as the concern of the agnatic group
of the household and more as a matter between the bridegroom and
the bride's household. The same trend is reflected in other
marriage procedures: for instance, the bridegroom's father will
not accompany his son when he goes to bring the bride home with
him. It should be noted, however, that the bride's father still
has a role to play, as he is usually the one who brings the
bride's trousseau.
2. Thus, Rheubottom (1980) notes on the basis of his material on
marriage in Macedonia that what is the equivalent of dowry is not
a prestation from her household to the bridegroom's household,
but rather gifts to the bride and therefore ultimately to her
3. Rheubottom argues that the "bridal furniture" are not
displayed because they are associated with the bride's productive
and reproductive capacities. The bride's future role as a mother
is seen as ambiguous as it represents both a threat to the
stability and unity of her new household as well as a hope for
the continuity of the lineage (1980:247-48).
4. The ritual gift-exchange in Bosnia is extensive, and is also
common in the sphere of religious rituals (see chapter 8).
Suffice it to note at this point, however, that gift-exchange in
Bosnia is immediate rather than postponed. Gifts that are given
for instance at a birth will not be 'returned' when there is a
birth in the gift-giving household; rather, gifts should be
'returned' as part of the gift exchange connected to that
particuiar event. Thus, a mother who receives gifts during the
forty days' confinement after birth should immediately afterwards
drop in on those neighbours who visited her and in turn give them
gifts (cf. chapter 2).
5. I would follow Jane Schneider in arguing that these hand-made
objects represent seclusion and virtue and the properly
domesticated within-the-house labour of generations of honourable
women (1980:350).


6.0 Introduction
A radical change in the composition and organisation
of the patrilineally based household as a result of wage
labour and modern education over the last ten to thirty
years has been reported widely from rural areas in South-
Eastern Europe and the Middle East. 1 In this chapter we
shall look at the structural and organisational changes
within the patri].ineal joint family household, the
zajednica, in Dolina over a period of three generations.

The first part of the chapter will discuss the basic

social unit in the village, the household or ku6a, and will
focus on how both the unit's structure and organisation
have changed over a period of fifty years. This change can
only be explained by looking at the changing relationship
between the members of the kuca and the gradual division of
the communal household. The second part of the chapter
deals with the change in status of its junior women and
examines their role in the division process. First,
however, there will be a short presentation of the form of
the house and its physical and economic context (see also
chapter 1).

6.1 The house and the land

The modern house typically has two or three rooms of
which the central one is the combined kitchen, lounge and
bedroom. This is the room where the stove is situated and

in older houses also the banjica ( a small space in the
corner with a cemented drain for washing by pouring water
from a jug). Along the walls are placed mattresses and
pillows which serve as beds during the night and sofas
during the day. Guests are always received in the kitchen.
Other rooms serve as sleeping-rooms for the bigger
children, but are never heated in winter. Most have
pictures of family members, school photographs of their
children, a portrait of Tito and a picture with an Islamic
religious motif, like the Kaaba in Mecca or a praying girl
in a beautiful headscarf. 2 Some houses have their living
quarters situated above the cellar and the stable, others
will have separate buildings for this purpose. The area
immediately surrounding the house is cleared for access to
neighbouring houses, with a bench to sit on, study village
life, and drink coffee; there are sheds for tools, etc.,
stables, piles of wood left out to dry, and the
characteristic egg-shaped haystack. The basca or patch of
land where all sorts of vegetables for household
consumption are grown is usually just beyond this area. The
basca is tended mainly by women, but they may be joined by

their husbands for more major tasks like clearing the

fields, ploughing or harvesting potatoes. If the household
possesses additional land, the whole family will be engaged
in clearing, planting and bringing in the crop (the staple
food is potatoes, which have replaced the more labour-
intensive maize). If the land is on a slope, it will be
ploughed by a horse, but on flat land a tractor will be

used. Only a small number of households in Dolina proper,
however, possess a horse or a tractor; two Nuslim
households own a horse each and two Catholic households
have a tractor each, and whenever major agricultural work
like ploughing needs to be done, a household will pay the
owner of a horse or tractor to do the job.
Some households have cattle and households which have
more land will normally also have several cows (the two
richest landowners in the village, two brothers, have five
cows each). Villagers with a small landholding will have to
buy hay for winter feeding or arrange for a kesim, a
contract between a landowner and a tenant. The possession
of a cow (or even more so) several cows is still a
reflection of the economic standing of the household and
thus source of pride and renown. The milking and processing
of cheese is a woman's work, and where there is a daughter-
in-law she will traditionally be allocated the job. Surplus
milk and sour cream (poviaka), and more rarely cheese not
consumed by the household will be sold to households in the
village that do not have a cow. The woman running the
household which has no production of milk will approach the
female head of a household which is believed to have a
surplus production and the two women will strike a deal for
the delivering of milk daily. The former may have to find
new suppliers when the original one has a decrease in
production, or decides to sell cheeses and sour cream in
the market, where she may obtain a better price. To sell at
the market the villager need a permit issued by the

council in the market town. Every market-town in the region
has its particular day for the weekly market when peasants
from the surrounding villages come to sell their dairy
products, vegetables or handicrafts. Some households also
keep sheep; this, I was told, was much more widespread some
fifteen to twenty years ago when living in zajednica
provided more labour, and children and unmarried household
members would herd the sheep. It was common for households
to provide their own wool. Women would weave and knit.
Today only two elderly women in the village know how to
weave. Those who own sheep and cannot herd them themselves,
because of lack of labour, will leave them with one of the
two full-time herdsmen; one is a Catholic, the other a

6.2 The concept of kuca

There are several terms in Serbo-Croat which are
translated as household. They convey, however, different
organisational and membership patterns. Domadinstvo or dom
is the technical term used in official statistics and
papers to refer to those who share a house, but, as we
shall see, it does not always correspond to the local
definition of what constitutes a household, since kin who
share a house do not necessarily constitute one household.
The emic (i.e the villagers' own) definition of kuca
(lit, house) is not clear-cut. It is used in the village to
refer to both the building and the unit which inhabits it.
Generally, it is taken to mean those people who share a

household economy, the yield of the land and eat together.
Only the people who eat together from the same pot are then
defined as a kuca. There are nevertheless inconsistencies
within and exceptions to this general definition. This is
due to a quite recent development where one household
divides into two, yet continues to live under one roof so
in effect there are 'two houses living in one house'. This
is usually only a temporary solution until a new and
separate house can be built. A ku6a may consist of several
porodice (lit, families), but the development is towards a
kua or household being made up of a core family, while the
zajednica would usually consist of a group of brothers,
their parents, wives and children. To illustrate this
point, I shall later look at the developmental history of
one settlement through three generations.
Zajednica ( lit. community) is the term used to refer
to an extended family unit. Thus, one house in the village
was inhabited by an old man, and his wife, their youngest
son, and his wife and two children. The old couple and the
young family cooked and ate separately. They gave me the
following clarification of their household organisation:
"When we live in the same house but do not eat together, we
are two families (porodice). But when we all eat together
and give the old man money, then it would be zajednica."
Commensality and a shared economy are clearly stressed as
the defining criterion of a household unit, with zajednica
being a household unit consisting of more than one

6.3 The south Slav loint famil y ; the zadruga
The extended household, termed zadruqa in most of
south Slav ethnography, is perhaps the most discussed and
analysed institution within Yugoslav (and Balkan)
ethnology. (See e.g St.Erlich, 1966; Byrnes (ed.), 1976).
It is a term with a complicated history and multifaceted
connotations. Although it has been paid a disproportionate
amount of attention (compared to its relevance at the
village level) it cannot be disregarded, and I shall
therefore review some of the controversies surrounding it
and suggest some clarifications. The term zadruga is used
with mainly two different meanings. Firstly in the sense of
the communal living of more than two generations (or a
group) of kin. This is how it is understood in the
ethnographic literature. Secondly, in post-war Yugoslavia
zadruga referred officially to a state-collective. I shall

deal with both usages in turn.

The zadruga has, in Mosely's words, been recognised as
one of the basic forms of social organisation within the
societies of south-eastern Europe. He defines the
institution as a "household composed of two or more
biological or small families.., owning its means of
production communally, producing and consuming the means of
its livelihood jointly, and regulating the control of its
property, labour and livelihood communally"
(Mosely,1976:19). Although there has been an attempt to
present the zadruga as an institution unique to the south

Slav peoples, scholars today agree that the use of a
specific Slav term instead of a more abstract one has
obscured the fact that "the joint family household" has
been reported from many regions (Cf. M. Mead, 1976 p.
A substantial part of the ethnographic literature is
devoted to a discussion of the disintegration of the
zadruga. St. Erlich (1966) reports that already in the late
1930s, when she conducted her survey, the zadruga was in
different stages of disintegration. However, she further
notes that in Muslim districts the zad.rug'a never flourished
as it did in other areas. Fi1ipovi, who studied the
communal household in Bosnia in the sixties (Filipoviá,
1976) came to a similar conclusion. The disintegration of
the extended family unit is often explained in terms of the
"requirements" of modern industrialised society. This view
has been criticised by Davis, who argues that membership in
the zadruga was not genealogically ascribed, but that
"people were recruited ad hoc to provide a sufficient
labour force for however much land was taken in tenancy,
and the family was thus created after negotiation - with
the landowner on the one hand, and with potential members
on the other" (1977:172).
In post-war Yugoslavia zad.ruga was used to denote a
state collective. When the collectivisation program for
agricultural land was abandoned in the fifties, zadruga was
incorporated in Yugoslav property law as a form of
ownership, together with private property, state property

and "social property", and defined as collective family
ownership (cf. Chioros, 1970). In fact this usage and
definition may be the closest to the zadruqa's original
meaning as also indicated by Davis. The concept therefore
now has strong associations with Communist policies and
Indeed, the only known meaning of zadruqa in Dolina
was that of a co-operative or "social property" run
according to the Yugoslav self-managing system. Thus the
council (i.e. Communist party) run a community house, which
would be referred to as a zad.rug'a. 4 The extended family
household would be referred to as a zajednica. This usage
is also reported by contemporary Yugoslav ethnographers for
other areas of Bosnia (see e.g. Stojakovi6, 1987). Older
Dolina informants who lived in extended household units
preceding the collectivisation program after the war would
insist that these were and are called zajednica. 5 At this
point it is difficult to say which usage is the original.
Have informants been so successfully indoctrinated that
they have erased zad.ruga as the term for communal
households from their minds, and redefined it as communal
property and co-operative in the Communist sense of mode of
production? I doubt it. A more likely reason is that the
zadruga was a rather restricted phenomenon, confined to
certain areas of Yugoslavia. Furthermore, the term zadruga,
as has later been shown, was not originally a word used by
peasants locally; the terms most commonly used by the
peoples themselves vary from region to region, kuca being

the most common. (Zajednica or velika kwia (i.e. big house)
which were the two terms used to denote the extended family
household in Dolina, are also reported to have a wide
distribution. (See Filipoviâ, 1976.) Indeed the Serbian
linguist Vuk Karad was the first to use it when
introducing it into his dictionary of the Serbian language
in 1818. Zadruga is thus an academic term which has become
widely known and used through the influence of schools,
literature, and legal documents. Having played a part in
nineteenth century discourse and arising Serbian and south
Slav nationalism and cultural awareness, the term zadruga
was later adopted by the state and by Marxist academic
writers to argue for the inherent co-operative and communal
(i.e. Communist) attitude of Yugoslav peasants.
Evidence suggests, however, that zadruqa originally
referred to a particular kind of joint ownership of land
typical of areas with rich landowning clans (very different
from Dolina), and a means of organising work on that land.
The zadruqa is therefore not necessarily identical with the
extended family unit, and its applicability is more
restricted than is often the case in ethnographic

6.4 The decline of the loint famil y household

In Dolina the joint household never seems to have
reached the sizes that have been reported for areas of
Serbia. I would infer from the relative poverty of land in
Dolina that the popularity anc size of the joint family

household would be dependent on the quality and size of the
In Dolina, the older generation remember zajednica
with twenty to twenty-five members. 6 The houses then had a
different lay—out from the newer ones. The changing
composition of the household is thus aptly reflected in the
change of architecture in the dwellings, and therefore in
the structural lay out of the hamlets and ultimately of the
village. The expression used when describing this form of
household organisation is "to live in community" (Eivjeti
u zajednici). There are frequent references to how life
used to be when families were living in zajednica. Women
who had experienced living as a bride in a communal
household, as most over thirty would have done, used to say
that as long as they lived in zajednica they did not own
anything. They would then quote a proverb: "zajednica
jadanica" (i.e. living in a zajednica means poverty and
misery). This refers both to the fact that the custom of
living as large joint families belonged to a time when
living standards in rural Bosnia were much lower than
today, and to the experience of being in a junior position
with no property rights within such a household. On the
other hand, older women who had experienced life in a
communal household in a senior role would talk favourably
about the labour organisation in the house. These two
opposite ideas about what living in a communal household
entailed clearly reflect its hierarchical character and the
different experiences of individuals in different positions

in this hierarchy. While a senior couple would benefit from
having power over the labour of sons and daughters-in-law,
the latter would aspire to be in control of their own
labour and household.
The eventual disintegration of the communal household
has been subject to much theorising in the literature,
ranging from the impact of industrialisation and capitalism
to a general change in traditional patriarchal values.
However, on the basis of my material from Dolina, it is
clear that it is not division of the kuca per se which
demands an explanation, as the household would inevitably
have divided into smaller units at some point (on the
developmental cycle of the household and the inevitability
of the short-term break-up of the joint family, see Parry,
1979 and Stirling, 1963). The question we have to address
is why the division happens at a much earlier stage than in
the past, since over a three-generational period, i.e.
about sixty to eighty years, the trend has clearly been
towards an earlier division of the communal household. For
example, Rheubottom reported from his field-research in
Macedonia in the sixties that while in the previous
generation it had been the custom for Sons to continue
living together after their father died, it was becoming
common for brothers to split up when their father died. In
Dolina thirty years ago a son and his wife would start out
living in zajednica, but would eventually build their own
house and move out with their children, so that only the
youngest son and his family would as a rule remain in his

parents' house. Today, however, the youngest son, too,
increasingly tends to leave his father's house when he
marries, or at least starts to build his own house as soon
as possible after he has married. The situation is
therefore often that all Sons move out before their parents
are dead. This means that there is a development towards
the domestic group being concomitant with the core family,
i.e. the conjugal couple and their offspring. Today, a
division of the household is not a division of the brother-
group, but rather a division and reduction of the three-
generation household, with married couples living
separately. However, a young couple may share house with
his parents while they are saving money and working on
finishing a new and separate house; often built on family
land and therefore next to the "old house". Out of 20
househoidsof which I have good data 10 households consisted
of a couple and their children (seven of which had children
of school and pre-school age; 3 with their children between
the ages of 17-23); 7 households consisted of a couple,
their children and a daughter-in-law (in four of them there
were also grand-children); 3 households consisted of a
couple only (their children having moved out). In those
cases where more than one son is married and one son and
his wife (and children) share with his parents this is
always the youngest son. The above data do not account for
children who have moved out of their parents household.
However, counting the number of children of twenty couples
heading their own household (ten of the pre-war and ten of

the post-war generation), I found that the pre-war
generation had 5 children on average while the post-war
generation had 3.
Below I give a case history to illustrate a typical
course of events when a joint household splits into smaller
units in Dolina.

The Smajic settlement consists of two houses, called
here A and B. House A is inhabited by Atif (80), his wife,
and youngest son with his wife and two children. Atif used
to share a house with his four brothers and their families,
but as his own family grew he had a separate house built in
front of the original one. (His brother also had a house
built next to this one, on the spot where house B now
stands.) Atif's oldest daughter says: "We grew up in the
old house which was on the same spot as this new one (built
ten years ago). We were twelve people living in one room;
mother, father, six children, my grandmother, and father's
brother with his wife and children. Father was working very
hard, simply for us to be able to eat and drink". The old
house consisted of several rooms with an open hearth, and
every family unit had its own room. It was demolished
fifteen years ago, and on top of the old foundations a new
house was built of concrete, with a kitchen stove.
The second house, house B, is inhabited by Atif's next
youngest son with his wife, their daughter, and their son
with his wife. In this household both the father and the

daughter have paid work and contributed to the household
economy, whereas the son and daughter-in-law were
unemployed. Until recently this young couple was part of a
communal household. They split up after a series of
disputes about the son's financial contribution to the
household after he and, somewhat later, his wife got
regular jobs. The father complained that the son should
give more of his wages towards the communal household, and
the quarrel ended up with the father threatening his son
with a knife. The son escaped and within a couple of days
the young couple set up a separate household in their room
(situated on the first floor of the son's parent's house),
which they turned into a traditional combined kitchen,
bedroom and lounge. The division means that now the
daughter-in-law is cooking separately for herself and her
husband. For the household in question the splitting up of
the household economies, which involves cooking and eating
separately, was the most viable solution. This family is in
possession neither of the land required nor of the
financial means to build a new house. The two couples in
house B are now considered to constitute two kuca. This is
(among other things) evident in the visiting pattern of
neighbouring women. They consider coffee visits to the
mother and the daughter-in-law as separate occasions. As we
shall see below, this is not necessarily the case with
house A.
The domestic group in house A has much the same
history as the one in house B. sThe difference is that even

if this house also consists of two households, they are not
generally perceived as separate by co-villagers. This house
consists of three rooms: two kitchens and a third room
which is used as a storage room, for guests, and for
sleeping in the summer. Atif and his wife live in one
combined kitchen, sitting- and sleeping room, while his
youngest son with his wife and two children live in the
other. They have separate economies, and produce, cook and
eat the food separately.
After the son in the house A got a regular job, his
wife initiated the construction of the new house, and she
insisted on having her kitchen separate from her mother-in-
law's. Ten to fifteen years ago this would have been quite
a radical action, and not justifiable in the same way as
today. This may be the reason why this house, unlike house
B, has never been accepted as consisting of two households,
at any rate not by the older population in the village.
Thus, if visitors to the house go to the older couple's
room and are invited by the daughter-in-law to come to her
next time, they usually answer: "Your place and their place
(next door) are one and the same thing". The daughter-in-
law is always eager to stress that her household is
separate from that of her mother-in-law whom she disliked
strongly. Her mother-in-law, however, still likes to think
of it as one household, with her as the head. The disparity
in how the kuc'a is perceived by the two generations of
women manifests itself in recurring quarrels concerning the
management of common property To give one example: the

mother and daughter-in-law used to co-operate (but only
with difficulty) in milking and looking after a cow. When
they had to sell the cow, the daughter-in-law refused to
share the workload with her mother-in-law when a new one
was bought. For six months the mother-in-law looked after
the cow on her own, but the workload was too heavy for her,
and finally the cow was sold to the son and daughter-in-
law. The son and daughter-in-law in this house are now
building a new house in a different mahala approximately
fifteen minutes walk away, and the old couple will stay
behind. "I want a place of my own", says the daughter-in-

6.4.1 The bargaining power of junior women

The increase in the availability of wage labour and
migration abroad have secured the economic independence of
Sons, who are no more totally dependant on income from
agriculture and land-owning fathers and lead to a shift of
authority from fathers to sons. This i turn has resulted
in a shift from the extended family unit to the conjugal
couple as the focal point of the household, and thus
represents a radical change in the situation of women and
how they perceive their own role within the household.
This change in the economic power within the household
has facilitated realisation of junior members' aspirations,
particularly in this case, the desire of young women to
have a separate household from their mother-in-law. The
main incentives are the conflict inherent in the

mother/daughter-in-law relationship, as well as junior
women's increased sense of being justified in their demands
for independence from the husband's family, embodied to a
large extent in the mother-in-law.
The division of the communal household is usually
initiated by the person or persons who have been most
dissatisfied and have most to gain in status from a
breaking up of the zajednica, namely the junior woman or
daughter-in-law. The impact of new values favouring the
consumer society and the nuclear family have given her a
wider ideological legitimation for her demands and
One of the options for a junior woman who is suffering
under the authority of her husband and his family is to
leave them and return home. This is a strategy commonly
followed by women in Dolina who wish to break away from
their mothers-in-law. It is often used as a way of
bargaining over the division of the joint household, and
has been made possible by the reduced importance of the
joint family and the shift towards the conjugal couple as
the unit of reference, i.e. the unit around which both the
moral and the organisational worlds of the household
Conflicts in such households between a daughter-in-law
and her mother-in-law are often frequent and become part of
the drama in everyday village life. The centrality of the
household in village life makes it most frequent topic of
conversation between neighbours at coffee visits and

evening visits (sijelos), relations between a cohabiting
mother- and daughter-in-law being of particular interest
among women. In cases where the daughter-in-law finally
leaves, village women discuss the circumstances, what the
mother-in-law has said or done, who is to blame, and the
husband's reaction. A conflict-ridden communal life with a
mother-in-law is something a young woman today does not
have to accept. There were several cases of women in the
village who, at one point during their marriage, had left
their husband and parents-in-law and returned to their own
parents for one or several periods. A separation may not be
permanent, and the woman may leave her husband for various
reasons, the most common being her relationship with his
parents, as we shall see. For the bride or young woman to
return to her parents, the expression for which is ona je
se vratila (lit, she turned back), because of an unhappy

life with her husband and his family, is condemned in

principle by both men and women as shameful. On the other
hand, they comment that it used to be a really "big shame"
(velika sramota) before. The shame would, however,

primarily fall on the girl's parents. While today the

husband will usually go and ask his estranged wife to come
back to him, women told me that not more than fifteen years
ago the unhappy woman, "if her family was of any worth",
was returned by her brother or father, who would refuse to
welcome her. A woman in her thirties said that when she
returned home at eighteen and one year of marriage her
brother refused to let her stay in her native home and sent

her back with the words: "You belong to your husband now,
and your place is with him". When people comment on known
women and events, however, there is less of a condemnation
than an interested and lively discussion as to why she left
and who is ultimately to blame. Usually, her husband and/or
mother-in-law is/are blamed, though not to their faces, for
being the cause of the young woman's inability to stay on
in the household. Since all married women have experienced
a period as a junior woman under their mothers-in-law's
command, usually fraught with conflict they usually
consider the "bride's" decision to "go back" to her
parents' home with sympathy. During my stay two young women
in the neighbourhood left their husbands and, indirectly,
their mothers-in-law and went back to stay with their own
mothers. Both instances were commented on in detail by
women in the neighbourhood (who had not yet become mother-
in-laws themselves) and proved to be welcome opportunities
for them to relive their own experiences as low-status,
young daughters-in-law. Unlike today's young women, they
had to stick it out. Depicting the difficulties of sharing
a household with one's mother-in-law, women would stress
the lack of freedom under her authority: they would have to
ask her permission for even the smallest thing, such as
helping themselves to a piece of bread. These women would
agree that today's young women are more clever then they
were, as they do not put up with as much subjugation. Most
importantly, however, the economic standard and
independence of young couplesi (and even of the wife) is

much better than, say, twenty years ago, and for a woman to
return home to her parents actually presents itself as a
viable alternative. Her parents nowadays usually have both
the economic means to support her, and the extra room to be
able to welcome her back, and she can often support herself
by taking paid work.
A particularly critical period of a marriage where the
couple shares a household with the man's parents seems to
be after the young wife has given birth to her first child.
On one occasion a young woman was so unhappy with her
mother-in-law and all the work she demanded from her, that
she was actually advised by neighbouring women to leave her
nine month-old baby behind, when she said she wanted to
leave and go back to her mother. They suggested it would be
good for them to see what she had to cope with, and
besides, they continued, "the child is theirs" (i.e. it
belongs to the husband's patri-group). Leaving the child
behind, however, also means that she is more likely to
return. In fact the woman was away for two months, but said
she could not bear it because of the child; if it had not
been for him, she insisted, she would never have returned.
This was also the outcome predicted by the women in the
I suggest that the period after a bride (miada) has
given birth and become a mother, and by implication fully
a woman (iena), is most critical in a two-generational and
patrilocal household, since the important change in status
of the daughter-in-law can threaten the position of her

mother-in-law. The daughter-in-law now feels she has more
rights and will more readily stand up for herself. She may
also assume that her position and bargaining power with her
husband are considerably strengthened. One young woman who
to everybody's knowledge had very good relations with her
mother-in-law and behaved in a respectful manner towards
her changed after giving birth to a son. It was ruinoured
that she was not respectful any more, but angry and rude
(bezobrazna, lit, without manners), as it was said she used
to be towards her own mother. Her change in behaviour was
ascribed to the fact that now that she had given birth to
a son, she believed that she could get away with anything,
and that she could do no wrong towards her husband as the
mother of his son.
Although a strong code of mutual help and obligation,
and the idea that the relationship between in-laws is
valued as friendship (cf. chapter 5) have always been
stressed in Bosnian society (as shown in older ethnographic
literature and in folk-history and songs, see e.g. Y.
Lockwood, 1983 and Hangi, 1906), there are indications that
the woman's kin are adopting a more central role in the
conjugal couple's life and that of their children. The
pressure for the woman to give up her native village and
her relations there and replace them with an exclusive
commitment to her husband's is weakening. There are even
indications that the relationship between a woman's
relatives and native village and her husband and children
is becoming more central, which may be another effect of

the weakening of a patrilineal ideology.7
The different perceptions are also dependent on gender
however. While the older generation of men will claim that
a woman's native village is not important to her, and that,
unlike a man, she may put down roots anywhere, women will
dispute this. Younger men will acknowledge this fact but
appear to reduce its threat to their own patri-kin's
superiority by jokingly saying they are going back to "my
village", when it is clear from the context that they are
going to visit their wife's village. The relationship
between a husband and his wife's brothers is often warm,
and sometimes more relaxed than that with his own brothers.
The change in socio-economic structure since world war
two has, I would argue, most markedly affected women whose
position as a junior member of a patrilineally structured
household was traditionally weak. While the last generation
of women slowly gained influence in decision-making in
household affairs as their children grew older, they still
had to obey the mother-in-law as long as she was there.
Husbands normally sided with their mothers. Today, the
young bride may refuse to go and live with a mother-in-law,
or, if she does go, she will not silently put up with
adverse conditions. As we have just seen, she may well make
her point by returning to her parents, often leaving her
children behind, and only coming back when her husband
promises to fulfil some of the conditions she sets, such as
separating from his parents' household. Among most
villagers (certainly among the women) it is considered

acceptable for a young woman to refuse to live communally
with her husband's family. Such an attitude is seen as
"modern", or "cultured". Furthermore, for a young couple to
be able to have their own house, separate from the
husband's parental home, is a sign. of economic success and
therefore increased status, the implication being that now
only poor people live in large groups. Thus alongside an
improvement in living standards goes a change in the values
of the younger generation, encouraged partly by the
official discourse of socialism and economic progress for
both men and women, as well as by the values of the western
consumer society and the ideal of the nuclear family.
Lastly, I would argue that the relatively weak influence of
the patrilineage in contemporary village life (an influence
already modified by the relatively strong emphasis
traditionally laid on affinal relations) has facilitated
the impact of these new socio-economic elements.
In sum the improved material situation in most
households, not least the young woman's native household,
together with the weaker authority of the patri-kin, has
made a young wife's bargaining power noticeably stronger.

Footnotes cha pter 6

1. The literature is extensive, but see for instance Brink, 1987

on Egypt, papers by various authors on Turkey in Mediterranean
Family Structures, ed. Peristiany, 1976 and several authors
on central and south eastern Europe in Communal Families in the
Balkans: The Zadruqa, ed. Robert Byrnes, 1976.
2. Thus summing up aptly the legacy of a Socialist, Yugoslav
identity on the one hand and an Islamic, Bosnian Muslim one on
the other; or what C. Sorabji would call the Bosnian Muslims'
"double identity". (Sorabji, 1989).
3. Nyerere's Tanzanian socialist collectivisation settlements
vjarma villages, were rationalised as being based on African
kinship cooperation.

4. Among other events the Saturday dance, described in chapter

four takes place here.
5. Most claim not to have benefited from this collectivisation,
as they indicated that land was redistributed to the benefit of
party members.
6. But see Rheubottom, 1976 on the difficulty of assessing
household size from informants' reports.
7. This phenomenon is well reported by Olga Supek 1986,
Transformacija patriarhalnih odnosa: od zadruge do neo-lokalnosti
u Jasnskom prigorju" (The transformation of patriarchal
relationships: from zadruga to neo-local household in Jaskansko
prigorje) in: Etnoloki Pregled, 22 Beograd 1986.


7.0 Introduction
One of my earliest realisations of life in the village
was that there were different categories of women: the
maiden (cura), the bride (miada), the wife ('ena), the
divorcee (pustenica) and the widow (udovica). The maiden,
however, had a status which was radically different from
all the others, the chief distinguishing factor being her
assumed ignorance of sexuality. The main opposition is thus
between maidens and wives and it will be argued that this
categorisation is a key to understanding women's social
life and is indeed crucial to the analysis of Muslim ethnic
identity generally. This chapter will explore why these two
categories are stressed and how they relate to each other.
First, it will look at what it means to be a cura and zena
respectively: the ideas, values and symbols implied as well
as the different tasks and social activities. Secondly, it
attempts to show how a maiden is socialised and eventually
turned into a wife via the liininal stage of "bride"
(mlada). Lastly, I shall argue that women are the pivots
of ethno-religious identity and thus that a successful
transition from maiden to wife is considered as crucial to
the persistence of ethnic group identity as perceived by
the group itself.
Throughout this chapter I have translated cura (plural
cure, lit, girl) as "maidens" to convey the importance of
the girl's unmarried status (cf. chapter 3, ftn. 1).1 Zena

(plural ene) is the word for both "woman" and "wife". I
have chosen to translate it as "wife" because in the rural
context it has to be understood in its opposition to cura.

7.1 Ideals of female behaviour

There seem to be at least four key issues related to
the moral behaviour of women: how a woman dresses, where
she goes (especially when unaccompanied), whether she is
hard-working and keeps her house clean, and how she behaves
towards men. It should be noted, however, that in the eyes
of 'the moral few' a woman can counterbalance, say,
dressing indecently by being meticulously clean and
industrious. Thus, certain acts or kinds of behaviour may
be judged by some as shameful, but that does not mean that
the person is shameful, since her behaviour in another
situation may comply with moral ideals.2
Moreover, the category to which a woman belongs in
terms of marital status defines her in terms of how she
should behave, dress and speak. This comes out clearly in
the change of behaviour, especially towards the opposite
sex, and style of dress a girl is expected to adhere to
when she is married and a "wife".
Central to the assessment of women's behaviour are two
expressions which categorise them as more or less moral,
but also reflect the critical role of women as both
outsiders (in the household and the village) and the
ultimate sustainers of ethnic boundaries and of the
recreation of Muslim group identity. We shall see that

these concepts are expressions of the different status of
married women and unmarried girls.
The expressions in question are puno hodati ("to go
about") and voic raditi ("to like working"). The word
hodati (see chapter 2) comes up repeatedly in conversations
evaluating women's moral behaviour. The dictionary transla-
tion is the straightforward "to walk". In everyday speech
in the village, however, it is a concept which harbours a
whole set of moral values. (To express the neutral action
of "walking" they would use the expression iái pjeke, i.e.
go by foot.) To say about a woman that she "goes about a
lot" (puno hoda) is a negative assessment and entails moral
condemnation; "liking working" (vole raditi), obviously
enough, has positive connotations. Puno hodati and vole
raditi are often presented as opposites and mutually

exclusive. The condemnatory content of puno hodati,

however, varies according to whether the woman is a maiden
or a wife. Wives may walk around alone, but maidens must
always ask a female relative or, failing that, a child to
accompany them. For a maiden, therefore, "going about" may
imply that she is not honourable, while for a wife it
implies that she goes visiting a lot (the men would say
"goes around gossiping a lot") and therefore cannot be
industrious (vole raditi) which is one of the ideals for
a woman for "moral untidiness and an untidy house go hand
in hand" (Dubisch, 1986:200). Furthermore, she will
probably have potential power from knowing more about what
is going on in the village and most people will therefore

be wary of such a woman (Cf. chapter 2). The same
opposition and moral ideal have been noted for several
Greek communities (cf. du Boulay 1976; Hirschon 1978;) and
Dubisch comments: "By spending too much time outside the
house, a woman is not only neglecting her domestic duties,
but also may be engaging in polluting and destructive
behaviour such as illicit sexual activity or gossip [...]
(Dubisch, 1986:200). I found, however, that there was a
marked difference in stress on what kind of behaviour was
considered 'destructive' depending on whether the woman was
a maiden or a wife.
Hodati conveys two ideas which are of significance.
First it implies that a person is going about beyond the
household and immediate neighbourhood, and is thus outside
the moral control of her household, neighbours and
relatives, and potentially dangerous to the reputation of
the household, Secondly, it suggests that the action is
aimless .
I would argue that although the control of young
girls' sexuality may be partly behind the moral
connotations, the central issue is whether a person is
acting in the interest of the household, or more
individualistically. It could be argued that the moral
condemnation of women who are "going about a lot" by those
who comply with expected role behaviour reflects ow women
have internalised men's control of female sexuality.
Although a classical Mediterranean ethnographic theme, this
argument falls into the trap of seeing women as defining

themselves through men. Furthermore, this argument depicts
women as reacting rather than acting, as complying rather
than replying and as re-creative rather than creative. I
suggest that this analytically biased and, indeed,
ethnographically incorrect presentation can be challenged
by also looking at women's control of men and the moral
restrictions women put on men's behaviour. Indeed, the
moral condemnation of "going about a lot" turns out to
apply to married men equally strongly. Since married men in
this respect are mainly condemned by women and there are
men (like there are women ) who comply with behaviour which
women see as in the interest of the household (i.e. working
and being a responsible provider rather than "spending"
(trositi] and visiting coffee-bars) it could equally be

argued that married men have internalised women's control

of their labour, time and ultimately of their sexuality. It
is significant, however, that this is only true for married
men, as bachelors are expected to puno hoda. They will go
to coffee-bars, dances and fairs, meeting friends and
dating girls. This is their privilege, because they must
seek potential marriage partners. Upon marriage, a man's
lifestyle is, however, expected to change. From the women's
point of view it is seen as undesirable for him to continue
behaving like a bachelor (momak) - just as a maiden should
change her behaviour to be like a wife's, so he should
change his to that of a married man's. This point was made
particularly clear on one occasion. A young man had
married. A girl had come withhim to his home; members of

his household had visited her parents with coffee and
sugar, and now it was her parents' turn to visit their
daughter's household with presents (dar). The date for the
visit (pohod; see chapter 5) had been set and the hosts had
invited all relatives (i.e. those with the same surname) to
attend the event. When we arrived we were met with
embarrassed apologies; the daughter-in-law had gone back to
her parents, who therefore had no reason for turning up
with presents to their new in-laws. We were served coffee
and cakes and the event was discussed in a very low-key
manner. The "bridegroom" was out on his usual kafana-round
(see section 7.2.2). In front of their hosts, my company
expressed that the "bride's" behaviour was no good, (ne
valja), but on our way back the same women, who were
relatives, through their husbands, of the young man's
household, criticised the young man for still "running
about a lot" like a bachelor, leaving his wife at home. The
young man's mother was also criticised for seeming to
accept her son's behaviour. A married man who is "going
about a lot" would not act in the interest of his
household, he would spend household money on drinks and
kafa.nas, money that should have been spent for the
household's common good. A husband who was unfaithful would
only be unambiguously condemned if he was having an affair
with a woman in the village as he was then risking good
neighbourhood relations and the reputation of the
household; women would say that "all men are alike" but
believed that if a man absolutely needed to take another

woman he should go to Sarajevo where it would be his own
business. (Similar observations have been made in a Greek
village; see du Boulay, 1986:152.)
Having said this, however, I should stress that women
are condemned more readily than men if they are "running
about a lot", and while it is seen as bad behaviour for a
married man to run around in kafanas spending household
money, he is usually only condemned by the women. A woman
who moves more freely in the public sphere, going to the
market town, visiting other villages, and is often seen on
the path through the village, will be condemned by both
sexes and easily qualifies for the derogatory label of
kurva (lit, whore; the male equivalent is kurvar and the
verb is kurvati se, "to whore around"; kurvetina is even
more derogatory and is used about a woman who is considered
a big whore, there is no equivalent for the male).

7.2 Maidens
Being a maiden is seen as a transitory state in which
one should not remain for too long. It usually lasts from
the age of fifteen until marriage (which generally takes
place at twenty-two to twenty-three, at the latest). If a
girl's maidenhood is prolonged beyond the age when it is
seen as natural for her to start her own family (i.e. into
her late twenties), her status is ill-defined. "She is
alone", ona je sama, is said about an unmarried woman and
a woman should not be alone; it is a sad and dangerous
state for her to be in. Dangerous because she is not

protected from untrustworthy strangers (i.e men), and sad
because a woman obtains status through being married and
having children - and this is the real meaning of her life.
For an adult female not to be married means that she has
not yet become fully a woman. Her status is ambiguous,
since according to her age she should be a woman, but in
terms of marital status (i.e. sexual experience) she is
considered to be a maiden. If in addition she behaves quite
independently, i.e. like a wife, there is no category for
her. Thus, I was usually categorised as a maiden according
to my unmarried status, but because of my knowledge of the
outside world and my ability to move around freely I was
also seen in some respects to be like a man. To some older
villagers, categorisation became impossible and they told
me with sadness that I was neither "male" (muko)
nor "female" (ensko).
A girl becomes a cura when she reaches puberty; a girl
below this age is called a curica (i.e. a little cura).
However, this general rule is modified by age and has in
more recent times (the last ten years or so) been
influenced by education system. Thus a girl really becomes
a cura in her last year at primary school (i.e. towards the
end of compulsory education) at the age of fourteen, when
she will be allowed to fairs and maybe to the Saturday
dance. Already as a curica, the Muslim girl is taught about
her role as a female. From early on she is expected to help
her mother with household chores, and is encouraged with
the words "you are a real little girl" (ti si prava curica)

whenever she performs typical female tasks like knitting or
serving coffee. Her younger and older brothers are, neither
encouraged nor expected to do much work for the household.
They are served by their mother and sisters and spend most
of the time playing or "walking around".
"I am not allowed" (ne smijem) is an expression a
young girl often uses when explaining why she cannot do
certain things: for instance, coming along to kafiá (a
modern coffee-bar, see section 7.2.2) from school, visiting
somebody after dark. These are all restrictions imposed on
her by her parents, who represent village morality. Even if
it is not specified in these examples that the girl is
prohibited from doing certain things because she is a girl,
there are several contexts in which gender is given as the
reason for certain moral commands. A girl is soon to learn
that her younger brothers have privileges which she should
respect because they are male. This inequality is most
typically expressed in the comments "do not upset him, he
is male" (nemoj ga sekirati, on je muko), and "shut up,
you are female" (uti ti Si zensko) - a girl should not
speak unless she is spoken to. These sayings are central to
an understanding of the ethos behind the socialisation of
male and female children respectively.
As girls grow older they are continually told to "be
silent", "work" and "be honourable" (uti, radi, and budL
potena), and as they grow into puberty and start going to
the dance and the summer fairs, flirting with and dating
boys, there is an increasing pessure on them to conform to

this ideal behaviour. This is the time when girls
experience most conflict and frustration in relation to
opposing value-systems and codes of behaviour, namely
between those of traditional Muslim village society and
those of the wider, urban consumer society encountered
through the media, through school, and through friends with
a different socio-cultural background. This is particularly
the case if they go on to secondary school and have to
travel into one of the market towns. It is worth noting
that married women (i.e. mothers and female relatives as
well as neighbours) rather than fathers and brothers are
the ones who control and sanction unmarried girls.
Girls, then, grow up with clearly defined rules about
what is allowed and what is not. They internalise
prohibitions at an early age: any offence will be punished,
sometimes by caning. For boys rules are less clearly
defined: what was not allowed at one point may be allowed
at the next; while for a girl 'no is no'. Boys thus become
less worried about "correct behaviour"; they find that
other people (particularly women) adapt to them and their
needs, and that any external constraints may be ignored
without severe consequences. Girls, however, learn that
they have to negotiate conflict-ridden situations to create
some freedom of movement and choice for themselves. These
are skills they later apply in the everyday negotiation
between the expectations and moral values of their Muslim
village on one hand and of the Yugoslav (poly-ethnic),
westernised public world on the other. Becoming a woman is

also acquiring the subtle skills whereby what you appear to
have done or said is more significant than what has
actually taken place. "Impression management" becomes an
important part of the negotiating skills. A woman will
learn to deny fiercely any unfavourable gossip about
herself or any of her household members, and to take any
opportunity to present herself as hard-working (vrijedna),
good (I ma), clean (óista) and honourable (potena).

7.2.1 Muslim g irls and secondar y education

The increased willingness among Muslim rural families
to send their daughters to secondary education has given
new meaning to the status of maidenhood. Among the
fourteen-year-old girls of today, two categories have
crystallised: the "modern" (kulturne) girls who take
secondary education on the one hand, and the more
traditional girls who finish school after eight years on
the other. When a girl finishes her eighth school year, her
family will decide whether she should go on to secondary
education or stay at home. Some parents do not send their
daughters to secondary school because they cannot afford
the books, clothing and bus fares. Some mothers simply
prefer their daughter to stay at home and help them. Others
are worried about the diminished control over their
daughters, who would have to go to one of the market towns
to get secondary education. Those who do send their
daughters to secondary school think that education is
important both for the sake of increased knowledge in

itself (which, they say, will enable them to conduct more
intelligent conversations than the uneducated wives in the
villages) and to increase the possibility of getting a job.
Under the extremely difficult economic situation (with
inflation rates running very high) most parents see the
value and necessity of their daughters taking employment.
When kmra started at secondary school I asked her
where her classmates from Dolina had gone. I was
particularly struck by one girl who had not gone on to
secondary school. Her parents were relatively prosperous
and she was bright. I was told that her parents would not
let her, but Ainra was unable to tell me the reason. Her
parents, however, explained that it was because they were
worried that she would get married. The answer puzzled me,
since my data showed clearly that those girls who do not
attend secondary school, and/or get a paid job, marry at a
younger age than those who do. It is generally accepted
that a girl should not marry before she has finished
school. Furthermore, the boredom of working at home for
their mother makes the girls see marriage as the only way
to "get away", to experience something. I was later told
that the worry was not so much that the daughter would
marry, but that she would marry a Christian. In the school
context, a girl is more likely to interact with non-Muslim
boys. State education tends to de-emphasise religion and to
stress the common Yugoslav identity of the children. Since
women are generally left with the primary responsibility
for perpetuating Muslim customs and values, men and senior

women see it as desirable that women are shielded from
exposure to the values of ideologies other than the local
form of Islam. School is seen as atheist indoctrination
(see chapter 8). This may explain why many Muslim girls
(this is not true to the same extent with Catholic girls)
are discouraged from attending secondary school, even if
their parents can afford it.

7.2.2 Social activities of Muslim girls

The main arena for a maiden to meet other young people
if she does not attend school will be, as I said in chapter
3, the Saturday dance or summer fairs, all of which are
attended almost entirely by young Muslims.
Most Muslim girls in the village are not allowed by
their parents to go to either of the two types of cof fee-
bars, katana (the traditional cafe) or katid (the modern,
western version), even if the two are perceived as
different by most villagers. While a katana is seen as
being Muslim dominated, a kalid is regarded as more of a
modern urban phenomenon, and predominantly attended by
Catholics (Croats). At kafide, they play recorded pop
music, both Yugoslav and Anglo-American. In kafanas the
music is often live, and the style is what is called 'novo-
kompovano', i.e. traditional Bosnian folk music with
Turkish roots which has been modernised with synthesizers,
etc. All parents allow their daughters to go to the local
dance every Saturday, and some parents allow their daughte-
rs to go to kafanas if they have trusted male company, but

most parents do not approve of them going to kafide. I was
told that the reason for this was that in cafes generally
and there will be young men from other faiths, but that
this was specifically the case at kafiée (the modern
coffee-bars), since Catholic youths prefer to identify with
the western European, and 'modern' pop music and coffees
like espresso and cappuccino.4
In the village there were two seventeen-year-old girls
who were close friends and neighbours. One of them went to
kafanas twice a week with her boyfriend, while the other
had never entered a coffee-bar and used to go to the dance
every Saturday. The first girl was a Catholic, the other a
Muslim. When I asked the latter why her friend was allowed
to go to coffee-bars when she was not, she said: "Their
girls are freer than ours, they may go to coffee-bars."
Those girls who are kept away from school also tend to
be forbidden to go to coffee-bars. Girls who go to
secondary school are more familiar with coffee-bars, and
think their mothers do not know what they are talking about
when they condemn them. "They haven't got a clue, they
maybe went to a dance and a fair a couple of times and then
they married at fifteen or sixteen, so what do they know?
What have they seen? Besides, they are stupid to have fears
about coffee-bars; much more can happen at the dance. At a
coffee-bar you sit nicely at a table and everybody can see
who you talk to and where you go, while at the dance (see
chapter 3) people are constantly moving in and out and it
is always crowded, so it is easy to leave the dance for

somewhere else with a boyfriend and come back later without
being noticed." Even if a mother considers it to be
shameful for a maiden to go to coffee-bars, her daughter
soon learns that the act is only shameful from the moment
when it becomes publicly known. The point is, in other
words, not so much to avoid shameful behaviour as to
prevent one's behaviour becoming an excuse for village

7.2.3 Muslim g irls and reli g ious identity

I would argue that girls are brought up to become more
aware of their Muslim identity vis a vis Christians than
are boys. Ultimately, women ,not men, are given the
responsibility for maintaining ethnic boundaries, hence the
stricter control of young, unmarried Muslim girls compared
to both Muslim boys and Christian girls. The logic behind
this control, of which one example is forbidding daughters
to attend secondary education, is to avoid the possibility
of intermarriage. Intermarriage between members of
different ethno-religious groups is generally seen as
undesirable (cf. chapter 3). It is clear, however, that
marriage between a Muslim girl and a Christian boy is seen
as almost unthinkable, while there are examples of Muslim
boys marrying Christian girls. 5 There are two obvious
reasons for these differences. First, it is assumed that a

woman and her children will be under influence of her

husband's family and their social and religious values (as
women upon marriage in most cases go and live with their

husband's family or in a separate house in his hamlet);
thus a woman will not be able to practise her Muslim
customs and retain her Muslim identity, and consequently
pass these on to her children, while a Muslim man might
well be able to do this within a mixed marriage. Indeed,
and this brings us to the second argument, it is seen as
sevap (i.e. a good deed) for a man to marry a Christian

woman as her children will then as a rule be brought up as

Muslims in their father's home.

7.3 The significance of how a woman dresses

The fact that women rather than men are the guardians
of traditional values and customs, and thus of a distinct
Muslim identity, is quite clearly seen in the way they are
expected to dress. The traditional dress for girls and
women is dimije, baggy trousers that look like a long, wide
skirt when worn. 6 It is customarily worn in the village,
but would be worn only by older women in town. Women in
their thirties are reluctant to wear dimije outside the
village, while young girls are reluctant to wear dimije
even in the village outside the house. (This is, however,
not true for religious ceremonial occasions when the young
women and girls wear their best dimije and headscarf with
pride.) It is becoming more common to wear a long skirt
instead, even if this is definitely less practical, as you
have to take more care how you sit or move than when
wearing dimije.7
The veil is not seen worn by any women, and the

headscarf is only worn by older women or by everybody when
attending a service in the mosque or any other religious
ritual. The veil was prohibited by law in Yugoslavia after
World War II. When I asked informants why, they usually
told me that during the war spies against the partisans had
disguised themselves in the chador or full veil, the
prohibition was to prevent this from happening again. This
was the partisans rather diplomatic way of justifying the
prohibition. Before the raise to power of Tito's Communists
the complete veil (zarovi, terede) was customarily worn
only in urban areas, or by rural women when leaving the
village. 8 While working in the fields rural women would
wear headscarves as usual, but no veil. Instead they would
pull their big headscarves across their faces if they met
strange or Christian men while walking through the village.
Since the veil was prohibited by law the big headscarf has
superseded the veil at ritual occasions also for urban
women (cf. chapter 10).
Although it has never been the custom for unmarried
women to wear a headscarf, some older women in the village
feel a married woman should wear one. In practice, however,
headscarves are rarely worn by women under the age of
forty, even though a young girl's parent generation will
encourage her to wear the headscarf when she marries and
goes to share a household with her mother-in-law. A young
bride who is eager to please and who follows the advice of
older women will maybe wear a headscarf for the first few
weeks in her new home. A young bride whose mother-in-law's

mother died shortly after she had arrived was firmly
reminded by women in her mother's neighbourhood (this girl
had married within the village) to wear a headscarf at
home. This was especially important when having women
visiting na lalost (see chapter 2). The one time when all
women wear dimije and headscarves is during religious
rituals in the mosque or at home, or when reading from the
Muslim males distinguish themselves less in clothing
from Christian males. During religious ceremonies or when
attending Mekteb they should wear a black or dark-blue
beret (French style). Some middle-aged men would also wear
FE whenever they go for a social visit in the village or to
the market town. Hodzas should always wear it, theirs is a
bit different in style, some young Kodas, though, do not
wear it 'of f duty'. This the older generation can find
upsetting. There are a few old men who still wear the
Turkish fez, but they are a ridiculed by the young for
being old-fashioned.
The dimije has a strong symbolic value; it epitomises
"Muslimness" and is seen as sign of backwardness and
"Orientalism" in the minds of Christians and urbanised
Muslims. It has become such a powerful symbol of Muslim
group characteristics, I would argue, because it is the
only conspicuous expression of Muslim identity in Bosnia
today; and it is significant that women, not men, display
their H Muslimnessn in this way. 9 The beret can be seen as
the male equivalent of the baggy trousers, but, although it

is less conspicuous, it is, as we have seen, rarely worn by
younger men except at prayers in the mosque. Women are thus
less able than men to escape the prejudices held by
westernised parts of the population in Bosnia. Prejudices
about Islam and backwardness, i.e. a whole set of ideas
covered by the western concept of "Orientalism", are so
pervasive that Muslims have generally internalised a
feeling of being culturally inferior, the outcome of which
is often a negative self-image, confusion and insecurity
about traditions and Muslim identity. (On a negative self-
image, see chapter 1.) Women, especially maidens and the
younger wives, perceive themselves as caught in a dilemma
between the requirements of decent dress for Muslim women
and the wish to comply with a style of modern, western
dress. Most younger women change their form of dress
markedly when they go out of the village, and they are
especially careful to dress according to urban standards
when they go into town. Generally, when moving outside the
hamlet, a young girl's preoccupation is with being well-
dressed and urban-looking. I often overheard daughters
instructing their mothers on how to dress when going into
the more urban areas.
Thirty-three-year old Fatima summed up the Muslim
woman's dilemma: "These days it is difficult to be a proper
Muslim woman. It is also difficult to be a proper Muslim
man, but still it is more difficult for women; men dress in
trousers, the way they have always dressed, while women
have to cover themselves and always worry about how they

dress. It is for instance a sin (g'rehota) if the neck or
hair of a Muslim woman is laid bare. It is also said that
to lay bare the armpits would be the same as if a woman
exposed her groin. 10 As a proper Muslim woman (prava
muslimarika) you should cover yourself. However, when I go
to Sarajevo I do not dress in dimije and headscarf, it
wouldn't look good, would it?"'1
Generally, how women dress could be expressed as a
continuum, ranging from the traditional practice of
covering themselves completely (not wearing the full veil,
but a shoulderlength headscarf, dimije and long-sleeved
shirt buttoned all the way up), to the latest fashions. As
expected the over-sixties and under-twenties seem to place
themselves at opposite ends of the scale. Although it could
be argued that there is a common youth culture which
unifies preferences in clothing among both uslims and
Christians, young Catholic informants would stress that
there were differences. On one occasion when Catholic girls
were commenting on the Muslim Saturday dance, I was asked:
"Have you noticed how they dress?" They assured me that
there were obvious differences: "You can see them wearing
socks and high-heeled shoes, would you ever do that? They
go over the top in dressing up and adorning themselves. We
like to dress more sportily."

7.3.1 Clothing for maidens and wives

The transition from maiden to wife is marked by a
change in style of dress. When consummation of the marriage

has taken place, a woman is seen to be no longer ignorant
about her own sexuality and as a consequence about the
possible sexual undertones in interaction with men.
Even if there are concepts, held by most mothers,
about how a decent maiden should dress (e.g. she should not
wear shorts or 'revealing' T-shirts), her choice of
clothing is greater than that of married women. There is a
kind of humorous tolerance towards a maiden on part of
older women. After all, she should attract men, even if she
should not openly be seen to seek contact or initiate
conversations with them. This all changes when a girl
marries and becomes a woman. She will have to take more
care how she dresses.12
How the different roles of maiden and wife should be
expressed in the way you dress was brought to the fore when
a newly-married daughter came to visit her mother for the
first time after she had left. As she walked up the path
towards her house neighbouring women greeted her good
heartily with the following words: "Are you wearing jeans?
But you are not maiden any more." "And where is your
headscarf?" - But by then they were laughing... In this
specific context the word cura was used with the stress on
its connotation of virgin. (The women were embarrassed by
the word djevica, which has the unequivocal meaning of
virgin in standard Serbo-Croat, without necessarily the
connotation of unmarried girl.)
But the change in status from maiden to wife is not
only marked in a change in the way of clothing, also

general behaviour and "way of thinking" is expected to
change as will be illustrated in the following two case-

Case-history 1
Sakiba had come back to visit her mother's household
and hamlet for the first time since marrying a man further
down the village. As soon as she sat down to drink coffee
with her mother and mother's sister-in-law, they started to
advise her about how to behave in her new status:
"Remember, you are a wife now, you are no longer a maiden
so be clever. You may no longer joke and have fun with the
men at work like before, when you were a maiden. Men are
angry as only men can be [mukar/ci su ljuti kao ljudi],
and jealous. So you must be serious and shut up and just do
your job. Do not give anybody a pretext to gossip about you
or make hints that you are not honourable." I suggested
that maybe standards of behaviour were not as strict as
when they were young and that things had changed, but they
rejected this completely, because "men are always the same,
they never change". Then it was Sakiba's turn to give
advice to the daughter of the house, a fourteen-year-old
girl. She told her to take her secondary school seriously,
and not run around in cafes. "If you do not intend to take
it seriously from the start, you make your parents spend
money for no use. "The girl, her cousin, said: "You are
saying this to me, you who never cared about schoolJ'
Sakiba then showed herself to have changed not only her

status, but also her way of thinking, as she answered:
"Yes, this is true, but I was a fool. I did not understand
then and I had nobody to tell me how to conduct myself, but
now I know better."

Case-histor y 2
Dma, a seventeen-year-old wife, works in the kitchen
of a cafe in one of the market towns. Some days she travels
home quite late in the evening by bus, and then walks for
about fifty minutes to reach her house. Dma was given
instructions about how to behave by the women closest to
her (i.e. immediate neighbours and in-laws of her husband).
She was told to come straight home and not hang around
talking to customers, and whenever possible walk home with
a male relative (related through her husband) if travelling
on the same bus. One night, however, she had walked home
chatting to a neighbour who had also been her neighbour in
her native village (he was renting a house in Dolina). Her
husband's father's brother had also been on the same bus,
but she had instead been chatting happily along with her
neighbour. Her husband's and husband's uncle's household
were terribly upset with her. Her case was aggravated by
the factt '&he particular neighbour in question and her
husband's uncle were not on speaking terms at the time. Her
husband's uncle felt insulted and his wife, mother and
sister-in-law all condemned her behaviour. In conversations
with neighbours they kept repeating that Dma was behaving
and thinking like a maiden, even if she was now a wife.

The women agreed that after having married they had
immediately changed their behaviour and way of thinking
from that of maiden to that of wife. A wife should take
care that her reputation as someone who is .fina is
established early. For a woman to be fina means that she
works for the good of the household (i.e. that she is hard-
working, clean, does not gossip or walk about a lot,
dresses decently and behaves seriously when interacting
with men). The women stressed that if you obtain a good
reputation from the start when you first arrive in the

village as a wife, it will stick to you for the rest of

your life, but if you get a bad reputation you will also
have to carry this all your life.

7.4 Wife and stranger

Women are like a seed,

you can plant them anywhere
and they will bud.
(Dolina men)

Post-marital residence is as a rule patrilocal, and

exceptions to this rule are few. As was discussed in
chapter 3, Muslims have a taboo on marriage between two who
can trace kinship, and marriage between neighbours (i.e.
within the village) is rare today, since the majority born
in the village can trace kinship. Married women are thus
usually strangers in the village, a fact which made older

male informants conclude that "Where women are born does
not mean anything to them, their native village is not
important to them. Women can, contrary to men, go anywhere
and be at home." In this way they were also legitimating
their patriloca]. residence pattern. Women, on the other
hand, did not agree with the men's view. Although they
accepted having to move to a strange village as their
destiny, they often referred to their native village,
saying that theirs was a strange life, since they at one
point in their lives had to change both village and
"mother". Even older women who had lived in Dolina for more
than thirty years would still refer to the customs in their
native village (which would be different from those in
Dolina) as the customs "among us from where I am from". The
assumptions made by men about women's unproblematic
adaptability and lack of any solid roots are contradicted
repeatedly by women's expression of their own feelings and
experiences about their native village and about the often
traumatic move to a new village and home when they married.

7.4.1 The "bride"

The two most significant stages and statuses in a
woman's life are those of maiden and wife. Although the
main transition from maiden to wife is when consummation of
the marriage has taken place, a cura does not become a zena
as soon as she has married; first she has to pass through
the liminal period of being a bride, miada. Miada literally

means young woman, but is also the word used to denote

"bride". A daughter-in-law will be called miada for at
least a year after she has arrived, but usually until she
has had her first child. Village women will then start
calling her by her first name as an acknowledgement of her
status as a wife. 13 When a woman marries she changes her
social network to a larger extent, as well as her social
activities. On marrying, a woman gains more freedom of
movement in the sense that her whereabouts is not always
regarded with suspicion (although as we have seen, too much
"going about" means that she is not hard-working).
Yet, even if married women generally are less
suspicious of a woman's whereabouts after she has married,
the new bride, as a stranger to the village, is
continuously assessed by neighbouring women on their daily
coffee-visits which the bride attends together with her
mother-in-law. The young woman is always under the control
of her mother-in-law when interacting with other women. She
keeps her eyes and her mind on her needlework while her
mother-in-law answers most questions on her behalf. Thus
the mother-in-law controls all information about the
household and its members.
Again we see the emphasis placed on loyalty to the
household (discussed in chapter 2). Furthermore, the period
during which a new member (usually a daughter-in-law ) is
in the process of being incorporated into a new household
is obviously very critical for the household in question.
As she has not gone through the natural socialisation
process a child born into the household would have, the new

member is actually made, at least symbolically, to change
allegiance - from her parents' to her husband's parents'
household. One manifestation of this change is seen in the
form of address used for household members. Upon marriage
it is considered good practice for the bride to address her
husband's closest relatives, including lateral ones, with
the same terms as he uses. 14 He may address her relatives
in the same way, but the moral pressure is less: I never
came across any examples of the practice, and I certainly
never heard anybody complaining about a man not using his
wife's terms for her relatives. He will most commonly
address her parents as pun/punica (father-in-law/mother-in-
law), while a woman when talking in the third person about
her parents-in-law will call them svekr/svekrva (when
addressing them directly she uses the word for mother and
father). More generally, he addresses her relatives either
by their first names or by the terms for specific in-laws.
Nevertheless, even if it is desirable and seen as
honourable for a bride to address her husband's relatives
with his terms for them, e.g. calling his mother mater
("mum") and his aunt tetka, women will remark on it if she
does so; it is a custom which in fact not many women do
follow or expect their daughters to follow. Thus, when a
young bride visited her native hamlet for the first time
after she had married, and at one point during a
conversation with neighbouring women referred to her
husband's aunt as tetka, the women smiled and commented
with a touch of surprise: "You say tetka ?" The bride

answered that this was showing respect (potovanje),
whereupon the omen reassured the bride that this was fine
and the way it ought to be.
This practice has elsewhere, particularly in Yugoslav
ethnography, been explained by the presence of a patriarc-
hal ideology, an explanation which is easily seen to be
tautologous. I believe a more fruitful analysis would be to
centre on the primary social unit, the household, and the
strict code of loyalty demanded by its members.
I suggest, furthermore, that the often strong control
by a mother-in-law of her daughter-in-law is not so much
because the latter is a junior woman within the household,
but rather because she is a stranger whose loyalty has
hitherto lain elsewhere, and is therefore a threat to the
ideal of loyalty between household members. By the same
token, I would argue that a woman on becoming a mother
gains higher status, because she becomes less of a threat,
less liable to betray her household (which would ultimately
upset the whole village through gossip, quarrels and
changing alliances), because she now has the responsibility
for the successful socialisation of new household members.
She has become less of a stranger. Gradually, as her
children grow older, the responsibility for preserving a
certain image of the household is increasingly with the
daughter-in-law; the mother-in-law is marginalised. Both
women speak more freely about conflicts between them when
socialising separately, although the sympathy now seems to
be largely on the daughter-in-law's side. In the absence of

her husband, who may go on labour migration or work long
shifts in the factories of Sarajevo, she is the de facto
head of the household and often the main link between this
and other households.

7.4.2 Wives
A woman's life-cycle can be seen as several stages
towards the status of a mature wife, with daughters-in-law.
Having achieved the status of wife, a woman becomes
powerful, and in charge of her own and other household
members' lives. She has obtained her reputation, and needs
to worry less about how her subsequent acts may affect it
negatively. Her experience and knowledge of sexuality is
now stressed; more or less direct references are made to
this effect among equals (i.e. wives). Jokes about mens'
and women's sexuality are common currency when some of the
liveliest women meet at coffee-visits. (This is one of the
most important reasons why women forbid their unmarried
daughters to attend wives' gatherings.)'5
While being a Muslim maiden is, as we have seen,
defined largely in terms of what she should not do, being
a wife is defined by what she should do. One of the rituals
a woman should perform is particularly essential in
defining her womanhood as a Muslim. The gusul or ritual
washing after sexual intercourse is one of the key rituals
distinguishing maidens and wives. Significantly, however,
it also distinguishes Muslim wives from Catholic wives.
Performing gusul is a statement of being sexually active

and thus a statement of womanhood. (How this relates to
pollution beliefs both for men and women will be discussed
in chapter 9.) No wonder then that this is one of the
favourite topics in more humorous conversations among
married women. In fact "to take a bath" (this is done by
pouring water over your body from a jug), has become a
metaphor for having had sexual intercourse. The physical
structure of a house in a settlement makes it difficult for
a woman to take a bath in secret. Her closest neighbours
will make loaded remarks, the frequency of bathing being
commented on as an allusion to the frequency of sexual
Although women appear outspoken and open about
sexuality in their jokes and humorous chats, they rarely
talk about contraception or abortion. They usually know
about artificial methods of contraception, including the
pill (which they hear about from female relatives living in
town or from doctors at the health centre in town), but
they are hesitant to use them, and instead practise coitus
interruptus; its unreliable character is only too clearly
demonstrated in the high rate of abortions. If a woman
becomes pregnant when more children are not wanted, women
always blame the man for not taking more care. It is his
responsibility, and a man who cannot 'control himself' is
ridiculed. Thus every time the man who had five children
from the ages of one to five, was observed passing on the
road by neighbours, joking and sometimes condemnatory
remarks were made about hiss 'apparently' uncontrolled

sexuality. Remarks were made by women and men alike and
everybody would join in the laughter. Women complain that
it is when the husband has been drinking and he "has no
control" that they become pregnant. Contrary to what is the
common attitude in northern European societies where women
are seen as primarily responsible for birth control, it is
here seen mainly as the man's responsibility. To have no
control is seen as unmanly. On the other hand, however,
this implies that ideally men, not women, should have
control over reproduction and the reproductive forces and
thus ultimately over women.
Women do not wish to have many children because, they
say, many children means increased poverty. Most women
prefer to have two or three children, in order to be able
to maintain a certain standard of living. Abortion is
common and most women have several during their
reproductive years; it is legal and carried out at the

hospital in Sarajevo. Although the young idealistic clergy

preach to village women about the sinfulness of having
abortions, and women are aware of the health hazards of
having one, they still prefer this as the ultimate method
of birth control when coitus interruptus fails. They have
not taken on board the "sinfulness of abortion"; rather
they find this 'rule' quite out of touch with the realities
of life. In fact, having an abortion is not something the
women are ashamed of or feel is sinful in any way. On the
contrary, a woman always includes her abortions among her
pregnancies in conversations. 1 These are all part of the

fertility record and also proof of how desired she is by
her husband. 17 The following dialogue between two women
illustrates my point; "A" told a young pregnant woman
visiting from another village: "I have been pregnant seven
times, I have two children and have had five abortions."
"A" said this jokingly and was obviously satisfied with the
reaction she got from the other woman, who exclaimed not
entirely unimpressed: "You are crazy". (Budala, which was
the word used here, is used to characterise behaviour which
is seen as excessive.) Then they both laughed.

7.5 Conclusions
In a society such as Yugoslavia, experiencing rapid
social change (i.e. recent industrialisation and
urbanisation), a marked disparity in world-view between the
older and the younger generation will be expected. My
argument is, however, that the disparity in values between
married women and unmarried girls is not merely a question
of generation differences, but has to be related to a
discussion of the role of women in maintaining a distinct
Muslim group identity.
Views among the Muslims, both men and women, within
the village on what is 'good' and appropriate behaviour are
seemingly more divergent than views on appropriate male
behaviour. There are two reasons for this. First, there is
more actual variation in female codes of conduct. Women
have to relate to new and challenging role models, and a
rapidly changing moral enviromnent under the influence of

western consumer values. Secondly, women's behaviour seems
to be much more of an issue than that of men. I ascribe
this to the fact that the ultimate responsibility for
demarcation of ethnic group boundaries is with women. Women
are, in other words the pivots of group identity.
The role of women is thus a critical one, since, as the
main bearers of Muslim group characteristics, change in
women's expected role behaviour may eventually threaten
what is perceived as Muslim identity (both as seen by
members of the group themselves and by outsiders). As I
hope to have shown, the women themselves acknowledge their
critical role, and realise that as Muslim women they have
more dilemmas than men when interacting in the secular,
non-Muslim sphere. In my view, men have already made
compromises between their Muslim identity and the
requirements of a secular, atheist state, encountered
through the public world of work, while for women this
encounter is of a more recent date and the conflicts are
therefore felt more strongly.

Footnotes chaTter 7

1. Cura is a word more loaded with meaning than the standard

Serbo-Croat word djevojka which is more widely used in the urban
context. Young village girls often preferred to use djevojka
rather than cura because they believed the former to be more
"cultured". While djevojka is also used in the sense of an
unmarried woman it does not seem as loaded with ideas about
behaviour, or it conveys merely a status, rather than a quite
rigid set of ideas about behaviour appropriate to this status.
2. This is accordance with what Unni Wikan suggests on the basis
of her Omani ethnography (see Wikan, 1982)
3. I have chosen to translate hodati with "going (or walking,
depending on context] about" as this best conveys the ideas
contained in the local usage of the term.
4. Jane K. Cowan (1991) reports a similar distinction between
more traditional "coffeehouses" and modern "kafeterias" and the
"moral geography" implied in her study of a small town in Greek
5. This is not always the case in towns. The villagers themselves
acknowledge this, but point out that towns are a different
6. Dimije was a Turkish fashion, brought in during the Ottoman
Empire and influenced Muslims and Christians alike. Colour was
not initially a distinguishing factor. Muslims and Christians
were almost certainly dressing in similar fashion before the
advent of the Turks. It has, however, been documented that a
certain Bosnian vizier in 1794 introduced measures to ensure that
Muslims and Christians could be distinguished according to the
colour of their clothes. Thus green, white, yellow and red should
be worn by Muslims, black and blue by Christians and Jews. In
1827 the Pasha, eliminated the option of blue for the latter
group (cf. Balagija, 1940).
7. Christian Catholic women mostly wear knee-length skirts. A
couple who are in their late seventies wear black dimije and
black shirts.
8. A Dolina woman in her sixties was proud to tell me that she
was the first woman in the village to stop wearing the veil when
going to the market town.
9. P. Loizos, personal communication reports that the headscarf
and long skirt is now common among Turkish Muslim women in
Western Thrace (Greece) where they live close to Greeks.
10. She added that it is even more difficult for women in other
Muslim countries, where they always shave to cover themselves up
completely, because there State and religion are one, and it

would have been easier for women in those countries if State and
religion were separated.
11. This statement also reflects the fact that in the village
Muslim women wear dimije to differentiate themselves from
Catholics. In Sarajevo, where they are not known, however, such
identification is irrelevant. Dimije and headscarf would
nevertheless be worn by rural women to visit a mosque.
12. In Dolina there were no example of "pious girls" who rejected
all "modern" clothes and none that I knew of who even aspired
towards such an attitude. But there was a teenage girl who
complained that her mother, who herself had worn a miniskirt when
she was young (in the seventies) would not let her daughter wear
either a miniskirt nor shorts.
13. In this respect I was very much treated like a inlada. As a
stranger, woman and new member of the household, I was seen as
a threat to the reputation of the household. Interaction between
me and any member of another household was therefore strictly
supervised by my hostess, at least until the loyalty to 'my
household' had been understood and firmly established. She never
let me visit alone; she was always there to answer women's
questions. Once at the beginning, after I had been visiting some
women on my own, she told me firmly that it was not a good idea
for me to go on my own, since I didn't know anything yet,
including the language. "They might ask you unpleasant questions.
They are very clever, you see." I might say things I didn't mean,
etc. Her control became a problem. But my loyalty was expected,
and in complying I gained acknowledgement and trust.I had to work
within these restrictions, but I probably benefited from having
the loyalty of fellow household members in return. In any
disagreement between villagers concerning the character of my
stay or my whereabouts, members of my household would always
defend me in order to protect my good reputation which, of
course, was ultimately also the reputation of the household of
which I was a member.
14. A similar pattern for the term of address between the bride
and her husband's relatives is found in Greece. Thus Campbell
notes: "She follows her husband in his modes of address to all
senior relatives, father, mother, uncle, aunt, and so on. The
family and kinsmen address the newcomer simply 'bride"
15. At such coffee-visits the women would be cautious about
talking about sexuality or making rude jokes in my presence. They
would often censor each other while referring to the presence of
the cura. However, their attitude became more lax towards the end
of my stay when they acknowledged that I was "grown up",
"serious" and "needed to learn everything".
16. Marokvai6 notes more generally that an ambivalent attitude
towards unplanned pregnancies is "deeply rooted in the
significance of procreation and maternity for Yugoslav women and
their perception of women's sexuality, indeed femininity, as

being closely related to procreation" (1981:200).

17.In their 1991 paper P. Loizos and E. Papataxiarchis offer an

explanation for the high rate of abortion in Greece and suggest
among others that "From the women's point of view what makes sex
"natural", pleasurable, and desirable is that it leaves the door
to conception open" and that "sexuality in itself, sealed off
from the prospect of pregnancy by contraceptive devices, is seen
as undesirable" (1991:225).


In the main introduction it was pointed out that the
fact of the presence of both Christianity and Islam in
South-Eastern Europe (and the Mediterranean) calls for
breaking down the academic barriers between the Europeanist
and the Islamicist. Yet, this barrier often seems like an
artificial one, as they display close affinity in
theoretical approach. In the anthropological literature on
both Islam and Christianity there is often an analytically
rigid dual opposition between on the one hand formal,
public, male religious practices and on the other popular,
private, female religious practices. This set of
oppositions has at its base Redfield's distinction between
the Great and the Little Traditions, between the orthodox
literate tradition and the illiterate folk-tradition seen
to be heavily influenced by non- or pre-Islamic practices.
Equating Islam with the official doctrine only, however, or
discussing the "anthropology of Islam" (cf. el-Zein, 1977),
along the dichotomies originating in the distinction
between the Great and Little Tradition, miss out the
empirical fact of a co-existance of univers/alistic with
particularistic elements in religious practices (cf. Tapper
& Tapper, 198?). So-called 'popular-Islam' which may be
more aptly described as "Islam as it is practiced" also
contains orthodox practices. The dynamic processes between
these two types of elements make it difficult, if not

impossible to talk about any "one Islam" (cf. el-Zein,
1977). This is incident,2?ally why I use the term 'Bosnian
Islam' henceforth. Furthermore, what is defined as
'official Islam' has changed with political changes
through the history of Muslim peoples (cf. Waardenburg,
1979), and thus so has the content of 'popular Islam'. In
fact, "the dichotomization of Islamic practice is a
statment about the distribution of power within society
rather than an empirical description of on-the-ground
behaviour or organization" (Johnson, 1980:28). The
distinction between popular and orthodox Islam is in other
words itself part of the official discourse on Islam. With
increased general literacy and professionalisation of the
clergy, this is a discourse which in Bosnia is becoming
part of the villagers' own. Local discourse on Islam is
reflecting an increased opposition between "non-Islamic"
and "Quaranic" practices; those increasingly seen to
pertain to the former category the older generation would
call adet (custom or tradition) and see them together with
the doctrinally based practices as an integral part of the
cultural knowledge and identity of a Bosnian Muslim. They
would refer to both as Muslim custom (Muslirnanski obicaji).
Indeed, the two categories of practices and beliefs are
complementary. Among the younger and devout Muslims,
however, what is considered "Muslim" is increasingly
associated with what is "Islamic" while adet is associated
with what is considered "non-Islamic". Among younger more
devout Muslims a clear distinqtion would be made between

Muslim customs which are according to Islam (po Islamu) and
those which are not. They would frown at traditional
beliefs or practices which are still followed and saying
"this is not Muslim custom". 1 These same people would be
unappreciative of my staying in Dolina, where they argued
I would not learn anything, because people there do not
read books and thus do not know anything, but only "do
things the way they think it should be" and their religion
is "mixed up with Christianity and all sorts of things".
Bosnia is on the northern fringe of the Islamic world,
and in fact represents the northernmost area inhabited by
'indigenous Muslims'. Furthermore, rural Bosnia is itself
on the periphery of this marginal community, and as such,
rural Bosnian Islam displays several of the traits
characteristic of "peripheral Islam" discussed in much of
the anthropological literature on Islam. (See in particular
Lewis, 1986). A key characteristic of "peripheral Islam" as
described in the African ethnography on the subject is the
presence of three competing ritual or belief systems:
Islam, Christianity and the traditionally 'pagan'.
In Bosnia there are likewise three ritual systems
which compete in some areas and converge in others, but
mostly the traditional, illiterate practices are challenged
from two fronts: Islamic orthodoxy and state socialism.
Western consumerism and ideas about individualism are also
part of the context, but unlike the former two, do not
constitute a coherent discourse and are not
institutionalized. Even if some non-orthodox rituals, and

traditional Slav beliefs and customs are, as we .shLL see
still found, their popularity is decreasing. At the same
time they are being dismissed as illiterate superstition.
While state socialism presents a challenge to traditional
values and rituals as, to an increasing extent, does
western consumerism, it does not directly oppose them, even
if it does so indirectly by labelling them as superstitious
and primitive (nekulturni), and people who seek prestige in
the public world (outside of the village) will want to
disassociate themselves from such practices. However, it is
my contention that more direct opposition comes from
"off icial Islam", through its agent the Islarnska Zajednica.

Its local representatives have contributed to an increasing

awareness in the villagers' minds of a distinction between
Islamic and non-Islamic practices.
Thus at least two processes can be identified which
affect religious life in the village. The first is
Islamisation, through its representatives, the Medressa
educated hodIas and bulas. As we shLL see villagers are

encouraged to give up customs and ritual practices which

are regarded by Muslim scholars as non-islamic. The second
factor influencing religious life, secularisation, takes
two forms: state socialism and western consumerism. The
process of secularisation, which, rather than being seen as
a separate phenomenon, should be understood in conjunction
with the process of Islamisation. Rather than dealing with
two self-contained processes, we are dealing with an
increasing polarisation of value systems. The loser in

this process of polarisation is the third component, namely
traditional village rituals and beliefs.
The second part of the thesis will shift focus away
from individual behaviour in the secular sphere and the
construction of social identities to collective behaviour

and the construction of a Muslim religious identity. It

will discuss religion and belief in Dolina, particularly
with a view to the role of orthodox Islam and its encounter
with local practical Islam. I shall argue that women both
are more involved in the rituals of Islamic orthodoxy than
is suggested for much of the Islamic world, and at the same
time mediate between local Islam and official Islam. The
first chapter (chapter 8) iiL examine the role of the
Islamic discourse in a pluralist society with an atheist
state ideology. Chapter 9 will deal with popular beliefs
and the various customs which fall into the category of
"folk-religion" i.e. those which according to an orthodox

yardstick are classified as 'popular' and even non-Islamic.

Many of these customs and beliefs are found throughout the
Islamic world such as the writing of charms and the
visiting of saint's graves for healing. Others are more
specific to the Bosnian Muslims and a result of their
historical and cultural background such as the celebration
of St.George's day (Jurjev). Lastly, in chapter 10 I shall
look at the different ritual obligations for men and women
throughout the main events in the Muslim ceremonial
calendar and point to some of the distinguishing
characteristics of Bosnian Islam. Discussing popular

beliefs and orthodox Islam in separate chapters may
indicate that they are considered as separate belief-
systems. This is, however, true only on a theoretical level
as it is only recently that villagers have been "made
aware" that there are beliefs and practices which are not
compatible with Islam and included this distinction into
their own discourses. Elements from both systems have been
integrated in villagers' minds and lives. However, the
influence from a socialist materialist discourse and
orthodox Islam, have made the villagers wary of practising
what from the first's point of view is condemned as
superstition and primitiveness, and from the second's
judged as superstition and un-Islamic, and usually ascribed
to pre-Islamic traditions, both, however seeing them as
illiterate practices which will only 1ose ground through
increased education, either secular or Islamic


This chapter will examine the role of the Islamic

discourse in a pluralist society with an atheist/Communist
state ideology and discuss the role of official Islam at
village level and its encounter with local practical Islam.
It will be argued that the state approved Islamic
Association (Islamska Zajednica), representing official
Islam, is both challenging the local forms of Islam where
women play a vital role and, interestingly, encouraging
women to take a more central role in official Islam.

8.1 The Islamic Association

The Islarnska Zajednica ( lit, the Islamic community or

association), hereafter referred to as I.Z., is the state-

approved body responsible for all matters concerning the
Muslim community in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Croatia and
Slovenia). It is a highly bureaucratised, stratified
organisation which operates on three geo-adminstrative
levels. The I.Z. is led by the Starjenstvo (i.e. the
council of elders) in Sarajevo, and its head, the Reisul-
ulema. Then there are councils encompassing all mosques
within a commune (optina; a secular administrative unit
centred on a market town and including surrounding
villages) and attended by each mosque's hoda and elected
lay representatives. Lastly, there is the village mosque
council encompassing one demat ("parish") and led by the

mosque's hoda. It is usally called the dematski odbor,
but seo/ski odbor (village council) is also used.
The Starjeinstvo is supervised by (the official
rhetoric is "in contact with") a government committee for
religious affairs. It has to report to this committee every
time it holds a meeting. The committee will intervene if
they feel challenged by delegates who are "too political"
in their views. An informant put it like this: "The
committee will intervene if young people bring politics
into religious affairs, and do or say something which is
not good; they will be criticised and then everything will
be all right." 2 We see in these words the delicate balance
Muslim clerics have to tread and the extent of its
accommodation to political authorities on terms set by the
latter. The Bosnian state is wary of any expression of
anti-state and pan-Islamic ideas propagated by the clergy.3
It is interesting to note that my informant stressed that
it is the young who are inclined to create problems.
Indeed, it is the young clerics who challenge the
accommodating attitude of the I.Z. The older clerics are
understandably more restrained, since their cautious
attitude and/or Communist sympathies brought them to their
present position in the restrictive post-war years. In
effect, the leading Muslim clergy have accommodated
themselves to the Communist authorities to the extent that
they encourage the Bosnian Muslims to put their obligations
to the state before their obligations as Muslims. (Cf.
similar attitudes in Algeria reported by Johnson, 1980.)

The presiding Reisul-ul.ema was quite clear on this
point in a speech he gave at a ceremony to mark the opening
of a new mosque in a small Bosnian town. 4 He stated that
during Ramadan (see chapter 10), whenever a person was
faced with the dilemma between fasting or working, s/he
should work, because this benefits the wider community and
the country. To illustrate his point about the value of
work, the Reisul-ulema criticised in sarcastic terms a
dervish who allegedly would consider work beneath his
dignity and consequently starve to death (sic].
The representatives of official Islam in the region
where I did my field-research are opposed to two of the
main characteristics of local Islam: first, the mystic
orders and their "unorthodox" practices, and secondly,
ideas and practices that they judge as un-Islamic, e.g. as
Christian or Slav (see chapter 9). At the same time, their
rhetoric is also directed against Western ideas. The state
ideology restricts the scope of an Islamic discourse and
overt challenge to the state ideology is punishable by law.
However, the leaders of the I.Z. may also use the Socialist
state discourse to reinforce their own power base. They
would for instance oppose any groups or individuals which
could mobilise followers and thereby threaten the virtual
monopoly of their organisation on "Muslim ideology" (cf.

their negative attitude towards the dervish orders

discussed in -f tcA).

8.2 The mosaue council for the commune
The Islamic council for the commune (optina) to which
Dolina belongs is responsible for all the village or mosque
councils in that area. It is led by the Imams of the two
mosques in the administrative township of the commune;
members are elected from among the male household-heads
within the dzemats in the same way as for the village
council. The Islamic council for the commune decides on
matters concerning all the nine mosques or dzernats under
its jurisdiction. More important decisions on religious
learning and administration are taken by the Starjesinstvo
in Sarajevo. The role of the Islamic councils on commune
and village level is mostly to implement decisions taken by
the I.Z. in Sarajevo, and to function as a mediator between
the local and central levels.

8.3 Dolina demat

Dolina has its own mosque and is therefore defined as
a demat, with its own mosque council. Dolirta demat is,
however, not a strictly defined or constant entity. First,
although it is the local residents who together comprise
the demat, the geographical borders between two different
congregations (vjerski skup) may be vague. Th question of
who belongs to which demat is therefore a question of
personal choice, particularly for those who live close to
the border with another demat. The hoda mentioned two
examples: a man who lived in Dolina wanted to be buried at
the new mosque in a neighbouring village which had earlier

belonged to the Dolina demat, while a resident of the new
demat wanted to be buried beside his relatives at the old
mosque in Dolina. Secondly, the size of each particular
vjerski skup is reckoned in households (doma6instvo), and
the number of members is officially calculated on the basis
of those who pay annual fees to the I.Z. These are paid by
the household head, but owing to the division of the
communal household and its intermediate forms (described in
chapter 6), counting households may not reflect actual
membership. A house inhabited by two conjugal couples and
their children who eat separately and have separate
household economies may be counted as one household when
they in actual fact form two. Furthermore, not all Muslim
households situated within a demat do pay the annual fee.
The village Imam therefore found it difficult to give me an
exact number of members.

8.3.1 The villa ge mos que council

The Dolina mosque has its own council consisting of
four or five men elected annually by and from among the
male household- heads in the demat. The village mosque
council or dematski odbor, is always led by the hodEa. The
council will meet when needed, often to discuss specific
cases that have come up and usually at the request of the
hoda. The village council is responsible for matters
concerning the running of the mosque and for organising its
members whenever necessary. The council would for instance
arrange for the building of a new mosque if the dzemat

decided on this, and organises and finances maintenance
work. When it is agreed that a new mosque should be
constructed, the council also decides on how much money
each household should be encouraged to give. It is
responsible for collecting the annual membership fees to
the I.Z from all the demat's members, and determines on
the hoda's wages, within the framework laid down by the
I.Z. It also elects the muezzin, the man who calls the
faithful to prayer from the mosque's minaret. The council
is furthermore responsible for collecting the annual zekat
("alms" given by each household). The money goes to a
charitable purpose decreed on by the I.Z. in Sarajevo. The
money was formerly given directly to a needy person in the
community, but since the I.Z. integrated the zekat into its
bureaucratic procedures and decreed that it should be
redistributed through the organisation the tendency is to
earmark the money for organisational and educational
activities within the Islamic community under their
jurisdiction. Last year, for instance, the money went to
the Nedressa. 5 Another responsibility of the village mosque
council is the daily running of the Quranic school
(mekteb), though the curriculum and general organisation of
the Quranic Schools are decided by the Starjeinstvo in
Sarajevo. Finally, the village mosque council is
responsible for implementing decisions made at higher
levels, i.e. by the regional (commune) and state (republic)

8.4 Reiresentation of official Islam in Doling
8.4.1 The inoscue
The official presence of Islam in Dolina is
represented first and most obviously by the mosque, and
secondly by a hoda and a bula. Their duties will be
discussed in more detail below. The mosque is situated in
the upper part of the village, but would at the time of its
construction 6 have been the lowest building in the
settlement. In those days there would have been dwellings
clustered above the mosque along the river, some opposite
the mosque and others on the surrounding hills. Nowadays,
those who live further down the river can go to a mosque
which has recently been built in a nearby village, and
which is closer. The village is very much defined as the
settlement immediately surrounding the mosque (see chapter
1). Thus when referring to this part of the village, people
living further down the valley talk about gore u selu, ("up
in the village"). In addition to defining the village
geography, the mosque is also the most important
institution in the integration of the Muslim community in
the village.
In most traditional mosques in the rural areas of
Bosnia both men and women enter through the same door, and
the women sit downstairs with the men. (The main mosques in
larger towns, as well as the ones recently designed, built
and paid for by Middle Eastern countries, are built with
two separate entrances, one for men leading into the main
room at ground level and another for women which leads up

to a large room at the back of the mosque (the musandara)
over-looking the main area where the men sit.) However,
this does not mean that boundaries are not marked or
expressed; rather, the lack of any clearly defined physical
segregation causes women to be all the more conscious about
not trespassing. Thus, the men always make up the front
rows closest to the mihrab (a niche in the wall at the
front of the mosque, facing kibla, from where the Imam
leads the prayers), while women sit in the back rows
towards the entrance and always make sure they enter the
mosque last (i.e. just as the congregational prayers are
about to start), allowing the men to enter before them.
Again, when the prayers are over the women get up
hurriedly, and make sure they leave the mosque before the
men. They should never look at or talk to the men while on
their way from or to the mosque; that would be shameful.
The older male clerics would argue that during prayers in
the mosque as well as on other ritual occasions men and
women ought to be separated, but that since the advent of
Communism they have been sitting together. The orthodox
practices in this respect have been more strictly adhered
to in urban centres.
The presence of a mosque, hoda and bula in the
village may account for the fact that the Muslims, at least
in the upper part of the village, seem to have a much
stronger sense of local identity than the Catholics do.
(There is no official Catholic institution in Dolina.)

8.4.2 The hoda
Hoda is the local word for the Arabic Imam and comes
from the Turkish hoca. The use of the term Imam is,
however, becoming increasingly fashionable among the devout
urban Muslim elite. A bodza will be adressed by his first
name and the honorary etendija (lit, master) preceding it.
Before the war (in what older people would call stara
Jugoslavija i.e. old Yugoslavia 7) only young men from
families who owned much land could become hodas. First,
they needed someone to finance their studies at the
Medressa in Sarajevo. Secondly, they had no salary when
working as a hoda, only a symbolic pay from their dlemat.
The teachers at the Medressa were paid from the income of
the vakufs (i.e. property belonging to the Muslim religious
community). Today the hodas are paid a salary decided on
by the local mosque council according to guidelines given
by the I.Z., while the head of the community and the
teachers at the Medressa are paid by the secular Bosnian
state. Furthermore, the I.Z. has in later years established
a system of scholarships and assisted places for young men
and women from the villages. This is part of a policy to
target rural areas for better religious instruction. 8 Since
the Medressa is a boarding school it also provides
accommodation, meals and from many parents' point of view,
protection. It is therefore an attractive and prestigious
option for clever students from rural areas.
In addition to their monthly salary the hodas are
paid separately when they take on obligations such as

teaching at meviuds or tevhids, and teaching hatma (see
chapter 10). However, there is some resentment among
villagers towards the growing "professionalisation" of
religious ritual services, illustrated by the ever-
increasing practice of paying anyone who recites at them.
One hoda expressed his disapproval of all the "envelopes"
(with money) which were handed out at burial ceremonies to
the men who recite. "What is the point", he asked, "of poor
people handing out their money like that and for what? When
a person is dead nobody can help him anyway." His last
remark stressed his critical attitude towards a whole set
of practices in this region associated with praying for the
souls of the dead. Younger and more orthodox trained Muslim
clerics often consider these as un-Islamic and influenced
by Christian ideas (cf. chapter 9). In Dolina most
villagers are not opposed to the practice of lay people
reciting at religious ceremonies per Se, but they are
critical of the practice of giving money to the reciters
and sometimes also presents to the clergy. It is a practice
which reinforces class distinctions: poorer people will not
be able to call upon more than one hoda, bula or lay
reciter for fear of shaming themselves if they cannot live
up to the paying and gift-giving standards. As we shall see
in chapter 10 class distinctions are already present at
tevhids and mevluds, reflected in the amount and quality of
the food served and the number and status of the hodas and
bulas invited to lead the event.
The hoda typically lives in a house next door to the

mosque (although this is not the case in Dolina) and his
(and his wife's) obligations are extensive. He will call
for prayer the prescribed five times a day, even if he is
the only one attending (this often happens, especially in
the case of the early morning and afternoon prayers).
In addition, the hoda teaches children every day and
should go, whenever he is summoned, to recite at: tevhid
(memorial service for the dead); mevlud (recitals
commemorating the prophet Mohammed's birth); and denaza
(burial ceremonies). (These rituals are discussed in more
detail in chapter 10.) He also conducts wedding ceremonies
for those couples who wish to marry according to Islamic
law or sheriat. He and his wife have social duties too:
visiting households in the demat and entertaining guests -
hospitality is expected to be lavish, and a cooked meal
should be offered. The hoda in Dolina does not actually
live in the village, but in a village about an hour's drive
away. This means he is not always there to lead all five
daily prayers. He will, however, be present for all the
prayers during Ramadan, and he will always arrive in the
village on Fridays to lead the duma prayer in the mosque.
While teaching children at mekteb (i.e. from September to
June), he stays with different households in the village,
at their invitation. He has Mondays and Tuesdays of f, when
he goes back to his own village to stay with his wife and
children. Where he is staying, when and for how long, is
usually organised before he arrives in September. In some
households where facilities are better he will stay for

longer, but in poorer households with few resources he will
not stay at all. He starts at one end of the village and
moves on as the year progresses. As the hoda approaches
one particular neighbourhood, his movements become the main
topic of conversation among the local residents. They talk
about those people who have invited him to stay lately,
those who have not invited him, the reasons for that, and
how long it has been since last he stayed in a particular
The visit of the hoda is a major event in a
household, and the female members have to do a lot of work
to get everything ready, including a thorough cleaning of
the house and the preparation of food. The hoda is served
the best traditional food, and for dessert and with coffee
there should be sweet pastries (slatko), which are only
served on special occasions. There is a saying that "hodas
like sweet things" (vole slatko), and another: "He is not
a hoda if he does not like sweet things". This saying
probably originated in the fact that a hodza makes many
visits and as a guest of honour is always served sweet
cakes and pastries, and has to like what he is served.
Although some villagers would say that since the boda did
not drink alcohol (cf. chapter 10, ftn. 2), he liked
slatko. However, the saying also has sexual connotations
(women love making teasing hints about the often
charismatic hodas and their erotic life). Someone who
"likes sweet things" (usually said about men) is someone
who needs surplus energy because he leads an active sexual

life, so that "liking slatko" often becomes synonymous with
liking sex.
There are plans for the hoda to move to Dolina on a
permanent basis, and a house is under construction as a
community project. One of the wealthier farmers (whose wife
is the local bula) has provided land next to his own house,
people in the village have donated money for buying
building materials, and men in the village have been doing
construction work. Minor jobs still remain, such as putting
in windows, etc., but I witnessed no progress on the house
as long as I lived in the village. Informants told me that
there was no more money, and that those who had contributed
most were getting annoyed at having so little support in
the village as a whole. Some intrigues were obviously
taking place behind the scenes, but as these were matters
for the five-member village mosque council, I had little
access to the processes of decision-making. The limited
information I have on this matter was from women who had
heard the menfolk talking. It is probable that many
villagers feel that it is just as well that the hodza does
not live permanently in the village. This is the way it has
always been; even if this hoda is very friendly with the
people, modest and fairly conservative, he is still a
figure of authority, and the villagers do moderate their
behaviour in his presence and make an effort to present
themselves as good and upright people. This is particularly
true for the women, who also tell their husband how to
behave when the hoda is present. The men, however, are

fairly relaxed about the matter and are not prepared to
pretend. They know that the hoda is aware that they drink,
do not fast and do not go to the mosque as often as they
should. They also seem to believe that the hoda is more
tolerant and understanding of their lack of piety than he
would be towards the women. (The hoda of course gets to
hear about what is going on when he is not around. He knows
and understands his people very well, but because his
position in the village is ambiguous, his relations with
the villagers have to be conducted with great diplomatic
As a representative of "official Islam" the hoda is
surprisingly unintrusive and tolerant of unorthodox local
practices. This is because he identifies with the local
scene himself, but has been put under pressure from the
regional mosque council which is pushing for the village
hodas to intensify their religious activities in the
villages. The hoda in Dolina was for instance instructed
to extend his teaching year, which normally lasted nine
months, by two months. This is, however, only one example
of how the representatives of official Islam tend to take
over more and more and to direct "folk" religious life. (I
shall return to this point in chapter 9.)

8.4.3 The bula

Female religious instructors can be grouped into two
different categories according to their age and educational
background. First, there are the old generation of bulas

who were generally trained by the village hoda (in
recitals of the Quran) and a senior bula in the region (in
how to conduct the ritual washing of a female corpse). She
was often the daughter or wife of a hodza. Whenever she was
called to a household to perform a certain ritual, she
would be paid a symbolic sum of money (sergija) by the
person who summoned her. This kind of bula always had an
informal status compared to that of the hoda, and was
never under the employment of the I.Z. Second, there are
the young bulas who, for the last ten years, have been
educated at the Medressa in Sarajevo. This institution
offers to both sexes the religious equivalent of secular
education at secondary level. Yet although a bula's
Medressa eduacation is almost identical to that given to
hodas, there are still marked differences in the kinds of
work the two sexes perform after graduating. Only male
students will be instructed in the leading of prayers in
the mosque and in chairing the mosque council, all
components of the subject called ponaanje ( conduct). Young
bulas argue that the Quran does not prohibit women from

leading the prayers; hodzas would, however, explain that

all prophets (pejqamber) since Adam had been men, and there
had been no female messenger throughout the history of
Islam. An older male informant, who was member of a mosque
council, said that women were never members of an Islamic
council because "this is not a religious custom" (i.e the
idea of having women as council members was one pursued by
the secular state and based onsa different value-system).9

His argument was, however, challenged by a young bula, who
said that a female colleague of hers was member of the
mosque council in the town where she was employed. She
emphasised that the lack of female representatives on the
Islamic council for her own commune (optina) did not imply
that women cannot be members, • but rather that the male
representatives there were opposed to the idea.

However, the local Islamic council for the area where

this particular bula worked is not only opposed to the idea
of a female representative (i.e. a bula) on the council,
but also to employing a Medressa-educated bula in its
region. There was an obvious candidate for the job, a
twenty-one-year-old woman from the area and married to a
hoda. She was upset that the council refused to grant her
a dekret, i.e. authorise and formally employ her as the
bula for this commune. (An un-educated older bula is
working within this region, but she is not formally
employed and does not receive a salary.) Instead, she now
performs individual assignments, together with the other,
established bula in the area, (mainly reciting at tevhids)
which are paid for directly by the person or household
which has called for her. This particular bula's situation
is not unique. 10 Women graduating from the Medressa often
have difficulties in finding a job, and while the I.Z.
centrally are eager to include women in the clergy, the
problem seems to be at the level of the individual village,
where the mosque council is often against employing the new
generation of Medressa-educated bulas, often attempting to

justify its decision on financial grounds. The local clergy
and the village mosque councils (which are dominated by men
with traditional patriarchal views) no doubt perceive these
women who refuse the marginal status of their female
predecessors as a challenge to male hegemony in local
religious life.
One particular commune was considered by many of these
younger bulas to have introduced an ideal system whereby
hoc1as and bulas are employed and paid directly by the

Islamic council for the commune without going via the

village mosque councils, and bulas of the older generation
who are without formal education may only perform their
tasks in the presence of a Nedressa-educated bula.
To date, however, only a few communes have made the
Medressa-educated bulas indispensable by passing a decision
saying that any official rituals including women only,
cannot take place without a medressa educated bula's
presence. Furthermore, the traditional bulas are opposing
what they perceive as a threat to their own authority
within the village community. Some of the less literate
traditional bulas are often ridiculed by the young,
educated clergy for their lack of formal knowledge and
especially for their lack of fluency in Arabic when
reciting. These older bulas in turn disapprove of some of
their younger colleagues, who, they say, are unwilling to
wash the dead in preparation for burial, but only too eager
to display their knowledge through teachings and recitals
at tevhids and mevluds.

The distance between the theoretically-based moral
world of the "official" bula on one hand and the
practically-based one of the village bula on the other is
apparent through how they see their role as religious
instructors for village women. In general the villagers
themselves are often sceptical towards the young, educated
clerics, who want them to change their customs, and who
make them feel inadequate as Muslims. A traditional bula is
usually from the village where she lives and works (this is
less often the case with a hoda). She knows all the

families, their histories and how they are related; for

this reason the villagers trust and respect her and they
prefer their own bula, not a young stranger, to recite at
a relative's memorial service. Women generally feel that
their own bula understands and accepts behaviour that the
younger bulas do not. While the young bulas instruct women
on moral issues, as they have been taught to do at the
Medressa, the traditional village bula will advise women
according to her knowledge of every-day life, without
Young bulas tend to make didactic speeches focusing on
issues relevant to women: their role in marriage as mother
and wife; abortion; appropriate behaviour when considered
ritually impure (i.e. when menstruating, after child-birth
and after sex); what to do about husbands who drink or do
not go to the mosque; and their responsibility in
supervising their children's religious instruction.
Abortion in particular is condemned as a great sin (see

chapter 7). Women are often told that contrary to what they
may have heard from other sources there is no such thing as
equality between the sexes since men are the masters. (This
is obviously a strange sentiment coining from a young women
who is 'threatening male hegemony' and who to a large
degree owe her own position to the influence of an ideology
which argues for the equality between the sexes. Indeed,
many young bulas themselves acknowledged this contradiction
and at one occasion I was told by a young bula who had just
preached on the above issues that these were things she was
required to say by her instructors at the Medressa.) Women
have become accustomed to hear these arguments from
representatives of the Muslim clergy and usually take them
lightly, knowing well that the reality of their lives is
one thing, the repeated moral injunctions something else.
After having attended a talk given by a young female
Medressa student on the usual "women's issues", I asked
what the village women thought. They were unwilling to give
their opinion, but finally they gave the young bula credit
for having spoken so openly about these issues and
acknowledged that the situation had been awkward since the
bula was unmarried (and by implication sexually
inexperienced) and they added: "What she is saying, she has
to say (echoing what the young bula had told me) and that
is fine, but we have heard this so many times and we are
sick of it". You know, we comply with what we can and the
rest we have to leave to be written on the bad side."

8.5 The influence of official Islam and secularisation
In Bosnia in recent years the traditional belief-
system have been challenged by two competing discourses:
orthodox Islam, and the officially atheist and communist
state discourse. While state socialism presents a threat to
traditional values and rituals as, to an increasing extent,
does western consumerism, secularisation in its various
forms opposes them only indirectly. It is my contention
that more direct opposition comes from "official Islam".
Islamisation (through the auspices of the I.Z.) means that
villagers are encouraged to give up customs and ritual
practices regarded by Muslim scholars as non-Islamic (i.e.
showing either Christian or primitive influences). As a
result there is an increasing awareness in the villagers'
own minds of differences between Islamic and non-Islamic
Among the villagers themselves, however, there is a
clear feeling, especially among the older generation, even
if never overtly expressed, that the Muslim clergy
interferes with local life and customs. This became
particularly clear when I asked questions about the
forthcoming celebration of Jurjev (discussed in chapter 9).
My informants told me somewhat reluctantly what was
happening on Jurjevdan, then a woman in her late seventies
added: "But there is little of that nowadays; some say
Jurjevdan is not a Muslim custom, they say it is "gypsy"
(ciganski' 1 ), but it is also ours, we have celebrated it

for as long as I can remember." She disapproved of the

hoda, who does not like them to celebrate the day, and
added that the old hoda (who is now retired) was nicer, as
he did not mind ("He never said anything, while this one
says we should celebrate the Muslim new year instead.").
The second factor influencing religious life,
secularisation, takes two forms, as we have said: state
socialism and western consumerism. The most powerful agent
of secularisation and socialism (i.e. Titoism) is probably
the state educational system.

8.6 Islamic education and Muslim identity

Between the ages of seven and fourteen, village
children participate in two different educational systems:
one religious (the mekteb) and one secular (the state
school). Both boys and girls attend mekteb, ideally every
day, either in the morning or in the afternoon depending on
when they have to go to primary school (see chapter 2).
Mekteb runs parallel with primary school, i.e. a child
starts at the age of six or seven and goes on to the age of
fourteen or fifteen. Most children, however, drop out at an
earlier age, and some children never attend. This is a
constant topic of debate between the hoda and parents of
those children that attend mekteb regularly. The common
judgement of those families whose children are not sent to
mekteb is that the parents are "useless" (ne valjaju).
During the week, fewer children attend, while on
Saturdays the classroom on the first floor of the mosque is
almost always full with about thirty children in each of

the two classes given that day. Children learn to read and
recite by heart from the Quran in Arabic (although they
mostly do not understand what they are reading: some
younger hodas with better training arid more modern
educational theories stress understanding of the text,
rather than learning by heart through repetition, which is
the more traditional method). They also learn the
technicalities of praying: how, what, and at what time of
the day, as well as the ritual washing and recitals taking
place before the prayers. At the end of each mekteb-year,
which in this particular village was in May, a children's
mevlud is held. On this occasion the children sing
religious songs in praise of the Prophet Mohammed. 12 The
Christian children in the village have a parallel to mekteb
in their Sunday school. But as the name suggests, children
only attend on Sundays, and the school is not located in
the village. Furthermore, these children read the Bible in
their own language. This is one of the reasons given to me
by Bosnian scholars to explain why the illiteracy rate
among the Muslims in rural areas is higher than among the
Christians. Before the war, when education generally in
rural areas was taken care of by the religious
institutions, Christian children learnt to read their own
language, while Muslim children learnt to read Arabic first
and had to learn Serbo-Croat, written in either Cyrillic or
Latin, separately.
Attending mekteb is an extra work-load for children as
it comes on top of primary school duties. It can also be

rather unpleasant: in winter, when temperatures may be as
low as minus 20'C, the child has to get up at 6 a.m. and go
to a freezing cold mosque. Girls in the last years at
primary school have a particularly busy time when also
attending mekteb. With increasing age, a girl is expected
to take on more responsibility for the running of her
mother's household, cleaning, cooking and looking after
younger siblings. At the same time school becomes more
demanding and the pressure to finish with good enough marks
to get into a an attractive course at secondary school
increases. Such pressures are no doubt partly responsible
for the high drop-out rate. An additional reason may be the
old-fashioned and authoritarian teaching methods. Teenage
girls who dropped out before finishing primary school were
particularly adamant about how much they hated the Quranic
school and the hoda's caning, in spite of which, they
said, "I still couldn't get all that Arabic into my head."
The local hoda repeatedly told the children that he
wanted them to be as dedicated to inekteb as they were to
their state school, and that it was just as serious to miss

mekteb as miss school. Teachers at school, however, would

complain that Muslim children were tired and had less time
to spend on homework because of their other commitments to
the Quranic school during week-days. The two educational
systems clearly see each other as rivals. Although it could
be argued that the two institutions complement each other
(state schools do not have religious instruction), this is
generally not how the representatives of the two see the

matter; indeed, in an important sense, the two cannot be
complementary, as they offer competing definitions of
Muslim identity. While children are taught at rnekteb that
to be a Bosnian Muslim is first and foremost to be a Muslim
in the religious sense, they learn in school that to be a
Muslim is first and foremost to be a member of a Yugoslav
ethnic group, a category which is politically rather than
religiously defined and thus in accordance with the
official Titoist doctrine.

8.7 Muslim identit y and the socialist state

As I indicated chapter 7, there is a widespread idea
among parents and especially grandparents that children are
taught at school "not to believe". Some parents who are
concerned to bring up their children as good Muslims may
keep them away from school when there are special events
stressing the children's Yugoslav Communist (and by
extension, atheist) identity. During their first years at
school pupils have to learn patriotic songs and poems in
which Yugoslavia's now deceased leader Tito is honoured as
the great father who loves all Yugoslav children. When they
have learnt these the children get a diploma, a red scarf
and a bright blue beret with the Yugoslav red star on the
front; they have now become Tito's "pioneers". (At mosque
school children learn songs and poems revering Islam and
its prophet Mohammed whose images and symbols are very
similar in kind to those used to revere Socialist
Yugoslavia and its founder Tito..) On the days commemorating

the independence of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
and the foundation of the Yugoslav Federal Republic, the
schools celebrate by putting on a show in which the
children perform the kind of songs and poems described
above. The youngest children wear their pioneer outfits.
Some Muslim mothers do not approve of their sons
wearing the pioneer berets in particular and do not take
good care of them. On one occasion a mother refused to
allow her son to wear his beret at a school performance.
This made him very upset, and he said that in that case he
could not go at all, so his mother told him to stay at
home. It seems likely that the pioneer beret was
particularly frowned on because Bosnian men wear a dark
blue beret as a sign (the only outward one-a powerful
symbol, therefore) of their Muslim identity. The pioneer
beret was clearly seen as a challenge to the Muslim beret.
The Muslim mother who refused to let her son wear the
pioneer beret saw it too as a symbol, but an opposing one.
However, in spite of the reluctance parents feel towards
school and their concern about the possible damage its
ideology might cause to their children's Muslim identity,
they still consider education to be very important
(cf.chapter 7).
From the religious instructor's point of view
children's attendance at mekteb is often undermined by the
demands of state education, and adult (male) attendance at
congregational prayers in the mosque is negatively affected
by the requirements of industrial labour. However, both are

affected by a third factor, namely the changing political
climate towards religion at various periods in post-war
Yugoslavia. Attendance at mosques was at a low during the
restrictive fifties and once more in the eighties, when
alleged fears of pan-Islamic demonstrations (see footnote
43 this chapter) led to a harsh attitude on the part of the
authorities towards all public Islamic activities. The
nineties have seen a new openness towards religion,
reflected, among other things, in the number of new mosques
being built. This increased liberalism coincides with a
softer political climate in Bosnia, which was long known as
the most hard-line Communist republic in Yugoslavia.
However, when I asked a former village hodza what were
the most striking changes since his retirement, he said
that more people went to the mosque before, (this was
probably true for the sixties), an opinion confirmed by
other hodas of the same generation. He pointed out too
that in those days more people were working on the land,
and the young, who either went idle or worked on the
fields, would join their seniors when they went off to
attend the congregational prayers in the mosque. It is
difficult for the Bosnian Muslim to combine his or her
obligations as a worker in a factory or shop with those of
a devout Muslim, since there are no officially recognised
times or places for prayer and ritual washing, and canteens
may well serve only pork. Today, Bosnian Muslims have to
accept the conflict: having a job, i.e. working for the
state, excludes being able to perform all Muslim ritual

obligations. The hodza thought the fall in mosque
attendance had happened not so much because people no
longer wanted to go, but rather because they were
increasingly tied up with secular obligations.

Footnotes charter 8

1. To these young devotees "Muslim" is to a larger extent tied

to a wider Islamic identity, rather than restricted to a
Bosnian Muslim identity defined in relation to non-Muslim
Bosnians. The former trend is well argued by Sorabji, 1989 in
which chapter six "Religious charisma and wider Islamic
identity" is particularly relevant.
2. The informant who I am partly quoting here was very worried
about me mentioning any names. This was an attitude I often
met among older members of the clergy, who were generally
cautious about talking to me. They would also express the view
that "in the west they often write untrue things about Islam",
and were worried that I would do the same.
3. The boundaries of officially acceptable Islamic expression
in this one-party run religiously and ethnically mixed
republic are logically drawn at the state level, opposing any
expressions of pan-Islamic sentiments. This is clearly
illustrated by the "Sarajevo trials" in 1983, where eleven
"Muslim nationalists" were given sentences ranging from six
months to fifteen years for spreading "pan-Islamism" and
trying to turn Bosnia-Herzegovina into a "purely Muslim"
republic (See Radio Free Europe Research, Background Report
210, 2 Sept. 1983).
4. Also present were representatives of the Catholic and the
Serbian Orthodox churches, who likewise -each gave a short
5. There is an interesting parallel between the way in which
the I.Z tends to take over and direct religious customs and
rituals that were earlier initiated by the individual
household or local community, and the way in which the
regional branch of the Communist youth organisation has 'taken
over' the traditional teferiâ or fair and, indirectly, the
sijelo through the Saturday dance (cf. chapter 3).
6. The first mosque in Dolina (which was made of wood but
replaced by the present one of concrete in the 1960s) is
believed to date back to 16th century and was the first mosque
to be built in the region.
7. I often heard older people making this distinction between
the past and the present and contextualising the changes that
had taken place by using the expressions "old Yugoslavia"
(stara Jugoslavija) and "Socialist Yugoslavia" or just "now",
or "today's Yugoslavia" versus "before in old Yugoslavia".
8. See also C. Sorabji unpublished Ph.D thesis Muslim identity
and Islamic faith in Socialist Sarajevo, Cambridge, 1989.

9. This idea is, however, also supported by part of the Muslim
clergy who have been educated at Islamic institutions in Arab
countries, and is consistent with the role women are ascribed
in both Arab nationalist and Is].amicist ideologies.
In both a woman's education is seen as desirable because it
will raise her quality as mother, educater and repository for
ethical values. (cf. Haddad, 1985).
10. Personally, I knew of two young bulas who could not find
employment. One of them is now assisting her father, who is a
hoda, in teaching at the mosque school after having spent a
year instructing at a mosque school in a remote village in her
home region. The other had started working as a shopkeeper.
11. Ciqanski is a term used by villagers to denote any custom
which ne valja (lit, which has no value) and which in other
words has come to occupy an inferior status because it is not
"civilized" (i.e. kulturan) or not "Islamic".

12. The local hodza was criticised both by villagers, though

not openly, and by younger colleagues of the same dzemat as
well as by the Islamic council in the region for not
continuing with mekteb until the summer vacation. He was also
criticised for not setting up the traditional hatme, a
children's examination ceremony in the mosque. The hodza
became quite bitter about having to put up with the villagers'
lack of support on the one hand and his employers' increasing
interference on the other, and wanted to leave.


9.0 Introduction
The Dolina villager's understanding of religion (and
belief) may with some justification be described as
"pragmatic". Pragmatism is also the aspect which integrates
folk tradition and literate Islam, and it is in this
respect that they are seen as one by the majority of the
village population (this is with the exception of a few
devout literate Muslims). Within this framework, religion
and belief are seen as an insurance against misfortune.
The popular view is that success (especially
material), is proof of a person's devoutness. Thus, the
fact that people in Dolina are poor is often ascribed to
generally weak "faith" in the village (which when expressed
by women would also be an implicit criticism of men wasting
money on alcohol and feasting). A comparison is sometimes
drawn with villages north of Dolina where people are known
to be very devout and where living standards are considered
higher. Others, however, would make the point that people
there worked more, had more money and thus could 'display'
their religiousness through lavish rituals such as meviud
(see chapter 10). To illustrate this point further: on one
occasion a woman who had been to Germany to visit her
brother-in-law told women at a coffee-visit about the
prosperity she had seen (which she exemplified by
mentioning the ten different kinds of bread in the shops).
There, she explained, everybody believes in God.

Generally, things that go wrong are explained by lack
of faith and devotion (vjera). Thus, the drought and
consequently bad harvest one year was assessed by women as
follows: "The harvest has become as damaged (pokvaren)
[which has the connotation of being morally corrupt) as
people have; nowhere is there prayer to God."
Traditionally, when there is a drought women hold prayers
(dove) at the three holy graves or turbe in Dolina. They
had not yet hold prayers for rain and when I asked why,
they blamed the female religious instructor or bula who
would have to lead the prayers, for not taking the
initiative; but she always had to be asked by somebody,
"and nobody has asked her yet". In a neighbouring village
somebody had called her and they had held prayers. And even
if it was to be organised in Dolina these women were unsure
whether it would work or not because "here people have a
weak faith".
The same idea, that the presence or absence of certain
phenomena are dependent on positive belief, not in God this
time but in the phenomena themselves, is expressed about
the supernatural. Villagers claim that there used to be
more 'supernatural events' as well as more casting of
spells in the past, and that the reason for the decrease is
that "people do not believe any more". It is interesting to
note that they are not actually questioning the existence
or truth of what I call here supernatural events (referred
to by informants as incidents "when people had seen
something which nobody else had seen"): they do not reject

the existence of these kinds of phenomena per se, but
rather see them as accessible to people only when they are
believed in. One typical story, referring to a recent
event, was circulating in the village and had been
authorised by the village hoda. A young man had picked up
a young, well-dressed girl who was waiting at the roadside

asking for a lift. They had chatted and then at one point
the girl had asked him to stop and she had disappeared
before he had time to open the door for her. He noticed,
however, that she had forgotten her leather jacket (a
status symbol and indicator of material wealth), and he ran
after her, but could not see her. He went in the direction
she had said she lived and ended up at a cemetery. He was
later able to trace the girl's parents' house by describing
her to people in the region, but learned when he came to
hand back the jacket that she had been dead for two years.
Another story which had happened locally many years
ago went as follows. A grandmother of about seventy years
of age told how, when she was young, she had once
accidentally killed a bird while she was outdoors washing
clothes. A man had then appeared and told her: "You killed
my bird, and for that I shall kill your two young sons".
When the woman returned to her house, her two sons were
dead. After telling similar stories informants would add
that years ago there were many events similar to these, but
then people stopped believing (in them); lately, however,
such events had increased again.
The common theme in these stories is death, and I

would argue that on a general level they are allegories of
social change. The-weakening-and-loss-of-belief argument is
an attempt to explain and to cope with radical social
change involving the questioning and ever rejection of the
basic structuring values and moral ideas in rural society.
It is significant that the agent of this change in the eyes
of the villager is the educated, urbanised, or politically
influential figure: in other words the kind of person faced
with whom most poor, semi-literate villagers feel powerless
and inferior. Social change has brought urban, mainly
western literate values to the forefront and by extension
put rural, uneducated Muslims at the bottom of the
hierarchy. Social change for the rural Muslim is therefore
expressed and understood through the idiom of "not
believing" (lit, having no faith in terms of religion),
which in effect implies the rejection or loss of the
village community's traditional value system. It is
symptomatic that those practices which are losing ground
are those which are associated with a non-literate
The vast majority of folk beliefs concern healing and
the protection from misfortune. Some healing practices are
remembered only by a few older women born in the village
who once performed them. (Most such practices were
performed by women.) Other healing rituals still known to
the older generation of women are dismissed as superstition
by the young and consequently less often performed these
days. There is a pronounced awareness among the village

population, and even among the older generation who still
practice the customs, that what they believe in (or are
associated with) is seen as illiterate, superstitious and
primitive by the literate, urbanised and thus higher-status
population. It should be stressed, however, that while
belief in some supernatural phenomenon may be questioned,
belief in God is not. Faced with more educated
representatives of society (e.g. the foreign
anthropologist, the Yugoslav ethnologist or even the
urbanised, young imam), most villagers would dismiss such
practices as gatanje (i.e. fortune-telling, but with the
connotation of "superstJus rubbish"). Far from taking
pride in their belief-system (and ultimately their
culture), they would repeatedly reject or ridicule it
until, when convinced by the researcher's sincerity, they
would present the information in a crude matter-of-fact
way, displaying signs of boredom if further details were
asked for. One of my key informants on this area would
almost inevitably add to her description of a certain
traditional belief or healing practice: "These are things
we believe in villages (in the meaning of credulity as
opposed to faith), but which others might think is
nonsense, but everything interests you, and you want to
know everything, so I tell you." When asked about issues
concerning Islamic faith, (i.e. seen by informants to
concern orthodox, literate and therefore high-status
practices) the response was markedly different.

9.1 Diviners
Although villagers, as we have seen, in certain
contexts tended to dismiss all fortune telling as gatanje,
there appears to be a sliding scale of respectability.
Least respected are the gypsies travelling the countryside
offering to read palms, and the kind of local women who
read the villagers (usually young girl's) future in coffee-
grounds and in beans. The various kinds of diviners and
healers discussed below are valued according to their
literacy; while the less literate are sometimes referred to
as "sorcerers" sihirbaz, or sihirbazica for a woman; (the
term derives from the word sihir, discussed in section
9.2.2), the learned sufi-hodas are almost universally
esteemed. The different diviners or fortune-tellers in
Bosnia may be divided into three different categories,
depending on their background and the methods they use.. The
first category consists of hodas who limit themselves to
writing charms (zapis; see section 9.3.1). These are often
retired hodas with long experience and good psychological
insight into local life. The second category, which I shall
call "lay diviners", consists of people, both men and
women, who have no formal religious education, but are
still, if male, called a "hoda" by the villagers, probably
because they know the Quran better than the average Muslim
and can write a little Arabic. It is obvious from this
usage that "knowledge" (and literacy) per se has in rural
areas traditionally been associated with Islam and the
Islamic clergy. As we shall see, however, this does not

necessarily mean that all hodas are believed to "know a
lot" merely on the basis of being literate in orthodox
Islam. Alternatively, they may be called by the more
general term of sihirbaz or sihirbazica. In "treating"
clients the lay diviners mix prayers and recitals from the
Quran with their knowledge of traditional folk medicine.
They may refer a client to either a doctor or a hodia,
depending on the problem, or they may prescribe different
magical procedures: visiting holy graves, dispersing corn
in a prescribed place while saying a prayer, or the intake
of certain herbal mixtures. I know of three people in this
category, but it should be noted that two of them are women
and only the man is called hoda. The women are usually
called by their first name and the name of their village.
All three live in remote mountain villages. People may come
all the way from Sarajevo to see them. One of the favourite
stories told by villagers about one of them was that during
the Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo (1984) this "hoda"
had visitors from far-away countries who took the trip all
the way from Sarajevo to seek his help. ( I was later made
aware that it was only one person with his family and that
he was probably an emigrant.) The story was always told to
establish this "hoda's" importance. However, lay diviners
are dismissed by real hodas as "illiterate" because they
mix Quranic knowledge with non-Islamic folk-beliefs

9.1.1 The "sufi-hodas"

The third and most prestigious category consists of a

group of four actual hodas who are all related to each
other through a common ancestor, the founder of one of the
dervish tekija in the region of which they themselves are
members. They combine being employed as hodas by the
official religious authorities with being active members of
a suf i-order (see appendix). They are thus mediators
between orthodox Islam and those practices which are both
associated with more mysticism and with more personal
support and help in times of crisis. I shall call these
hodas sufi-hod^as to distinguish them from other
categories of diviners and hodas. They are all highly
literate men who know several languages including Turkish
and Arabic. The sufi-hodas use a range of techniques and
sources: sacred books, astrology, palm reading, prayers and
Quranic recitals.
Since what these sufi-hodas are doing is condemned by
part of the Muslim leadership, and is also said by some to
be illegal, they prefer to keep a low profile. I once asked
one of them to "see" for me, but since at that point it was
a well-established fact that I was "writing", he refused
(while imitating somebody writing), obviously worried about
any publicity. My information on what these hodas actually
do is therefore not as detailed and accurate as could have
been desired; it comes mainly from villagers who have been
to see them. The sufi-hodas themselves are, unlike the
first category (i.e. those who do straight-forward charm
writing), unwilling to talk about their work. Indeed,
villagers who had sought theii help would also be evasive

when asked what the hoda had told them. They would explain
that the hoda had said that if they told anybody exactly
what had taken place it would loose its effect. The obvious
explanation is that the diviner does not want people to
know that he might get it wrong and thus protecting the
authority of their profession. However, more to the point
is the fact that the magic performed by the diviner usually
aims at either "undoing" or protecting a person from sihir.
Passing on information about what the hoda has said, and
most importantly what he has said about the person's future
would leave that person vulnerable to sihir. The more
orthodox clerics condemn divination since it is believed
that only God can know a person's future, the diviners,
however, see themselves merely as interpreters of God's
message and in interpreting they use "divine books". The
diviner-hoda is known and characterised as a hoda who
knows a lot. There are also hodas who although literate in
Islam are said not to know anything, knowledge in this
context does not refer to knowledge of the Quran, but to
more esoteric knowledge as it is believed that these people
can see and understand things that ordinary people cannot.
Like the ehit and evlija (see section 9.4.1) they are seen
as closer to God and therefore in a better position to
mediate between people and God, however the diviner cannot
be as close as the ehit since he still belongs to this
world. A diviner may therefore advise his client to visit
a ehit's grave as an even more powerful intermediary.
There is thus a hierarchy of intermediaries between people

and God. It is significant, however that intermediaries are
mainly sought by those who do not read or understand the
Quran well and to whom a sufi-hodza or ehit is therefore
more accessible as a means of communicating with God (when
the normal prayers seem inadequate). For the suf is
themselves, however, communication with God consists of
several circles where the Law makes up the outer one, the
different means of communication are therefore not
alternatives but complementarities. Some of those who know
a lot may turn out to be an evlija (Arabic; waliyya,
saint), but I only heard this term used about a dead person
who had been very pious and performed miracles both in life
and also after his death.
The sufi-hoda is the person any villager will resort
to when faced with problems that none of the official
professions or institutions have not been able to solve.
The person will always have sought help from a doctor or
psychologist (or a lawyer if the problem is legal), first,
but without success. When it concerns illness the suf 1-
hoda will always make sure the person has already
consulted a doctor, otherwise he will tell him or her to do
so. (Legal cases are more rarely taken on by hodias.)
Among the most common problems are illness, marital
difficulties, infertility, prolonged bachelorhood and
mental problems such as anxiety or deep depression.
Alternatively, people may just come to have the hodza write
a charm for protection and fortune. Clients are never asked
to give a fixed payment, but are rather advised to pay what

they can, and wish to. When the consultation is over the
hoda leaves the room and the client will leave the amount
of money s/he feels appropriate. While the hoda liketo
define what is given as a gift, most villagers would see it
as a payment not a gift (i.e. they would use the word for
payment rather than the word for gift). Those who feel that
they have been greatly helped may continue to give the
hoda presents. I know of one particular case where a woman
sought help with one of the hodas to find a partner and
happiness. She later married a rich foreigner and is
convinced that her good fortune in life is thanks to the
hoda's efforts. She keeps bringing him expensive presents
from abroad. One of the four sufi-hodas in the area, known
to be particularly good at love spells, is also visited by
people with higher education and an urban background. All
four of them are, however, visited by people from all over
Urban, educated non-believers may derogatorily
describe the sufi-hodas' activities as gatanje. Some
villagers, too, have reservations about the amount of money
they appear to be making. (Hodas are in this context often
referred to as "thieves" (hode su 1opov].) Most people,

however, respect and trust their knowledge and spiritual

powers, and say that the sufi-hodas deverati, which could
be translated with "to struggle with life's trouble and
misfortune". The most common description, however, is
simply "a hoda who knows a lot" or a hod2a who knows how
to write zapis".

When I first started to inquire among villagers about
the hodas who write charms (zapis), they told me that they
had books or that they "look in books". However, these are
books which are not accessible to anybody who knows how to
read. It turned out in the case of the sufi-hodas that the
books in question are central to the whole activity. These
hodas derive their knowledge and thus authority from a
selection of "sacred" books. The books are in Arabic,
Persian and Turkish, and consist of Islamic religious
literature including the Hadith and combined with sufistic

sources and other oriental literature on spiritual matters.

These books have often been in the family for generations,
collected and handed down by their forefathers.
When villagers need to see such a hodia they say they
will "go to hodza so that he may write something down". The
fact that the "writing aspect" of their activity is
stressed is significant. 1 Among the rural population where
illiteracy was common until quite recently, the ability to
read and write was considered both powerful and mystic. As
literacy is increasing among the population at large the
knowledge of reading and writing is losing some of its
immediate power and mystic although this is still not
entirely true for literacy in Arabic. A hoda, to gain
respect as somebody who knows a lot must have the knowledge

"to see" on the other hand, however, there is a scepticism

about knowledge which is not derived from books (cf.
illiterate gatanje).

9.1.2 Choosinc a diviner
Diviners work unofficially, but, as we have seen,
people often come from afar to seek their help. Clients may
also belong to other ethno-religious groups. However, while
Catholics are rare, Serbs (Orthodox Christian) are less so;
they often go to hodas after having tried their own
diviners and healing practices first. 2 All the hodas and
fortune-tellers I spoke to said that it was not uncommon
for Serbs to seek their help. A Dolina woman who was
herself practising traditional healing and magic said (in
relation to salLjevati stravu (see section 9.3.3]
specifically) that Catholics (Croats) would ask her help
only if absolutely nothing else helped, as they had their
own remedies. Serbs, however, would be more likely to use
Muslim remedies, and she added: "Serbs believe in
everything." She confirmed that she herself had used
Catholic methods: they have this kind of water which is
blessed and once she used it when her cow was ill. These
examples of syncretistic practices are consistent with the
pragmatic orientation of this sort of religious activity
(Cf. Hasluck, 1929).
We have seen that there are different categories of
diviners, and the question is what makes people choose to
go to one rather than the other. The different diviners may
be known to specialise in treating certain problems. One
hoda may be known to have healing hands for children

(sevap ruke za dject), another may be particularly good at

casting love spells, another again at seeing and finding

lost items. Choice may also depend on who is closest to
where the client lives, or on previous contact and personal
preferences. The lay diviners may actually refer clients
either to a doctor or a sufi-hoda. The general rule is,
however, that if the first diviner did not remedy a
person's problem, he or she may go and see a different one.
To illustrate a typical procedure I give Faketa's story
Faketa was born in Dolina, but is now married in a
large market town. She started her account by saying that
she did not believe in fortune-telling (gatanje), but that
those who write charms and look into the stars (i.e. in
this case the sufi-hodas) are different and she found them
more convincing. This woman had once sought the help of a
well-known diviner, a woman, because she became ill ("in
her soul") after having witnessed a manslaughter. The woman
will as a rule recite from the Quran in the presence of the
person who is seeking help, but she also gives them
different magic tasks to perform, which will vary with the
character of the sufferings. Faketa mentioned those she
could remember; she said there were so many she had to have
somebody write them down for her. On three consecutive
Tuesdays she should go to a turbe (a holy grave) in a
specific town, where she should first recite a prayer, then
walk around the grave and scatter grain which she had
brought (and which, she did not fail to remark, is very
expensive). She should furthermore take of f her undershirt,
put it on the grave (turbe) and put it back on again. Nine

times she should go to a certain bula to have "the lead
ritual" (salijevati stravu) performed on her. At this point
she added that she thought these people who do fortune-
telling (qatanje) has an agreement to send around customers
to each other. In addition, she was to buy a kilo of bread
throw crumbS into the source of the river running
though Sarajevo. But since this is illegal, she did not
dare and her mother had to do it for her. After all this,
however, she only got worse and she concluded that it was
all illiterate gatanje. But there are many people who go to

see them, she said; at the bula's she had to wait in a

queue. But she claimed that these people help only those
who merely imagine themselves to be ill. Faketa thought it
was a lot of wasted money: for the taxi, for buying the
corn, and for paying the bula.
Since this did not help she eventually went to see one
of the sufi-hodas, but her information on this was sparse;
all she could say was that he had looked up in some books
and that he had told her that she was born under a lucky
star and that her husband was nice. 3 Lastly, she went to a
well-known diviner in a remote mountain village whom some
people call a hodza (she added thathe was not a real one).
He too looked up some books, and she thought they all had
the same books. He advised her to make a herbal tea
mixture, and that was all, she said. Again, this account
proved that people were more willing to talk about their
experiences with the lay diviners than with the suf i-


9.2 IclentifvincT the source of a problem
Before the diviner may remedy a client's problems,
being illness which doctors have not been able to heal,
infertility or any other, the diviner need to identify the
source of the problem. Two sources are generally
cozsidered: attacks by evil spirits and the casting of
spells. Sometimes people identify the source of the problem
themselves, as most of the dangers of evil forces and the
precautions to be taken against them Corwo krovL c.L
j ."

9.2.1 Evil spirits

It is believed that people are particularly vulnerable
to attacks from bad spirits (called by the Arabic term
din) between sunset and dawn, until the cock crows, the
most critical period being just at sunset. This is when bad
spirits are roaming about, and they may enter a person in
different ways. There are several different expressionused
to describe that a person has become ill as the result of
an attack from evil spirits. When describing these evil
beings, informants would use many different words, all of
which translates as "bad spirit" or "devil". If they were
asked to specify further, the answer would usually be "who
knows what it is'?" People were always understandably vague
or even contradictory when giving explanations of the cause
of events or nature of the spiritual and immaterial power.
Two main expressions are nevertheless used: ugrajisati se

and uhvatiti. The latter means to seize or to take hold of

and is used in the construction. "something may take hold of

you". I never heard it used in the past tense about
anybody; rather, the words were uttered as a warning
against doing certain things: for instance, a woman or girl
would be told not to go out after dark on her own or into
the forest as something might seize hold of her. A person
may be grabbed by a "devilish being", who may show himself
in the disguise of a cat (female: matka) or a man with feet
like a goat. Only a hod2a's zapis (a charm which will be
described in section 9.3.1) can protect a person against
attacks from evil spirits. The former expression,
ugrajisati se has no simple literal translation and
requires some further explanation. The villagers use it to
express the bewitching of a person as a result of certain
acts performed by this person. It is a word which does not
exist in any dictionary, and my Sarajevan informants did
not understand it. They suggested it was supposed to be
nagaziti (na urok), which means to be bewitched, or
alternatively naqrajisati, which means to get into trouble
or to fare badly. (It should be noted that many verbs have
both na and u as prefixes; the difference is in the time
aspect of the verb. The language spoken by villagers is
often condemned as grammatically incorrect by urbanites).
It is believed that a person may be "bewitched" by what
most informants would refer to as "something", or more
rarely as a "devilish brew", which may attach itself on
breadcrumbs, nails, blood, wood-chips or everything which
is rubbish and has been left out of doors by humans. This
stuff is what is believed tobe used by sorcerers when

making zihir. This devilish brew containing malevolent
spirits may thus be transferred deliberately by sorcerers
to people who then become possessed (see Fuller, 1992:ch.
10) for a similar case in Indian Hinduism.) Again, a person
is most vulnerable to such attacks at aksam (lit, referring
to the prayers at sunset). If a person has to go out after
sunset he or she should always say bismillah 5 , since the
person may unknowingly step over rubbish, like already
mentioned, left by humans on the ground where "agents of
the devil" gather. Again, however, the best protection is
to wear a zapis.
It is believed that "something" may enter into a
person through the openings of his or her body and thereby
causing minor paralysis, e.g. of the mouth or parts of the
face. If this happens, the person must go to see a hodza,
as only he may help, although some argued that there was no
cure for this (see below). Because a person is attacked
through the openings of her or his body women are seen to
be particularly vulnerable: "the poison" or "devilish brew"
may enter through her vagina. Women are therefore taught
never to urinate outside after dark, as they may be
poisoned on male urine (i.e. something devilish may gather
on male urine); if they absolutely have to, they must keep
their hand in front of their vagina. This, a woman
explained, is why they always keep a chamber pot inside the
house. A woman who has just given birth is equally
vulnerable before the forty days of confinement are
completed. (Such vulnerabilLty was not particularly

expressed in the context of menstruation, although ideas
about ritual pollution were pronounced in this case She
should not leave her house, or at least not her courtyard;
if she has to go further, for instance to see a doctor, she
should bring with her a key or tespih (rosary) from the
house. She should make sure to bring into the house before
dark any of her own or her child's towels, bed-linen or
clothes, as, I was told, "something may gather on it and
enter her that way". 6
Although I was told that both men and women may se
ugrajisati, only women expressed such fears, and while they
gave very specific situations in which it might happen to
women, how it might happen to men was more unclear.
Furthermore, the fact that women used the expression "to
enter" in these specific examples of how a woman might se
uqrajisati leaves us with a tempting analogy: that the fear
of being entered by evil spirits (or "something devilish")
is an expression of a woman's awareness of her sexual
vulnerability. It is significant that most of the women
believed there to be no cure if this happened. The idea of
"once entered, there is no return" could be seen as a
symbolic expression of the loss of virginity: once a woman
is "entered", the result is "incurable damage" to her body
although there was no pronounced idea that such spirits
were having sexual intercourse with the woman (cf. Fuller,
1992:ch. 10). Nost of the examples given of people being
"bewitched" or "entered by something" describe women, their
bodies and the restriction of their freedom of movement. We

may say that the vulnerability of the household as a unit
is literally embodied in the woman 4o s at once the
outsider to and the main reproducer of the unit. However,
although men may construct women's vulnerability as a
legitimation of women's inferiority women see this more in
terms of their own health and well-being.
Thus the Islamic commandment for a man not to have sex
with his wife during her period or until forty days after
she has given birth is not understood in terms of the woman
being polluting, but rather as a health insurance for
women. Thus, I was told that a villager now in his eighties
had buried three wives because he had never respected the
commandments to abstain. Yet, a woman who is seen as
particularly vulnerable in one context may be seen as
dangerous and polluting for exactly the same reasons in
other contexts. Vulnerability is as we have seen connected
with women's sexuality and reproductive functions, but
danger and pollution are connected with the same functions
in religious and ritual contexts. A woman when menstruating
or until forty days after having given birth or just after
having had sexual intercourse and before absolutions (this
is also true for men); should not touch the Quran, enter
the mosque or enter a saint's grave lest the saint may be
angry. Women's sexual and reproductive powers are on the
one hand associated with vulnerability and on the other
with danger and pollution and while men will stress the
latter aspect to restrict and exclude women from the ritual
sources of power, 7 women woulI stress the vulnerability

aspect in relation to men's demands on their sexuality.
Both, however, would refer to Quranic commandments (propis)
as legitimation and it would therefore be misleading to
talk about a Muslim male-female unified world-view. A
presentation of such a world-view would appear
contradictory, ambiguous at best as it would have to
synthesize men's and women's different ideological

9.2.2 The castin g of spells

The casting of spells (sihir) may equally cause the
victim suffering which only a hoda may remedy (with a
zapis). Mystical religious activities such as divination,

healing, magic spells, etc. are, in the literature on

mystic Islam, all labelled sihr. In Bosnia, however,sihir,
which is the Serbo-Croat spelling of the Arabic sihr, is
only used about magic which is performed to cause evil. A
hodza told me that sihir is knowledge which is not from

God: it is used for evil and comes from hostility, and

therefore God does not permit it. (By the same token, the
various mystic activities performed by the sufi-hocIas are
said never to be targeted at causing somebody ill fortune.)
Sihir is believed to be mainly caused by Serbian,

especially female, sorcerers. Muslims believe they have the

power to cast spells or use evil sorcery (uiniti/napraviti
sihir). I was told by several informants that they were

wearing a zapis, so that nobody was able to "make something

against" them. When I asked what this meant I was told: "so

that nobody can cause you evil" (zlo). It took me a long
time to get an answer to the question about who would do
this. When it was finally indicated to me by a good friend
that Serbian sorcerers were known to cast evil spells on
people, including Muslims, I was intrigued. At the same
time it was stressed that Muslim sorcerers would very
rarely make sihir; if they did, they would not be real
hodas. One logical explanation to why Serb sorcerers in
particular (i.e. rather than Muslims or Catholics) are
believed to cast evil spells could be that Muslims have a
more ambiguous attitude towards Serbs than towards the
Croatian Catholics. This in turn is mainly due to
historical factors: first, the fact that the Bosnian
Muslims are closer to the Serbs ethnically and culturally
and secondly, and most significantly, the atrocities
towards Bosnian Muslims committed by Serbian nationalists
during the Second World War, which have left the Muslims
fearful of the Serbs' capacity for evil. A hoda is the
only one believed to have the powers to undo evil spells.
The Muslim diviners themselves are known to cast only
love spells. (This is also what Christians would mainly
visit them for, as they have their own healing practices
and remedies.) I was told that you could go to a certain
hoda and ask him to make the person of your choice fall in
love with you, or to influence a sweetheart or spouse to
return if s/he had abandoned you. One informant told me
that when she first arrived in her husband's home, her
mother-in-law accused her of having had a hodza neto

napraviti (i.e. cast a spell on her son so that he had

fallen in love with her). These accusations,

understandably, upset the daughter-in-law terribly. I was
also warned by the old couple in my household not to see a
young hoda, one of my informants, as they worried he might
"cast something" (neto napraviti) which would make me
lose my mind like a drunk and stay with him. The alleged
power of a hoda to cast love-spells is the one which is
most spoken about and surrounded with most myths.
The worrying about love magic seems to suggest firstly
concern about sexuality and women generally (as suggested
above) and secondly that love subverts properly organised
domestic relations. Infatuation, in other words, is not
only a threat to individual stability, but also to the
social order.

9.2.3 The evil eve

While casting of spells through magic and sorcery is
believed to be a premeditated action, the casting of the
evil eye (to ureéi somebody) is not. This is perhaps the
most commonly mentioned form of bewitching. Evil-eye
beliefs are well known and documented throughout the whole
of the Mediterranean area (both in the Christian, see for
example du Boulay, 1974 on Greece and the Islamic parts),
the Middle & Near East and much of South Asia (cf. Maloney,
1976). When studying a Muslim neighbourhood in sarajevo,
Sorabji notes that she found no evil-eye beliefs (1989:86).
However, I found such beliefs to be quite pronounced in

Dolina, even if informants in the beginning were reluctant
to talk about it. Although my material was mainly collected
in rural Bosnia, I also consulted informants in Sarajevo on
popular beliefs and it was clear that belief in the evil
eye and knowledge about different protective measures are
also found among Sarajevans, although the educated, Muslim
elite may not want to express such beliefs.
While the expression for casting the evil eye is to
ureci someone, the villagers use several different terms
for "evil eyes", the most common being grdnt ot1 (lit, ugly
eyes), but urokljive oi (lit, bewitching eyes) or pogane
oci (lit, filthy or evil eyes) were also used. I was told

that you cannot know if someone has evil eyes or not, and
even the possessor does not know. A person may not know
that s/he has been bewitched by evil eyes until s/he gets
ill with a splitting headache and fever.
If one person looks at a second person and says that
he or she is beautiful without saying maa1ah, the first
person may bewitch the second one. Maa1ah (see also
chapter 2, footnote 2) expresses wonder at and pleasure in
what the person sees. In the original Arabic it translates
approximately as "what God wants will be" (i.e. everything
is dependent on God's will). Beautiful girls are thought to
be very vulnerable. A warning sign that a girl may be a
potential victim of the evil eye is the reddening of her
face: it is believed that the red colour causes a headache,
and that it is the result of many people staring at her,
and since "not all people's eyes are the same", she may be

The word maa1ah also refers to an amulet worn by a
small child to protect him or her from spells, i.e.
primarily the evil eye. Children are considered to be the
most vulnerable of all, particularly if they cry a lot or
are very beautiful. The original maa1ah is a golden
medallion on which is written rnaa1ah in Arabic, but as
these are expensive most villagers will attach colourful,
small plastic figures at the front of the baby's cap, or
alternatively a red thread around his right leg and his
left wrist (or the other way around). A third possibility
is to attach the small silver plate which is part of a
horse's bridle to the front of the baby's cap. The point is
that whatever is used as a maa1ah should be conspicuous in
order to draw people's attention away from the child's eyes
so that the "child's harmony is not upset". (The concept of
personal harmony is an Islamic theme which I shall return+o
in a discussion of name magic; section 9.3.2.) To ease a
child who cries a lot and who is therefore suspected of
reacting to evil eyes), the mother say a verse while she
blows air onto the child's face and then licks it in a star
pattern with three lines. The verse is in Turkish and
translates approximately as: "dark, black eyes, blue and
green eyes, spells fly back!" The verse is repeated three
times. There are also others, some in Serbo-Croat, which
express the same idea, telling the spells to go away an
return to where they came from.
The idea that children the beautiful and the

fortunate are particularly prone to attack by the evil eye
is very widespread. Although many authors discussing evil-
eye beliefs stress that they express the fear of envy (and
through envy jealousy) and its destructive powers (cf.
Maloney, 1976), I found it striking that in Bosnia allusion
was never made to the envy (or jealousy) of the possessor
of the evil-eye (although accusations of jealousy is often
made to explain cause of hostile and uncooperative
behaviour in other contexts) rather the focus was on the
rctpLe of the evil-eye. In fact, the person would bewitch
the child unknowingly, and the child was presented as the
one who attracts people's attention because of his or her
beauty. However, attention may be seen as potentially
dangerous because it may arouse jealousy in others.

9.3 Remedy ing the problem

9.3.1 The writin g of charms
A hoda's most frequent and popular activity is to
write the charms called zapis (lit, note) or more rarely
muema (the latter is the Arabic word and describes the

wrapping of the note). The more general term hamajlija

(lit, amulet) is also used. The writing of amulets is known
throughout the Islamic world. Only a trained hodzva is seen
as competent to write zapis; the few who actually do so are
well known, especially among Muslims, in rural areas. Some
more orthodox hodas, however, think this activity is Un-
Quranic and inunoral (because of the money involved). The
official Islamic Association (Islamska Zajednica) is

rigorously against the activity and will teach young
Medressa students (see chapter 8) to preach against the
activity if they are posted to rural areas.
The zapis is the most applied both as a protection
against and a remedy for the different problems already
discussed. A zapis is a small piece of paper with a verse
or saying from the Quran written in Arabic and carried as
a charm or amulet. The paper is wrapped into a triangle in
a small piece of red cloth which has been oiled or waxed to
make it more resistant. (The Arabic word muema literally
means oilcloth.) The zapis is attached by a safety-pin as
close to the person's body as possible, usually to the
undershirt. As well as being worn for protection against
spells and indirectly therefore against illness, or to
solve a certain problem, it can be worn merely as an amulet
to secure happiness and good-fortune.
The verses written on the zapis are chosen according
to what it is supposed to remedy. After the zapis has been
written and wrapped there are several possible procedures:
it may be worn immediately without any further measures
being taken, or it may be put through various magical
treatments. (It is important that the zapis is not worn, or
left, in unclean places such as the lavatory if it is
unprotected, i.e. not oiled.) The magical treatment varies
according to the nature of the problem the zapis is
supposed to protect the person from. A hoda familiar with
zapis-writing gave me the following examples: If a married
couple who quarrel a lot come to a hodza who does zapis for

help, he will throw the zapis into water, in order for them
to become friends again. The zapis is thrown into the fire
when the "problem" needs to be totally destroyed. When a
zapis is written against illness it is buried in the ground

(at the root of a tree) in order that the illness does not
Below I give two typical case-histories of villagers
who sought the help of a hodza and were given a zapis.

Case-histor y 1
Ref ika told me she had a splitting headache for the
last couple of days (this was just weeks after she had been
married and gone to live with her husband and his parents).
She had not been able to go to work and had gone to see the
doctor. He had given her some injections, but in spite of
this she did not feel better. That day she had therefore
decided to go and see a sufi-hoda in a nearby market town.
He had asked her if she had already been to see the doctor.
Then he had told her that she was a nice person and that
she had a happy marriage, and that she would eventually
have two Sons and a daughter. He had held a sort of map or
circular piece of cardboard in front of her where Mecca and
Kitab were marked, and made some movements over her
shoulders. He then made her a zapis; this one was different
from the usual kind in that it was covered in some kind of
golden dust. On one side was written her husband's name in
Latin letters, and on the other side hers in Arabic
characters. Inside was a piece of paper on which something

was written in Arabic. The hoda had told her to throw the
zapis in water and thereafter to dry it and put it in her
pillow, and it would be good if her husband sometimes
carried it. On leaving she left the hodia as much money as
she felt appropriate on the coffee-tray. She thought it was
not expensive, as it was up to you how much you felt you
could and would pay. Ref ika then showed me another zapis
which she had fasterionto her undershirt with a safety-pin.
She told me that this same hodzva many years ago had written
her a zapis for her happiness.

Case-history 2
A mother told me the story of when her eighteen-month-
old son was ill. (He is now seven.) The little boy had a
fever and a red, itching rash on his hands, legs and body;
and eventually his skin started to peel. She brought him to
the doctor in the nearest market town. He told her that the
boy was very ill, that "he's had enough" (pun a mu je kapa).
He wrote out a prescription for some medicine, which my
informant never used. Instead, she went to a hodza nearby
who is known to have "healing hands" for children. He found
that the boy had been attacked by crveni vjetar (lit, red
wind; this was the common diagnosis of smallpox before
general vaccination). He prescribed the following remedy:
seven different flowers plus a zapis were to be boiled in
water and the steam is inhaled over a bowl while a cloth
was kept in front of the face, for as long as he could bear
it. Afterwards, the boy was wetted with the water that had

been boiled together with the flowers and zapis. A
different zapis was placed underneath the boy's pillow. The
boy recovered. By mentioning again that the doctor had
given her only a liquid medicine which she never used, she
stressed the fact that It was the hodza who had the remedy,
not the doctor, who she said did not even explain what the
boy was suffering from.
One of the hodias told me that he had fewer people to
write zapis for today than in his younger days, since
"today there are more doctors around, so fewer people come
and ask us (hodzvas] to write zapis. Besides, young people
nowadays do not believe in praying." Nevertheless, judging
from the number of case-histories I collected of people who
had sought the help of a hoda and who at least once had a
zapis written for them, it is still a much-used strategy
for coping with misfortune. There is, however, a tendency
for people to seek help from one of the more prestigious
sufi-hodas rather than from a knowledgeable old local
The sufi-hodas, in contrast, report an increase in
the number of people coming to them with health or personal
problems over the last few years. This could be explained
by the economic and political crisis in the country, the
recurring corruption scandals and people's subsequent
distrust of the authorities. -

We have seen that people often visit hodzVas for
problems or issues which in an urban, educated context
would be covered by the professions. It is significant
therefore, that there is first, a reported (by clients and
hocIas alike) decrease in the number of hodzas who practice
divination activities such as the writing of zapis. This is
clearly related to the younger hodzas' more orthodox and
formalised educational background rendering them critical
towards such practices. Secondly, there is a reported
decrease in the number of people who seek the help of lay
diviners. A decrease here should not only be explained by
an increase in the number of doctors or other
professionals, but also by the higher educational standards
among villagers. Now that most people know how to read and
write, semi-literate lay diviners have lost some of their
powers. On the other hand the knowledge of the sufi-hodas
derived from inaccessible "foreign books" is still
respected. Zapis are for instance written in Arabic, and
even if children learn to read and recite Quranic verses by
heart, they do not actually learn the language. Lay people
therefore do not usually have enough knowledge to be able
to understand what is written in a zapis, as they would
probably not know the Serbo-Croat translation.

9.3.2 Name magic

After some time in the village one of my informants
told me: "You know, they call ie Rem2ija, but my real name

is Fatima." She then explained that not very many knew
this, but officially she was Fatima since, this was the
name her father registered her under at the local council
after her birth. Some time after this, I was repeatedly
confused over a village girl's identity; it turned out that
two different names were used to refer to her. The daughter
in the house where I was staying, who was also a classmate
of the girl, gave me an explanation which was later
verified by the girl's mother. The girl, who is thirteen,
became ill. All my informants were very vague about her
symptoms, but the girl would not eat and became very weak.
Her parents took her to several doctors, but she did not
get better. Finally, they decided to go and see one of the
sufi-hodas in the region. He suggested that her first name
was somewhat difficult (teko) for her and that she should
take a different name. The one he suggested would have a
meaning which he thought more in harmony with the girl's
personality. The girl will now only respond to her new
name. The girls' schoolmates admitted that they found this
awkward, since whenever they forgot, and addressed her by
her former name, she would just walk straight on without
taking any notice.
Later, I found out that quite a few people I knew
(especially of the older generation) had a different name
from their official one, i.e. the one on their identity
card. They all explained that as children they had been ill
a lot and their father, after taking advice from a hoda,
had therefore changed their names to something "easier".8

Muslim first names are Turkish and usually ultimately
Arabic in origin; as a rule they describe personality
traits. Thus, Cazim means someone who calms anger, Hazim
means dependable, Remzija means allegoric speech, etc. The
meaning of the names are rarely known to the villagers; the
sufi-hodas will know them, however, and will also be able
to assess the appropriateness of a certain name to a
certain personality. When I asked how the sufi-hodI p knew,
villagers would invariably reply that they knew everything,
and add that they had books.
On a most general level the practice of changing names
can be explained by the believed psychologically positive
effect for the person of an implicit identity shift. Not
responding to his or her original name, s/he is no longer
that anxious, ill other person. More specifically, however,
this practice should be seen as part of the concept of
harmony in Islam and above all the harmony between body and
soul as part of a larger whole in time and space. The
centrality of this idea is reflected among others in the
bodily movements during prayers and in architecture (where
the mosque is the primal example). It is a holistic world
view. The idea of harmony is one which is stressed in
particular by sufism and pursued by the dervish in their
sanctuaries (tekija). Within this tradition first-name
meanings are significant and should fit the owner's
personality. A sufi-hoda explained that a person's aim or
power (sila) is decided by the stars at his birth but that
no-one may know it. If, however, a person's sila does not

fit with the sila of his or her name, the person becomes
ill. The only remedy is then to change the name to a
different one where there is a better correlation between

sila in the name and sila in the person. But a name should
not only reflect the power of the person who carries it, it
should furthermore hide a person's weaknesses and protect
the person from sihir. A person's real name (given at
birth) is not a good name if it makes a child vulnerable to
sihir. When the real name of a person (which exposes
disharmony between person and name; weakness and strength;
body and soul) is not generally known, he or she is
protected from sorcery, as the sorcerer cannot attack
someone without knowing the person's real identity
(including his or her weaknesses).

9.3.3 Divination performed by women.

There were two respected female diviners in the
region. Such women are typically middle-aged; often they
are also bulas of the traditional rather than the urban,
Medressa-educated kind (see chapter 8). Generally speaking,
female healers use fewer written sources and more pure
divination and magic. They are particularly sought after
for the sal4jevati stravu and the "praying of istihara",
traditional healing practices accompanied by Muslim prayers
and teachings from the Quran.
Sa1jevati stravu means literally to pour, cast or form
horror. The central item in the ritual is a lump of lead
which is heated and then thrown into water, where it forms

a pattern from which the supplicant's troubles are divined.
Apart from the local bula there was one other woman in the
village who performed this ritual. She had learned it from
an old bula (not professional) from the district, who
decided to stop performing it after pressurv'her childrenurAo
complained that it was primitive superstition. The woman
instead taught Selima how to perform it and gave her the
lump of lead. I observed salçjevati stravu on several
occasions. It was always performed on the request of women
who were either bereaved by the death of a close relative,
or had been upset by other events in the immediate family.
Some were anxious and unable to sleep, but without knowing
the reason, as was the case with the woman in the case-
history below.
The woman who called on Selima to salijevati stravu
lived in a big, modern house at the lower end of the
village. She normally lived and worked abroad with her
husband, and only returned home from time to time to see to
her older children, who stayed in the house %Jith their
grandmother. She hoped to move back home for good in a
couple of years' time. We were first served coffee and
cakes. We sat around a table and drank from cups; this was
in contrast to the traditional Muslim custom of sitting on
sofas or on mattresses on the floor and drinking coffee
from fi1dans (a small cup without a handle). The woman
spoke urbanised Serbo-Croat, but wore a headscarf and a
long robe. She said she did not sleep well at night, and
wanted Selima to salLjevati stravu in order to rid her of

her anxiety (sekiranje).
Selima first put the small piece of lead on a spoon
and heated it over the fire. The spoon with the lead is
then circulated around the head, the chest, the arms and
the legs of the patient. While doing this the healer says
verses from the Quran; she moves her lips but does not use
her voice. Next, the lead is thrown into a bowl of water,
taken out of the bowl again and the resulting pattern
considered and interpreted. The lead lump is then pressed
together and placed in the fire place again to melt. The
lead is melted and thrown into the bowl of water three
times. The first time the bowl is held over the head of the
patient, the second time in front of her chest and the
third over her legs. Each time the patient covers her head
with a piece of cloth or garment.
After each time, the formations that resulted from the
lump of lead having been thrown into the water were
examined and interpreted by Seliina. The first formation
showed a sharp end; Selima decided that the woman had been
terribly upset and scared by something that had happened to
someone close to her, possibly her child. The woman
remembered that some time back (two months ago) her baby
son had fallen down the staircase. She had been terribly
scared and had not slept well since. The two women decided
that this event must have been the cause of her troubles.
The second time the lead had formed a heart and Selima said
this meant everything would be all right. The third time
the shape was less obvious and it was only vaguely

interpreted, but it reinforced the first indication of
something having scared the woman. Because the cause of the
woman's anxiety had been identified as the accident to her
baby son, Selima decided that she had to sa1jevati stravu
on him as well. However, as the mother was worried that the
child would be scared, the two women decided to make a
figure out of the child's clothes to represent him. The
sequences were then performed on the figure, with the
exception of the first one when she says the prayers, and
at the end they made the "boy" sip some of the lead-water.
Women explain a good many physical afflictions by
saying "she has been upset" (ona je se sekirala). They make
an explicit connection between mental and physical health;
and thus they acknowledge psychosomatic afflictions and do
not see them as less important or less legitimate
illnesses. If women feel worn out they will complain that
they are ill from worries, or that they have been upset and
are therefore not feeling well. These, they know, are
afflictions which doctors at the health centre cannot cure,
and they are therefore the most common reason for seeking
faith-healers, hodas and other diviners as described.
The praying of istihara is performed specifically to
predict the future. People, usually women, will come to the
bula and ask if she can pray istihara on their behalf to
find out what will be: whether a certain project will
succeed, etc. Before going to sleep the bula will pray that
her dream will reveal whatever it was the person in
question wanted to know about her future. The bula will

then interpret the dream. The istihara is said to demand
intense concentration and be mentally very tiring; not
every bula can do it. While much of the divination
practised in Bosnia by Muslims is considered to be un-
Quranic by more literate and orthodox Muslims, the istihara
was stressed as a practice referred to in the Quran by the
bula I spoke to. Sa1jevati stravu is also performed by less
educated Muslim women, as it requires less knowledge.

9.4 The cult of saints

9.4.1 Visitin g the graves of Muslim saints
Another way to pray for a favourable outcome is to
visit the graves of Muslim saints (ehit). The cult of
saints is a pan-Islamic phenomenon but as noted by
Gaborieau "The cult of the saints (...) forms part of those
non-obligatory devotions in which a great freedom of choice
is left to individuals or groups" (1983:305) and is Bosnia
this cult has its own colouring. The visiting is primarily
done by women, but often on behalf of other members of the
family. A ehit is believed to be a man (or woman) who died
"innocently" in the fight for his or her religion, a Muslim
martyr whose death is considered heroic. His identity is
often not known and the stress is on the heroic aspect of
his death. Although such a martyr is also believed to
possess evlija (divine power) he may be considered less
powerful than the known and pious evlije who are often
associated with the suf i and whose graves are visited for
healing. There are several ehits' graves in or near

Dolina, three of them in the village itself. Most of them
are fenced and with a headstone (nia) at both ends of the
grave. (This is what distinguishes a saint's grave from a
'normal' grave. Yet, in recent years wealthy men have
wished to have a grave with a headstone at each end;
resembling a saint's grave, but most villagers dismiss this
as pretentious and "no good".) The stone at the head-end of

the grave have a carved stone turban on the top of it. One
of the Dolina graves, however, has a small square house
built on top of the grave. This is called a turbe
(mausoleum). The house is built in concrete and painted
white, i.e. like a miniature Bosnian Muslim dwelling. The
miniature house used to be of wood, like the traditional
.ardak1ija (see chapter 6) and the mosque, until it started
to fall apart. Concrete, the new building material, was
then used to build a replacement.
Inside the house is a sarcophagus, covered in a green
felt cloth and with headstones at each end. Unlike most
headstones of male graves, this headstone does not have a
carved turban, but instead has cloth wrapped round it in a
turban shape. The popular explanation for this is that this
sehit was beheaded; it is said that he came walking with

his head in his hands and asked to be buried in this

particular spot. There are also praying mats and praying
beads (tespih) in the turbe available for anybody who comes
to pray. On the wall is a framed scripture which somebody
from Sarajevo once came to interpret, but apparently
without success.

The woman who is in charge of looking after this turbe
inherited her duty from her mother-in-law and will
eventually hand it down to her daughter-in-law. In theory,
the caretaking duties are passed down through the male line
of the family who owns the land where the .ehit died; in
practice, however, they go from mother-in-law to daughter-
in-law. This family claims that three brothers were killed
on their land, hence the three graves in Dolina itself;
others say there were seven. This myth is, however, typical
of all svehits graves, the popular story is usually that if
several hhits are buried within an area, they are said to
be brothers. (The original meaning may well be that they
were brothers in faith.) The woman, who has been looking
after the turbe for more than fifty years, explained that
it is sevap (i.e. a good deed) to light a candle every
night at the sunset-prayers (akam), but that Thursday
night (on the eve of Friday; said to be the day the Quran
was revealed to the Prophet) and Sunday night (on the eve
of Monday; said to be the day of the Prophet Mohammed's
birth) and all nights during Ramadan are the most
important; then, more candles than usual are lit. Sometimes
(if &woman is asked), water is carried in a bardak
(traditional water jug) and left overnight in the turbe.

This water is believed to have healing properties and is

rubbed into the body or drunk during illness. Once a man
had come to the turbe every day for fifteen days and left
water overnight to help his wife who was ill.
Before a person enters the turbe s/he prays for good

health and happiness; once inside, s/he lights two or three
candles while saying prayers. When entering a turbe, a
person should always enter with the right foot first and
make sure s/he does not turn his or her back towards the
tomb when leaving. Some will take the smelted wax f-o'm
candle!ith them and remelt it there; this is believed to
help against headaches.
The other two graves in Dolina are "smaller saints"
without a mausoleum built over them. These graves are
nevertheless conspicuous with their headstones at both ends
and their fencing, as described above. At one time people
were afraid to go to one of the graves, because the sehit
was said to be angry. If anybody tried to enter the place
where he was buried, a very strong wind would start to blow
in the trees surrounding it. Some said he was angry because
somebody had entered the place without abclest (i.e. without
ritual washing before prayers, and was therefore unclean),
others that an unclean (i.e. menstruating) woman had
entered. Some ehits are known to be angrier than others,
and they do not allow "just anybody" (even if they are

clean) to enter. This ehit only admitted the man who lit
the candles. However, his anger only lasted for a year and
the following spring prayers for rain (see section 9.4.2)
were held as usual. The other one is not angry and is
regularly seen to by the daughter living in the house
closest to it. She goes there to light candles, for two
reasons: first, because the grave is on its own and nobody
sees to him or worries about 1dm (this is an interesting

statement, given that Muslims do not attend to the graves
of their relatives at the graveyard behind the mosque), and
secondly, because it is sevap, and it may bring you
happiness and luck. The idea that these graves need to be
looked after in a way Muslim graves are usually not is an
other example of the syncretic characteristics of Bosnian
Islam, because Catholics, of course tend graves a good
The villagers would say that a gehit is a particularly
"good man" (evlija), and it is believed that the corpse of
a ebit does not decompose. All the ehits in Dolina were,
however, said to have been soldiers who had fought for
Islam and the Turks and the stress was sometimes more on
the idea of martyr than was the case for the ehits
associated with a sufi lodge in a nearby village (see
below) 9 . The local hodzva explained that people went to pray
at èehits' graves because ehits are seen as closer to God
and therefore as possible mediators between "this-worldly"
human beings and God. He said: "Some people feel that they
cannot always pray directly to God and therefore say their
wishes through a ehit. They feel that the dead person is
in a better position to ask God for help. At such a grave
someone has seen something no-one else has seen. It is like
a flame. The dead. man possesses what we call evlija; he
sees and knows what you yourself do not realise. Evlija is
a special, natural power which only a few people possess.
Because this is the way it is, is it not; some have the
ability to see more than others?" In explaining wtiat a

turbe is, he drew a parallel with images and symbols of the
Yugoslav Federal State: I was told that a turbe was like
the memorials for fallen partisans in such places as
Sutjeska.'° (The fact that Muslim heroes would normally
have been fighting Christians was significantly played
down.) ehits are Muslim heroes who, like the partisan
heroes, died fighting for what they believed in, the first
representing the Muslim credo, the second the Yugoslav and
Socialist credo. 11 As we have already seen, a diviner may
"prescribe" a visit to a certain ehit's grave and the
performance of magic combined with the saying of prayers.
This particular role of the iehit may be seen as
characteristic of the dervish-influenced region of central
Bosnia but the holy graves are in this respect clearly
comparable with saints' shrines of North-Africa, the Middle
East and South Asia (see among others Geilner, 1969;
Eickelman, 1976; Gaborieau, 1983). The dervish orders have
their own holy graves, belonging to men of religious
learning believed to possess evlija because of
extraordinary powers to "see" or to perform "miracles" in
their lifetime as well as after. Many of them were sheikhs,
i.e. heads of a suf i sanctuary or tekija. At the largest
tekija in the mountains not far from Dolina all the sheikhs
in the history of the tekija are buried. They are believed
to have extraordinary powers, and people will come there to
pray for health and good fortune in the same way as they do
at ehits' graves. But unlike the ehits' graves, which is
accessible to everybody who wants to pray, the sheikhs'

graves can only be entered with special permission from a
senior dervish. Once a year, however, when the annual
meviud (see chapter 10) takes place at the tekija, there is

general access.12

The belief that special powers reside in a ehit's

grave and the custom of praying at such graves is in most
official Islamic and orthodox oriented literature explained
in terms of pre-Islamic influences (cf, e.g. Johnson,
1980). In Bosnia such practices are in particular explained
locally with reference to Bogomil influences (cf.
Introduction) 13

9.4.2 Collective prayers at the Dolina turbe

The local hodza made it clear that while the custom of
praying at ehits' graves is not prescribed in the Quran,
it is, however, not something which is against any orthodox
principle either. The same could be said more specifically
for the prayers for rain held annually at certain tombs in
rural Bosnia. Praying for rain is known within Islam; the
Bosnian ritual is distinctive in that these prayers are
often held at Bogomil tombs or at their immediate extension
where the graves of the first Islamized Bosnians are.
Every spring in Dolina there are prayers for rain at
the three different ehits' graves in the village. The
event is usually said to be held only in cases of severe
drought, but in practice it seems to be held annually
anyway, to prevent drought later on in the summer. It
should be held on the seventh Tuesday after Jurjev (a

traditional spring celebration which is explained below,
In Dolina this occasion is attended exclusively by women
and the prayers are led by the local bula. 14 While the
bula recites, the participants hold their hands flat out
towards the ground to illustrate rain falling. The prayers
for rain can clearly be seen as a fertility ritual and it
is therefore significant that this ritual should be the
concern of women.
Another annual event in Dolina is the dova (Muslim for
"prayer"), which takes place at the turbe. This is also
held on Tuesday, four weeks after Jurjev. The dova, like
the praying for rain, is for women only. Unlike individual
everyday worship at the turbe, it is specifically devoted
to the dead. The sehit is seen as the mediator between the
women, their dead relatives and God. (There is an obvious
connection between the dova and the tevhid, discussed in
chapter 10). Women will come from surrounding villages, but
also from further away. If they have relatives in Dolina
they will stay the night. It is an occasion at which women
prepare lots of food and expect to pay host to many
visiting relatives, in-laws and friends. On the day of the
dova women gather in great numbers at the small hill near

the turbe. There will be several bulas leading groups of

women in prayers around the large tespih (praying beads)
typical of female tevhids ( described in chapter 10). At one
stage women will also enter the turbe to pray individually,
leaving money on the tomb for woman who looks after it and
the maintenance of the turbe. Later in the evening there

will be a fair with dance food and music on a field not far
from the turbe. Both this turbe and the two other sehits'
graves are very near Bogomil burial grounds and their so-
called stecak (i.e. large tombstones with carvings; it is
not uncommon to find the symbol of the cross and the half-
moon next to each other on the same stone). At the dova
some women would go to the most well-known stecak in Dolina
for fajda (help). They would stroke the stone and then -
touch their face while saying prayers. Dolina women did not
believe that this had any benefit. An old woman born in
Dolina said that she had never seen any of their women
doing it; she was from the place and knew that there was no
point to the practice. There are nevertheless many myths
attached to this tomb. Some would say that a boy and a girl
were married there and turned to stone, others that a
wedding had taken place their and a guest had been expelled
and turned to stone. Older informants would remember that
when a horse became ill, it was led. in a circle around the
stone. The important point was, however, that these stones
are never (and must never be) disturbed or moved.

9.4.3 The celebration of saints' days

We have already mentioned that the dates for rain
prayers and the dova are counted from Jurjev. Jurjev is a
significant marker on both the ritual and the agricultural
calendars of the Dolina Muslims (and Muslims throughout
Bosnia). The day of Jurjev (St George's day; the Serbs call

it urdevdan), according to Orthodox tradition, is on 6
May. (Durdevdan is not celebrated by the Catholics in
Bosnia.) In Islam i Muslimani u Bosni i Herceovina it is
pointed out that the Bosnian Muslims were (and are)
familiar with all the holy days celebrated by their
Orthodox (pravoslavni) and Catholic compatriots. Muslims
integrated or used in parallel the hidra reckoning and the
reckoning according to Christian feast-days. (Hadijahiá,
Tralji and Sukri, 1977:87). Muslims still celebrate some
of these feast-days. Jurjev is in fact the traditional
celebration of spring and fertility, and although it
coincides with a Christian feast day, its origin is
probably pre-Christian. The sun is said to be good after
Jurjev, but before it is recommended not to be directly
exposed to sunlight for long, as the sun is not good and
will give you a headache. Certain crops should be sowed
before Jurjev and others after. Customs associated with
this day may vary somewhat throughout Bosnia, but in Dolina
it was celebrated as follows. On the evening before Jurjev
the boys make flutes of wood. This used to be done by the
young, unmarried men and significantly was made from the
wood of a young tree. On the following morning they go
around to all the houses and blow their flutes to wake
people up (originally, to wake up the maidens). Each
household has to give them a piece of special cake made for
the occasion and a couple of eggs. According to an older
and more literate informant, this custom dated from the
fight against the Turks. In spring the men would say: "the

forest has become green, now there is going to be war", and
the women would give them eggs and cake for the journey.
The evening before, the young girls go to the mill to
collect water in bottles, which are hidden away from the
boys somewhere outside the house overnight. If the boys
find one of the bottles during night, they will pour out
the water and replace it with their own urine. The boys
will then knock on the girl's window pane and tell her that
they have found the bottle. On the morning of Jurjev the
girls wash their faces in the water caught from the mill to
look beautiful and get rosy cheeks. On this day girls are
supposed to throw their shoes across the roof of their
house; from the way the shoe points, a girl can predict the
direction in which she will marry. During the day and the
evening, villagers and young people from neighbouring
villages walk up steep paths to the fair, which is held on
the highest hill in the village. At a small clearing in the
forest a team of boys from Dolina and another from the
village on the other side of the hill compete in a game of
football. People have picnics while watching the game and
chatting to neighbours. Jurjev is regarded as a
particularly auspicious day for various magic spells and
divinatory practices which probably originate form ancient
Slav and pre-Christian times. Women for instance, may
perform different sorts of magic to prevent evil spells
being cast. The best-known consists of boiling eggshells
and flowers picked on the grazing fields and placing them
at the door of the cow-shed, so that the cow is protected

from spells. The Catholic women in Dolina say they fear
what Muslim women may cause to happen on this day, although
in fact little of the traditional magic is either known or
practised in Dolina today. On the other hand it was agreed
that Muslim women from Eastern Bosnia (which is Serbian-
dominated) knew much more than the women from Dolina, and
everyone remembered a man, now dead, who used to cast
spells on cows on Jurjev.

Another feast-day in the Bosnian Muslim calendar is
Alidun (from Turkish Alig'unu, lit. Alija's day). Although
celebrated on 2 August, the same day as the Orthodox Serbs
celebrate their Ilindan, (the Prophet Elijah's day) it has
a Muslim reference. (Like -Durdevdan, Ilindan is not
celebrated by the Catholics in Bosnia.) However, the
prophet Elijah also has a central place in popular Islam
(For instance, Gaborieau reports from Nepal that a
companion of the prophet Elijah, Khwaja Khizr, is venerated
as a legendary saint, 1983:301). While Jurjev is still
extensively celebrated in Dolina (albeit opposed by the
Muslim clergy) Alidun (2 August) considering its t Muslim
legitimation is surprisingly less so. There used to be a
fair, and in some villages they also held dove or prayers,
but this happens less often today. One of the few reminders
of Alidun is the much-quoted saying Do podne Ilija, od
podne Alija ('Until midday Ilija [Elijah], from midday
Alija"). The Bosnian ethnologist Miroslav Nikanovic

reports from a village in North Bosnia with a mixed Serb
and Muslim population that Alidun/Ilindan is celebrated by
both groups with a fair in front of a well-known turbe
(allegedly of the hero Derzelez Alija, who, according to
the Muslim legend, was killed on this spot while praying).
Here, the literal meaning of the saying is acted out in
practice. Until midday (including the midday prayers)
Muslims pray at the turbe, while the Serbs are at a
different place, said to be the site of a church before the
Turks arrived. After midday the Serbs join in at the turbe
for the general fair with music and dance, competitions and
food, although it should be added that the two groups
celebrate more or less separately, with the competitions,
mainly in physical endurance, always being between a Serb
and a Muslim (Nikanovi6, 1978).
For the Muslims AlidUn is associated with the
Islamisation of Bosnia. On a symbolic level the saying
quoted above may be seen to express their acknowledgment of
the pre-Islamic descent (origin) of the Bosnian Muslims,
providing a legitimation for the celebration of AlidUn, and
thus indirectly for the practising of customs which are not
strictly Islamic, but part of the diverse cultural heritage
of the Bosnian Muslims.

9.5 Conclusions
In spite of certain syncretic practices, however, the
so-called unorthodox or illiterate beliefs and practices
found in Bosnian Islam are fçund throughout the Muslim

world and is an integral part of Islam. The stress on
certain elements, however, varies. I have already indicated
that literacy is significant in Bosnia as it discriminates
between "backward" and "educated" within -/uc'o official
discourse5 (both of which could be described as reformist in
their attitude). Among the villagers, however, a person's
achieved level of knowledge is not necessarily seen to be
concomitant with a person's achieved level of Islamic
literacy. Official Islam puts an emphasis on Islamic
knowledge in terms of literacy and knowledge of "the book".
Nevertheless, in Dolina we saw that the villagers see
knowledge as something which moves beyond general literacy
and its direct accessibility through the literate meaning
of words. For a Muslim to gain the reputation as "someone
who knows a lot" literacy is a prerequisite but not a
sufficient one. In addition the person needs to possess the
power to "see" i.e. have knowledge of an esoteric kind. The
idea of what constitutes Islamic knowledge is to the
villagers therefore closer to that of the suf is than that
which is propagated by official Islam (through the Islamic
Association). The influence of sufism on practised Islam is
also apparent in the ritual practices discussed in chapter
ten. However, while the sufi-hodzas seem to play the role
as mediators between "folk" and official Islam in many of
the more individual practices described in this chapter we
shall see in chapter 10 that women play this role as
participants in larger communal rituals. In the next
chapter we shall examine the characteristics of Bosnian

Islam in more detail by focusing on the main ritual events
and particularly on women's role in the idiosyncratic
Bosnian memorial service for the dead, the tevhid.

Footnotes cha pter 9

1. The emphasis on the virtue and power of writing in Islamic-

influenced areas has been demonstrated by several authors in
J. Goody, ed; Literacy in traditional societies (1968). See,
among others, the paper by M. Bloch, I. Lewis and J. Goody.
2. Such syncretism has a long tradition in Bosnia and the
Balkans and is widely reported by F. Hasluck (1929).
3. As far as I know the sufi-hodas use 'standard' suf i- works
on cosmology and astrology. The astrological charts used are
apparently based on Alexandrian heremeticism. But see the
discussion of cosmology and spiritual astronomy in sufism by
Laleh Bakhtiar (1976), Sufi expressions of the mystic quest,
London: Thames and Hudson. The author also gives useful
references to further literature on the subject.
4. It should be noted, however, that many diviners, especially
the literate hodas, do not acknowledge some popular
explanations such as crveni vjetar (lit, the red wind), an
evil spirit which is believed to attack especially children
around the time of sunset (akam). They dismiss it as a
children's disease (smallpox) which was common some ten years
ago when there was no vaccination for it.
5. Bismillah is the first word in a line which introduces all
chapters in the Quran prayers and means "in the name of God".
It is often used on it own in a secular context for
protection against dangers (for instance, when starting on a
longer trip), and could then translate as "God help us!" (The
complete line is bismillah-rahrnanir-rahim, which translates:
"In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful".)
6. I.M Lewis reports that in Muslim Somalia a victim of spirit
possession is described as having been 'entered' or
'seized' (1971:65).
7. Women's possible polluting potential i.5 for instance the
reason given by men to exclude women from an annual mevlud at
an old mosque in the mountains (famous for the myths
associated with it).
8. In another healing custom which is not practised any more,
the mother took her sick child to a crossroads and asked the
first person who passed to become the child's igano kum
(godparent: by giving the child his or her first haircut).
9. The Bosnian historian and archaeologist Enver Imamovi
suggests, however, that in spite of the myths surrounding these
graves they may be those of local people (personal

10. At Sutjeska Tito's partisans were encircled by German and
Ustase troops and outnumbered by eight to one in 1943, seven
thousand partisans were killed and Tito himself was wounded.
On one particular day in the year atheists/titoists go to
Sutjeska to honour their heroes and people flock in
processions; it is like a pilgrimage and is usually organised
by the trade unions or by schools (when it is obligatory for
everybody to participate). The Muslims have their parallel
pilgrimage to the tekija in Herzegovina, while the Catholics
have theirs to Medjugorije.
11. This allegory points our analysis of social categories in
Bosnia in a direction I have been indicating already; in
addition to the ethnic categories of Muslims, Catholics and
Orthodox, we have to add the category of atheists-Titoists.
However, considering the latest developments in Yugoslavia
towards political pluralism and the disintegration of the
Yugoslav state, the fourth category may ultimately disappear.
12. The same practice of praying at "holy graves' for health
and good fortune may be observed at the annual mevlud at the
suf i-sanctuary at Buna in Herzegovina. People come from afar
to attend this annual gathering; busses are usually organised
from many villages in Bosnia (including Dolina). The courtyard
outside the tekija will be crowded with people while hocThas
from all over Bosnia recite mevlud poems. Before and after the
recitals people will enter the tekija to file past the tomb
of the founding sheikh of the tekija; prayers will be said for
fortune and good health and money left on the tomb. Some
believe that saying prayers while touching the tomb and then
an area of their body where they have pain will heal them.
However, the organising of the mevlud has now been taken over
by the central Islamic Organisation in Sarajevo (the Islamska
Zajednica, see chapter 8) and, although the organisation caslrs
in the money people leave at the tomb, it does not approve of
the "unorthodox" practice of visiting the tomb for healing and
guards inside the tekija will try to prevent people from
touching it.
13. An example are the authors Hadijahid, Tralji and Sukriã
of the book Islam i Muslimani u Bosni i Herce govini published
by the Starejeinstvo (council of elders) of the Islamska
Zajednica in Sarajevo. They argue that the practice of praying
and performing certain rituals at graves is a legacy of the
Bosnian Bogomils and that in the Middle Ages gatherings and
prayers were held at Bogomil cemeteries and tombs. The
Bogomils also built wooden burial chapels, very similar to the
early wooden turbe, around tombs. They refer among others to
the will of a certain Gost Radin in 1466 who leaves the
Bosnian Church 140 ducats for a hz-am (temple or chapel) and a
greb (grave). The Bogomil hz-am or mausoleum was the small
square wooden building referred to above. The authors also
consider it likely that the Bogomils also performed prayers
for rain. They point out that prayers for rain are performed
in villages in approximately the whole area between the rivers
Bosna and Drina (the rivers forming the borders of Bosnia) and

that they are usually held on a fixed Tuesday (Tuesday having
apotropaic properties) after Jurjev, either at cemeteries with
Bogomil tombs, or at old Muslim graves located in their
proximity. They stress, however, that although the praying at
graves may originate in Bogomil practices, these were later
integrated with the religious system of Bosnian Islam, and the
original Bogomil meaning would have been gradually lost
14. There are, however, ethnographic reports of prayers for
rain attended by both and led by the local hoda. See
a paper by Veljko Palavestra and Mario Petriá called
"Srednjovjekovni nadgrobni spomenici u Zepi" and published in
Radovi Naunog drutva BiH, knj. xxiv, Odeljenje istorijsko-
filo1okih nauka, knj. 8, Sarajevo, 1964.


10.0 Introduction
This chapter will look at the different ritual
obligations for men and women and point to some character-
istics peculiar to Bosnian Islam. We shall see that women
are more involved in the rituals of Islamic orthodoxy than
in most of the Islamic world. The canonical rituals
associated with the "five pillars" (i.e. the profession of
faith, praying five times a day, keeping the fast, giving
alms and going on pilgrimage) are codified and therefore
identical for all the faithful and essential to the
definition of Islam everywhere, including Bosnian Islam.
However, since some of the rituals discussed below would be
the basic common denominator for any Islamic community, I
will not therefore go into any great detail unless I
believe there to be features particular to Bosnian Islam.
Yet although these rituals are a common denominator for
what it means to be a Muslim, it does not necessarily
follow that all Muslims practise them. In fact, some
rituals are performed only by a small number of Muslims in
the village and almost always by the same group of
individuals. This is the case with tevhids (see section
10.3.3) and to some extent with Ramadan. This does not
mean, however, that these rituals are any less important to
the idea of a collective Muslim identity; on the contrary,
their significance on a collective level derives not from
the number of people who take n active part, but rather

from the fact that Christians do not perform them.
The intensity of the religious activities in the
village is not constant, but rather changes according to
the ritual calendar. There are some major annual
ceremonies, of which the most important are Ramazan
(Ramadan), Ramazanski-bajrara (celebrating the end of
Ramadan) and Kurban-bajram (or Hadijski-bajram) two months

and ten days later, and the autumn mevlud (see section
10.1.2) celebrating the birth of the prophet Mohammed. The

Muslini new year is not celebrated (except among the more

urbanised religious elite, which has no representatives in
this particular village); nor is the hasura (a celebration
on the 10th of Muharema - the first month on the Arab
calendar), which most villagers do not consider as part of
their traditional or ritual calendar. Other rituals which
occur at various times throughout the year are tevhid (mem-
orial service for the dead), denaza (burial ceremony) and
mevlud (celebrations, e.g for the opening of a new mosque).
Ritual activities may be grouped into those activities
or rituals that are performed by both men and women; those
performed exclusively by men, and those performed exclus-
ively by women. Such a categorisation will, however, cut
across other dimensions so that rituals performed by men
are not necessarily concomitant with rituals that are more
orthodox in form (cf, Tapper & Tapper, 1987). Likewise,
urban, literate status does not necessarily go together
with orthodoxy (cf. Geilner, 1981) . The rituals discussed
in this chapter will thus beanalysed from three view-

points: first, gender, secondly, socio-economic status, and
thirdly, the degree of orthodoxy involved; like every
chapter in this part of the thesis it reflects the
discussion among Bosnian clerics concerning the Islamic
legitimacy of certain practices.
The clergy may be roughly divided into those who see
their role as to educate the Bosnian Muslims to be more
orthodox (in the words of an educated devout Muslim: "It
has to be acknowledged first that Bosnia is not the Middle
East and secondly that it has always been heretical.") and
those who recognise the existence of a unique Bosnian Islam
and who categorise Bosnian peculiarities such as the tevhid
(see section 10.3.3) as "voluntary" in the hierarchy of
religious acts. In trying to make sense for me of Islam
(and particularly the specificities of Bosnian Islam) a
learned and modest hoda pointed out: "In Islam you have a
set of rules about what you must do; customs that come in
addition are voluntary (dobrovoljan, lit, of good will) and
these are the ones which vary and which Muslims disagree
According to the Hanafi school of Sunnism ( to which
Bosnian Muslims belong), there are seven categories of
ritual action varying from farz ((all practices under this
category are those that God has commanded and therefore
what all believers must do]; an example would be the fast
as one of the "five pillars") to ha.ram (what is forbidden).
Of these categories, Dolina Muslims would use the first and
the last, farz and haram; a few would also know about

sunnet (what the Prophet said and did and which provides an
example for all Muslims) and mekruh (hated by God, but not
forbidden; e.g. divorce). However, a different categor-
isation was used in Dolina (not only by the villagers, but
also by clerics when talking to lay people). A main
distinction is made between on the one hand what is
propisano (according to the law) and obavezno (obligatory)
and on the other what is lijep (beautiful) and of dobra
voija (lit, good will). The denaza or burial ceremony is
an example of the former, the tevhid an example of the
latter. Sevap (a Turkish word) is used more widely to
describe any act which is considered meritorious because it
pleases God. These are acts which have not been specified
and formally evaluated and it is thus left to people
themselves to decide what they are and whether to perform
them. Picking up pebbles from the path and throwing them to
the sides, helping an old woman to carry a heavy load or
cleaning the mosque are some examples of actions which were
considered sevap by Dolina Muslims. While the obaveza-
dobra volja distinction can only categorise ritual actions
performed by Muslims, any person may perform an act which
qualifies as sevap. The fact that Christians can perform
acts of sevap makes interaction between Christians and
Muslims possible, although informants disagreed on whether
such acts would help a Christian in the after-life. Thus,
when I expressed a wish to fast during Rainadan I was told
that it was not "obligatory" for me but that it would be

10.1 Rituals ierformed b y men and women
10.1.1 Ramadan: the month of fasting
The month-long fast (called Ramazan by Bosnian
Muslims) is the main event in the Muslim ritual calendar.
As one of the codified rituals in Islam, the fast is both
an individual statement of one's personal commitment (as a
believer, vjernik), and a collective statement of Muslim
group identity. It is also a period of most intense
devotional activity, which among the lay Muslims is
dominated by women.
In Dolina the fast is kept mainly by the women. While
a man who does not fast is readily excused (e.g. by
referring to how hard he works), a woman who does not keep
it is criticised and her behaviour said to be shameful. A
commonly held opinion is that the fast is for those who
have the time and do not have to work so hard, which to men
means the women and old retired men. Women often find it
upsetting that while they are fasting, they still have to
cook for their husbands and Sons and are also expected to
work next to them on the land if Ramadan falls at a time of
year when agricultural work has to be done, yet still hear
the men say: "Let those fast who have got time for it." The
clergy and devout Muslims, being aware of this attitude
("many of our people think fasting is only the
responsibility of those who do not have to work so hard"),
will challenge it by voicing admiration for the Muslims in
Middle Eastern countries who fast in the heat and still

work hard.
Despite their own problems, women would often excuse
their husbands by explaining that they did not fast because
they had to go to work in the factory or firm, and "they
cannot manage to go hungry". One evening a couple had a
rather typical dispute for Ramadan. The quarrel started
when the wife urged her husband to come along to the
evening prayers in the mosque. It then developed into a row
about past events during their fifteen-year marriage, and
the husband asked his wife angrily why she had not married
a hodza if that was what she wanted. He then summed up his
miseries: "I am in pain from the finger I squeezed at work,
I am cold [the wife had opened the window], I have been all
day long without coffee, and it is Ramadan and I may not
drink brandy." 2 It is widely acknowledged by the women that
Ramadan is a particularly difficult time for the men. Their
demands are not met as usual (for instance, they are not
served coffee exactly when they want) and women have a
legitimate reason for not meeting them, since they are
fasting and have less energy. During Ramadan I found that
relations between spouses deteriorated. Particularly during
this period I used to hear the women say, when we were on
our own and male members of the household had gone out,
"How nice it is now without men present."
Nevertheless, some women would insist that men could
also fast if they really wanted to, and that the point was
rather that in Dolina the men are "no good" (ne vaijaju,

lit, are worthless). One woman would refer to her brother

who had his own firm and still fasted through the whole of
Raznadan. The fact that he had his own firm is, however,
significant. In a public workplace like a factory, the
facilities for somebody who fasts (and prays) are poor (see
chapter 8). For the women the month of fasting may
nevertheless be a period they look forward to; the usual
routines of cooking and work are broken and they are
entitled to take more rest. They attend congregational
prayers in the mosque more often: a legitimate activity
away from household chores and the demands of grumbling
men. During this month people also socialise more
intensely. After sunset when the fast is broken neighbours
invite each other na if tar (the evening meal with which the
fast is broken). When the lights are turned on in the
mosque everybody sits down to eat; the food is better and
richer than at normal evening meals, and there should
always be a sweet (something which is not common at
everyday meals). Those families who do not have a view to
the minaret from their house will send a child out to where
the lights can be seen and he will report back. Others may
follow the takvim (the lunar calendar with the prayer-times
and the time for sunset and dawn throughout the year) and
the time on the radio. The last fifteen minutes or so
before the fast may be broken are often tense. When the
lights are eventually turned on, there is a sigh of relief.
This is the case both for those who fast and for those who
do not: the latter will have had to wait a long day for a
proper meal.

The keeping of the fast distinguishes not only "those
who have time", from "those who have not", but also those
Muslims who are devout or believers (poboni, vjernici )
from those who are not considered as such. (According to
Bosnian criteria, a person may well be a Muslim without
adhering to the Muslim faith or practising Islam.) A
nineteen-year-old girl gave this explanation for her

fasting: "I fast because it is a meritorious act (sevap) .

I believe in God, and I believe he will love me more if I
fast, because he likes it. It is a good thing to do. But
there are those who never fast, for instance my next door
neighbour: she has never fasted or done anything which
shows that she believes in God." (This young girl was one
a few girls who fasted, the fast is mainly kept by married
women). A woman in her mid-thirties commented: "I believe
in God, as you must have noticed, and this belief comes
from the heart. Look at how sick I felt yesterday because
of fasting, and today my body feels heavy and I have
difficulty in walking. But if anybody told me that it is
not possible to fast, I would say that it is a load of
rubbish; it all depends on your wish and your will, and I
wish very strongly to fast."
We see from both these comments that the strength of
belief is confirmed through visible religious acts and
other Muslims' judgement of these acts. Although the young
girl also mentioned the fast as an act for the sight of God
as well as for the sight of co-villagers, there are reasons
to believe that it is more important, at least in the short

term, that the act (here the fast) is seen by co-villagers
and fellow Muslims.
The following episode is telling. In one household the
daughter-in-law had arrived back from hospital with her
new- born son, and I went to visit with a neighbour. The
young mother and her parents-in-law were present. Since it
was Ramadan, coffee and cakes were not automatically
served, as would normally be the custom to celebrate the
happy event. However, the hostess asked me if I would like
coffee. When I said it was not necessary, she suggested
that I have a cup with her husband, thus indirectly
indicating that he was not fasting. Instead, she made
lemonade and served her husband and me. We then heard a car
stopping outside the house, whereupon the hostess hurriedly
removed the empty glasses from the table and the husband
went out to greet the guests. He returned with a young man
(the best man of the oldest son in the house) and his
three-year-old son. The new guest was asked if he would
like lemonade, but the hostess added, "Maybe you are
fasting?" The young man answered: "For the little one, but
not for me, thank you." She again asked him if he was
fasting, but he only smiled without saying a word. The
hostess told him she would make him one as well and that
there was no reason to be ashamed: "If you do not fast, you
do not fast and that is all." She then decided to make
coffee as well, which she served the guest and me, but not
her husband! It was apparently important to give the
impression to the outside guest that everybody in the

household was fasting. It would have been considered
shameful if the host were to display his non-observance in
front of the guest.
However, it is accepted that some find the fasting
physically and mentally unbearable. One older woman would
say that she never fasted, in spite of having tried several
times. She had always cried and cried, and in the end had
gone to see the doctor who had given her legitimate medical
reasons not to fast. It is not uncommon for women who find
the fast difficult to sustain to visit the doctor and then
take a couple of days' break, allegedly on the doctor's
advice, while still officially fasting. An old, devout
Muslim would say that there are two categories of Muslims:
"those who cannot [like the woman who cried all the time)
and those who will not". To him it was the displaying of
will which was the essential factor.
The importance of the month-long fast as a collective
statement of Muslim group identity is stressed by clerics
throughout Ramadan. The following rhetoric is a typical
example. At the late evening prayers in the mosque during
Ramadan (teravija) it is customary for the hodia to give a
sermon on a moral issue. One evening, he told a story to
illustrate the importance of keeping the fast. It was a
story about two neighbours. The first man was a very rich
Serb who had a beautiful daughter, the other was a poor
Muslim. One day the Serb offered the Muslim his daughter
and as many possessions as the Muslim wanted, if only the
Muslim converted to the Serbian faith. But the Muslim

replied proudly: "One minute of my Ramadan fast is more
valuable than your daughter and all your possessions put
together". And we could add that the fast as a statement of
ethno-religious identity (seen as spiritual possession) is
more valuable than material possessions and the economic
advantage implied in giving up this identity (in a society
where membership of the ruling Communist party is in
practice a prerequisite for career and material

10.1.2 Mevlud
There are two kinds of meviud: the annual celebration
of the birth of the prophet Mohammed (on the 12th of
Rebiul-Evvela on the Muslim calendar), and those held
throughout the year in private homes. A mevlud consists of
prayers and the chanting of specific mevlud poems praising
the birth and life of the Prophet. Mevlud is not prescribed
by the Quran (propisano), but it is considered to be sevap:
in other words, a household will thereby gain merit not
only in the eyes of God, but also in the eyes of the local
community. Hosting a mevlud is also described as lijep and
of dobra voija (see p. 235) when people want to celebrate
an event. A hoda put it this way: "People decide that
instead of having a big feast where there is a lot of
drinking, they will do something that pleases God."
Phrasing it like this, the hoda was implicitly drawing a
contrast to the way the Christians customarily celebrate
similar events.

A household may decide to hold a rnevlud for various
reasons: to celebrate the birth of a new family member,
whether a son or a daughter; when moving into a new house,
so that Allah will bless it; in connection with a marriage
ceremony conducted according to the Quranic law of shariat
(sver4jatsko vjentanje); or when a son of the household is

leaving for the army (I had the impression that this was
the most common reason for mevluds to be held in the region
during the period of my stay). A rnevlud may also be given
in conjunction with a tevhid (see section 10.3.3) on the
fortieth day after death (when the soul is believed to
leave the body), but a mevlud is primarily given in
association with the celebration of joyous events, as
described above. This is clearly different from what Tapper
& Tapper (1987) reports for Turkish Islam, where the meviud
(especially the one for and by women) seems to display more
of the traits characteristic of the women's tevhid in
Bosnia. There are no particular rules for meviud, but, as
a hoda told me, "everybody has their own traditions" (e.g.
the dervishes shout more and louder "Allah illalah"s).
A mevlud is usually attended by both men and women and
led by one or more hodas. The exceptions are those held
within the dervish milieu attended exclusively by men
(dervishes and hodas). However, I also attended a meviud
in one of the market towns which was for and by women and
sponsored by a well-known Muslim family of the devout urban
elite. It was attended by several bulas, including one from
sarajevo who was leading it, female relatives of the

household and members of other elite families. 5 This meviud
distinguished itself markedly in form from the women's
tevhids I had earlier attended in the villages. In fact it

displayed several of the traits the Tappers describe for

the mevlud in a Turkish market town; there was an emphasis
on didactics and on preaching and the bula leading it was
overtly emotional during the performance. My companions
from the village felt awkward and embarrassed at this
meviud, first, because of the apparent socio-economic
distance between them and most of the other guests, but
most significantly because of the display of such
religiosity. A hodza familiar with the region told me there
were no differences between the texts used in men's and
women's mevlud respectively and that women's mevluds do not
have any particular characteristics that distinguish them
from men's. It became clear, however, that although there
was no difference in the specific texts used (as reported
for meviud in Turkey, see Tapper & Tapper, 1987), there was
more emphasis on didactics and emotional preaching in this
urban-styled mevlud than is the case both with mixed
village mevluds and those by and for men where the emphasis
is on performance of the texts.
More prosperous households or members of the Muslim
religious elite often give a mevlud annually. Prestige is
gained by inviting a large number of guests, especially if
some of these belong to the clergy, and also by being able
to pay for several hodas ( or bulas) to recite. Hodzas (or
bulas) from the major towns in the region would be of

higher status than ordinary village hodzas (or bulas). The
amount and quality of food is a final prestige factor. A
couple of families neither resident in the village were
famous in the region for their sumptuous annual mevluds.
(One local family was trying very hard to be included in
the elite. This family had a high living standard based on
money earned in Germany, but did not traditionally belong
to the elite, and were possibly still considered by them as
country bumpkins (seijaci), even if the villagers
considered them more educated and "cultured".) Compared to
the mevluds given by elite families a village mevlud would
be a more modest affair; the participants would be local
hodas and the guests and relatives of the host household.
A private mevlud wa never held during my stay in the

village, but I had the opportunity to go to one in a

neighbouring village given by the family of a relative by
marriage of the household in which I was staying. This was
a combined tevhid and mevlud which was held in honour of
the deceased male head of the household. Tevhid was held
first, with mevlud following immediately afterwards. Three
hodas recited, as well as a number of lay people. This was
a relatively small mevlud, reflecting the economic
situation of the family. Well-to-do families may invite ten
or more hodzas to recite, and guests are also more
numerous. Mevluds seem to have been held more rarely in the
village where I was staying than in other comparable
villages, but this may have been mere coincidence, as I did
hear about meviuds that had been held before my arrival. I

suspect, however, that the picture I received is
representative. To hold a meviud is an expensive affair:
food should be abundant, and the hodas who are invited to
recite have to be paid their sergija (see chapter 8). A
mevlud needs to be planned a long time in advance, maybe as

much as a year, and the saving of money is crucial.

10.2 Men's ritual obligations

Some Islamic rituals are "obligatory" for men only and
attended exclusively by them; they are all associated with
the mosque. These obligations are to go to meetings of the
village mosque council, to attend the Friday prayers, any
burial ceremony, and the morning prayer at Bajram marking
the end of the month of fasting. Although Muslim women in
Bosnia have access to the mosque (see chapter 8) to an
extent which would be unusual throughout most of the
Islamic world, there are, however, still some mosque
services which women do not attend, such as the Friday
prayers (although I was told that this was not so in
Sarajevo 6)• The explanation given by most clerics was that
women may attend since it is not forbidden by the Quran; it
was stressed, however, that to attend was no obligation for
them and that it was not the custom.

10.2.1 Dzunia. the Frida y prayers

The hoda leads the prayers every Friday throughout
the year. Duma (lit, a week or seven days) can only take
place if a minimum of three smen are present. There is

usually no more than one row of men attending, i.e. between
five and seven. Most of them are retired, but some go when
they are working a late shift and therefore have the early
afternoon off. The younger men often go only after having
been told by their wives that it is shameful not to when
they are at home anyway.
Once I asked the village hoda whether I could sit in
on dzuma one Friday. The hoda smiled, reflected on the

matter and then said "all right" (inoe) very slowly. "But",

he added, "it has never been done before." My friend, who

had just arrived to ask if the hoda wanted coffee,
suggested that I could sit upstairs where there are no men,
on the musandara where women as a rule should sit (see
chapter 8). But the hoda was not very happy with this
solution. "Sometimes men sit upstairs as well. You know
that it is not our custom." We finally agreed that I should
come with my friend Nusreta and sit in the classroom, which
had windows towards the musandara. The hoda again stressed
that it is not that women are not allowed at the dIurna, but
rather that it is not obligatory for them. However, at
mosque school only the boys learn to pray durna. When I

attended the Friday prayers with my friend, she got

confused with the order of the movements in the prayer, she

found she could not follow and finally decided to perform
a normal noon prayer.
Those rituals for men only which make up the burial
ceremony are described in the following section.

10.3 Rituals associated with death
10.3.1 Denaza (the burial ceremony)
At death there are certain obligatory rituals which
are performed by men (except for the ritual washing of a
female corpse, which should be done by a woman). In
addition there are some rituals which are considered
"voluntary" and "beautiful" (cf. the "folk-classification
of religious acts described earlier) such as the tevhid,
which are mainly performed by women. The obligatory rituals
at death are the ritual washing of the corpse by a hoda
(for a male deceased) and a bula (for a female deceased)
and the denaza prayers and burial according to the rules.
Only men attend the burial ceremony in the mosque (this is
one of the ritual obligations for men); after the hodza or
the bula has performed the ritual washing of the corpse, it
is wrapped in a white shroud and placed in a tabut (lidless
coffin covered by the Islamic flag). Earlier only females
were placed in a tabut. This was so that the men would not
have to touch the female body when carrying it to the
mosque and to the grave. After the washing, the husband or
wife of the deceased is not allowed to see the dead spouse
as he or she may pollute the dead by "thinking of
something" and the body would have to be washed again. The
possible polluting effect of certain thoughts or memories
relates first to the Islamic belief that the soul of the
dead person does not leave the body until the fortieth day
after death and that during this time the deceased is still
a sentient being; the living, especially those emotionally

close to the deceased, should therefore avoid saying, doing
or even thinking anything that may upset the deceased.
Crying will upset the soul of the deceased; so will any
comments or thoughts (memories) about the physical
closeness between a person and his or her deceased spouse.
The latter idea is associated with the polluting properties
of sexual relations. (Both men and women are considered
"unclean" after sexual intercourse and may cause misfortune
until they have taken the obligatory bath.) However, mere
physical closeness like a friendly kiss or the shaking of
hands is a sufficient metonym for such relation in the
context of ritual purity. Thus, women must sit behind the
men in the mosque, because if they could be seen, men might
"lose their abdest" ( the ritual absolution taken before
prayers; the use of water on parts of the body while saying
verses from the Quran syinbolises both a physical and mental
cleansing). For the dead the danger of pollution is
particularly great after the ritual washing of the body
until the burial (hence the custom of carrying a deceased
woman in a tabut); the mere eye or even the thought of the
spouse is potentially polluting to the dead. This does seem
to confirm Bloch's thesis (1982) that death needs to be
denied to sustain the social order (and more specifically
traditional authority), by denying of sexuality and birth.
However, the denial does not in this case concern women in
particular (as he argues generally); men too are associated
with sexuality and both men and women should ritually deny
any physical (i.e. sexual) link with their dead spouse.

Furthermore, the emphasis is on the possible pollution of
the soul rather than the body of the deceased (cf. Tapper
& Tapper, 1987: 87). The fact that the living may pollute
the dead by their thoughts and desires is a reversal of the
seemingly more common idea that the dead are polluting to
the living (cf. Bloch and Parry, 1982).
Male relatives and co-villagers of the deceased walk
together to the mosque, taking turns carrying the tabut,
four at a time. The women remain at the house to hold a
tevhid (the a1osni or sorrow tevhid) for the deceased.
Close female relatives may express their grief through
sobbing, rarely through loud crying and never through
lamenting. Stoicism is the ideal behaviour in the
situation. This is in keeping with the Muslim fatalistic
philosophy which is perhaps most clearly expressed in the
case of death, the ultimate expression of fate which is in
the hands of Allah, but is also tied to the idea that the
display of strong emotions may upset the soul of the dead.
Furthermore, however, in striving for the ideal of not
being overtly emotional, a Muslim woman is self-consciously
distinguishing herself from the Christians, and especially
from the Serbs, who are notorious for their lamenting at
someone's death. The villagers tended to ridicule what they
perceived as the excessive crying of Serbian women. Even
so, women are generally prone to cry when emotional, and a
public display is avoided by the custom which forbids the
women to attend the actual burial ceremony; at least this

was the idea conveyed by informants when they were asked
why women did not attend. The local Imam elaborated on
this: "Women never go to the graveyard, only men do. This
is a good custom (propis) we have, that women should not go
to the grave. The moment which is the most difficult is
when the body is carried away from the house/home (kuca
means both house and home]. And when the "journey" (put]
towards the graveyard starts the women remain. In that most
difficult of moments the women are together in the house
where they recite prayers for the dead person's soul, and
it becomes easier for them to cope. Women do not go to the
grave because they cry a lot."
There are, however, exceptional occasions when women
do attend the part of the burial ceremony which takes place
at the grave: when the deceased has Christian in-laws. A
Christian daughter-in-law would for instance remain
slightly apart from the men, maybe with her husband, and
lay flowers at the grave. (In the large cemetery in
Sarajevo, which consists of four separate sections, one for
Catholics, one for Serbian Orthodox, one for Muslims and
one for atheists, you can nowadays see flowers next to
Muslim gravestones. Traditionally, and in the villages,
Muslims do not tend the graves of their deceased

10.3.2 Prayers for the souls of the dead

The Bosnian Muslims pray for the souls of their dead
on several occasions: at mukabella and hatma during Ramadan

and at the male collective prayer (dzuma) at Bajram. In the

district of which Dolina is a part it is also common for

different participants at the main burial ceremony
(denaza) to recite prayers for the dead at the grave, and
this they will be paid for (like the hodza leading the
prayers) by the senior member of the deceased's household.
They will call the act of praying or recite for the dead
pokioniti (lit. "to give a gift", but also a synonym of
klanjati, "to pray while bowing"; of Muslims). Literate,
devout Muslims are against this practice; they argue that
the Quran states unequivocally that there is nobody between
man and God, and nobody can mediate ("interfere"),
therefore the customs of praying at the grave and paying
those who pray are merely the throwing away of money to no
avail. (Cf. praying at ehits'graves, chapter 7)
The mukabella is a gathering of several ha.fiz (learned
Muslims who know the Quran by heart) in the mosque to
recite the Quran aloud from beginning to end. This reading
is called a hatma. At Ramadan, when the mukabella usually
takes place, some will pay their hodza well to read a hatma

for their deceased relatives. In villages like Dolina a

group of Muslims who know how to recite from the Quran
gather in the mosque every day during Raniadan with the
local hodza to read a hatma. It is prestigious for a
devout Muslim to participate in the mukabella; in most
towns men are the reciters, yet in Dolina the reciters were
a group of women led by the hoda. There are only a few men
in the village who are good at reciting, and they are old

and were not interested in participating. It is likely that
women in the village have taken over many of the ritual
obligations primarily assigned to men because men nowadays
spend most of their time as migrant workers in an urban,
officially atheist world, where identity as a Yugoslav is
more significant. As participants in the "public world",
men have to compromise their "Muslimness" to a larger
extent than the village women (see chapter 7 chapter 8).
Although the urban clergy would give the more
scholarly explanation that mukabella is held for the souls
of those who have done good works in life, in Dolina it was
understood slightly differently. At one meeting in the
mosque a husband had raised the issue of payment to the
performers in the mukabella. In other demats it is usual
for the villagers to pay the hoda extra for this job. This
husband, however, refused to pay on the grounds that then
his wife should also receive compensation. Villagers were
later discussing the issue. A woman who had also
participated said she did not want to be paid, since she
"had hers at the cemetery"; the hoda, however, ought to be
compensated as he had nobody buried at the mosque and thus
there "was nothing in it for him". She added that, after
all, the hatma they recite at mukabella is for those of
their relatives who are buried at the mosque.
It is clear that Bosnian Islam, unlike orthodox Islam,
has a specific tradition whereby it is believed that
prayers for the dead, usually via a mediator (a ehit,
hoda or bula), will help them in the other world.

Representatives of "official Islam" will (as shown in
chapter 9) inevitably ascribe this belief and the practices
associated with it to pre-Islamic Christian or Bogomil
traditions. However, such practices are widespread
throughout the Islamic world and are particularly
pronounced in saints' cults.

10.3.3 The tevhid

Tevhid is the most formalised ritual in which prayers

are said for the souls of the dead ("to help them over in
the other world"). Tevhid comes from the Arabic tawid,
which means approximately "faith in one supreme God", but
is often translated more freely as "praise of God". Skajlic
gives the following two definitions of tevhid in his
dictionary of Turkish words in the Serbo-Croat language: 1)
"commemoration of the dead which consists of the collective
recital of religious declarations and prayers"; 2)
"collective recital by dervishes of religious declarations

which is held while sitting in a circle". In the following

paragraphs I shall concentrate on the first kind, since the
only dervish ritual which is reasonably publicly
accessible, while displaying the structure described above,
is nevertheless cast as a mevlud. (The dervish mevlud will
be dealt with in an appendix.)
Softiâ (1984) mentions two types of tevhid: the tevhid
for sorrow associated with death, and the tevhid in praise
of life (or the joyous tevhid) held for marriage or the
circumcision of male children. However, I never came across

the "joyous tevhid" in Dolina or its surrounding region.
Tevhid was used solely to describe the ritual commemorating
the deceased, while the religious rituals held in
connection with joyous events were mevluds. I suspect that
rather than a disparity in practice between Sarajevo and
rural areas, we are dealing merely with a difference in
terminology. The confusion is probably related to the fact
that the concepts are Turkish and that learned Islamic
literature still operates within the Turkish definitions,
failing to take into account that tevhid in particular has
developed into a uniquely Bosnian ritual associated with
death (what Softi6 calls tevhid for sorrow).
Although there is some confusion among the clergy
concerning the origin of the tevhid, it should probably be
traced back to dervish practices and rituals in Bosnia.
Softic (1984) suggests this origin, based on the following
evidence. First, it is similar in form to the tevhid held
by the dervish orders in their tekija: one specific person
leads the tevhid, while all those present participate; the
large rosary (tespih) is used collectively during the
prayers. Secondly, tevhids are mainly held in areas of
Bosnia where there were (and to some extent still are)
active dervish tekije or sanctuaries. This theory is
strengthened by the fact (confirmed by a hoda from that
region) that there was no tradition in eastern Bosnia until
recently (ten to twenty years ago) of performing tevhid to
commemorate the dead. Sponsoring a tevhid is now becoming
increasingly popular throughout Bosnia. Instead the dead

were commemorated by hatma and the saying of the fatiha
(the opening chapter of the Quran), some lines of which
Muslims will always recite "for the souls" when passing a
Muslim cemetery. How exactly the practice of holding tevhid
was then taken up by women Softic does not establish.
However, a retired hoda, who had worked in the Dolina
region for fifty years, suggested that the tevhid had
entered private houses (the women's sphere) through dervish
sheikhs who started to perform tevhid in private homes to
help finance their tekije. It was then taken up by the
Tevhid is held five times following the death of any
individual, male or female, usually in the house of the
deceased. The first is held on the day the deceased is
carried away from the house: while the men attend the
denaza (burial ceremony) in the mosque, the women gather
in the house of the deceased to say the dova for his or her
soul. The ritual is repeated on the seventh and fortieth
day (on the fortieth day, when the soul is believed to
leave the body, some families also give a mevlud in
conjunction with the tevhid), after six months and after a
year. It should be noted that the tevhid is held on the
same days as the Serbian Orthodox hold their funerary
rites. 8 At the first tevhid nobody is invited (although
those who wish to may attend), and neither coffee nor food
is served. At the others relatives and neighbours are
invited and food is served.
There are both muki and enski tevhids (tevhids by

and for men and by and for women respectively, irrespective
of whether the deceased is male or female). The main
differences between the men's and the women's rituals are
as follows. First, women's tevhids are held at the home of
the deceased and are led by a bula; men do not attend.
Tevhids attended by men, on the other hand, are usually

held in the mosque. However, they may also take place in

the house, in which case women will also attend; the tevhid
is then led by a hodza and the bula is only present in her
capacity as relative or neighbour. At such mixed tevhids,
if they are small (i.e. the guests are neighbours and
relatives from within the village), women may recite, but
this is more rare. At mixed tevhid men and women sit in
separate rooms if space permits, otherwise men sit at the
front closest to the bodza while women sit at the back, as
in the mosque. Secondly, men's tevhids are shorter (with
the exception of those within the sufi milieu).
Thirdly, more lay people recite at women's tevhids,
perhaps because there are fewer bulas than hodäas in the
district. (I have no reason to argue that the wider
participation of lay women in the recitals reflects a less
formalised "female structure".) Fourthly, in women's
tevhicls a large communal tespih (rosary) is used instead of

individual tespihs; the women sit in a circle and let it

pass through their hands (a practice of dervish origin).
Fifthly, at women's tevhids food is served.
Some households (usually to fulfil a wish of the
deceased) prefer to give two parallel tevhids, one in the

mosque attended by the men, and one in the house attended
by the women. There are in other words several possible
combinations of place (mosque or house) and people
attending (only men, only women or both men and women).
What particular form of tevhid a household chooses is
dependent on three main factors: the religiousness of the
family, the pronounced wish of the deceased, and the
economic status of the sponsoring household.
Like the roeviud, the women's tevhid is an occasion
where status both in the religious and the secular sphere
may be asserted (though in a less obvious way, since the
occasion is very different). Prestige gained by the
household is through the amount and quality of the food
served and the number of people invited and bulas or hodIas
called upon to recite. However, also like the mevlud, it is
an occasion for individuals to obtain admiration and prove
their capabilities both in religious matters such as
displaying knowledge and reciting well and in secular
activities such as cooking and organising. A woman will
also signal the socio-economic status of her household
through how she dresses (this is the case for all guests)
or the number of guests and clerics and the amount and
quality of the food served.
The bula is the main organiser and reciter in the
tevhid. She always sits in the sofa at the centre of the
congregation with the Quran on the table in front of her.
Older women and those renowned for their piety will sit
closest to the bula. The other women will gather on the

floor sitting facing the bula; if it is a large tevhid
(i.e. many guests and a big house), women will also gather
in adjacent rooms. The order of reciting is decided
according to a strict hierarchy of age and reciting skill.
Those closest to the bula will be called upon first,
although younger women among those sitting on the floor may
also be called upon to recite if they are known to be
particularly good. As many as ten different women may
recite at the larger tevhids.
After every individual recital there is a
congregational prayer. The whole prayer is called namaz,
and consists of two to four rekata. A rekat consists of
praying while standing upright, then bending
halfway towards the floor, hands on knees, going
down on the knees1 and finally prostrating
oneself. Having finished all the rekata of one namaz, the
congregation recites the tund2ina salavat (lit, salvation
prayer) together. This prayer provides an obvious visual
marker between the recitals of namaz, since the open hand
is placed on the heart at the mention of the name of the
prophet Mohammed while the body is bent slightly forward.
The movement, revering the Prophet, is a characteristic of
this part of Bosnia, and stems from the influence of the
dervish order and its namaz practices in the region. (At a
ineviud I attended in the nearest market town, which was led
by a high-ranking bula from Sarajevo, this particular
motion was not performed because the bula did not do it.)
Following a series of amins, wIen the hands are held, palms

up, in front of the face, the tevhid recitals finish by
praying for the souls of deceased relatives and neighbours
of the household where the tevhid is held. The local bula
used to state that it was a commemoration of relatives up
to the ninth degree". The ninth degree is how far the
Bosnian Muslims traditionally go in defining kinship (see
chapter 3). This specification is criticised and considered
ignorant and non-Islamic by the younger and more literate
clerics in her district. However, the local bula's often
detailed knowledge about families and their kinship
network, necessary for this practice, is one of the reasons
she is well liked in the villages (see chapter 8). If the
bula should happen to omit a particular deceased relative
the women will remind her. The bula and the women then say
a prayer together.
After the recitals and prayers are over, women will
engage in relaxed talk until they are invited to the table
to eat. Food is usually served only once, except in
prosperous households, where food is served both before and
after the recitals. They will meet women from other
villages who may have news about relatives or neighbours
from their native village. They exchange information about
who has married, who has died and who has had a child, etc.
They will also learn about other households' forthcoming
sponsored rituals, such as mevlud, tevhid or weddings.
Indeed, women's different kinship and neighbourhood
networks may cross each other: a woman may meet another
woman unknown to her who passe on a greeting or perhaps a

wedding invitation from relatives or neighbours in the
first woman's native village.
The women eat in the traditional way from a common pot
served at sinija (a low circular table). 9 Since only a
limited number of people (usually eight to ten) can be
seated at the table at any one time the table is usually
set several times. A set table is called a sofra, and the
size of a reception is often described in terms of how many
sofre there were. As many as ten different dishes may be
served at tevhids sponsored by more prosperous households.
However, any household sponsoring a tevhid does aspire to
at least five dishes. People usually eat quickly and take
only a couple of spoonfuls from each dish. The number of
guests may be a problem for some households. Between thirty
and forty guests is a respectably large number; most
households invite between twenty and thirty, a few above
fifty. It may be difficult to limit the number if the
family is large, although space and economic means will
necessarily keep numbers down. Some households restrict
invitations to close relatives and relatives and close
neighbours within the village. Another solution is to avoid
the women's tevhid altogether and give a men's tevhid in
the mosque.
The majority of women usually attending a tevhid are
married and middle-aged. Some women are more active in
attending than others. In Dolina there is a group of five
women, including the bula, who are known as the poboz'ne
(pious or God-fearing) women in Dolina. They are always

present at religious events where the village is
represented, and regularly go to services in the mosque.
While the majority of villagers, men as well as women, only
attend congregational prayers in the mosque on special
occasions like rnevlud, tevhid or during Ramadan, these
women also attend the usual evening services during the
week when the hoda is staying in the village. Young,
unmarried girls see the tevhid as a gathering for zene
(wives) and rarely attend, unless the tevhid is for a close
relative or they may help to prepare and serve the food, in
which case they will not participate in the prayers, but
will stay most of the time in the kitchen while the
recitals take place. Furthermore, the young girls usually
have obligations at school or work and tevhids may often
fall on a weekday.
Tevhid, like ineviud, is an occasion for women to dress

up. Urban influences in dress at religious gatherings are

becoming increasingly apparent (see chapter 7 on women's
dress in general). The current fashion in places like
Sarajevo is to wear big, white, embroidered headscarves
from Turkey that cover both head and shoulders (called
namazbezama), though urban women have also recently taken

to wearing silk headscarves from Middle Eastern countries.

So far, in rural areas mostly only bulas will dress in this
"modern" way, although some women who can afford them have
started to wear the large white headscarves, together with
their newest and finest dimije or kat (dimije and blouse in
same material). Village womex who dress like this will

often receive the comment that they "have become more like
a bula" (se pobulala). There is an urban trend towards
women wearing long skirts or even skirts just below the
knee rather than the rural, old-fashioned dimije. However,
should a woman chose to wear a dimije, the most prestigious
is to wear dimije or kat made of material from Turkey,
imported privately, of which the most attractive is silk.
Very few of the women in my village could actually afford
to buy such material. It was therefore rarely seen except
at tevhids among a richer elite outside the village. All
the women following the urban fashion wear their
headscarves in the same way as the bula, with the ends
tucked in at the cheeks, to signify that they know how to
pray. Some village women tie them as they would in everyday
life with a knot underneath the chin.10
Many of the male clerics disapprove of female
tevhids. According to a highly respected bula, this is
mainly because they are held in the house (and therefore,
I suggest, outside the authority of the hoda). Those who
disapprove of female tevhids would like to see them held in
the mosque. Men in rural areas generally tend to belittle
female tevhid as an occasion for gossiping and eating.
Although this opinion is contrary to those Sorabji reports
from Sarajevo, it does not in fact contradict her argument
that the tevhid is valued by the men as a "vehicle for the
expression of [Muslim) group identity" (1989: 195). On the
contrary, such disapproving comments should be seen in
relation to the often ensuing remark (made particularly by

male clerics) that all tevhids ought to be held in the
mosque. This suggests that men think the tevhid is too
important and should therefore be under their control in
the mosque. Indeed, since the tevhid organised by the women
in the house persists and even seems to increase in
popularity, a few hodzas now lead women's tevhid in the
house on their own initiative "because the demat has no
officially employed bula". Furthermore, the tevhid is the
ritual which takes place most frequently within the region
and which, of all religious activities, a woman most often
engages in. Indeed, the tevhid is the most frequent (and
legitimate) occasion for women (wives) to socialise outside
the immediate neighbourhood and the village. The tevhid in
Bosnia thus has a similar position to the meviud in the
Turkish town studied by the Tappers (1987), with the
significant difference that in Turkey the mevlud associated
with death are mainly by and for men.
Tevhid also stresses the central role of the wife as
the link between two kinship and social networks. A wife
should attend tevhids given both for her own deceased
relatives and for those of her husband. In these contexts
she represents the household (or if her mother-in-law also
attends, her husband's segment of the patri-group). If a
woman is a good cook she may often be called upon by her
own or her husband's relatives sponsoring a tevhid to help
with the preparations and serving of the food. This may
mean travelling to villages a couple of hours' bus-ride
away. Such invitations are often a welcome break from the

wife's usual routines and give prestige both to the woman
herself and to her household. It would be considered very
shameful for a husband to forbid his wife to accept the

10.4 Conclusions
We have devoted a large part of this chapter to the
role of Bosnian women, who have access to official Islam to
an extent highly unusual in the Islamic world. This can be
explained by at least two factors. First, women in rural
Bosnia have traditionally been more 'visible' and have had
more access to the public world than is usual in many
Muslim countries. In the religious sphere, men and women,
as we have seen, have very different tasks and roles to
fulfil. And although there seem to be more ritual
obligations for men from which women are excluded than vice
versa, women are given far greater prominence at the
official rituals that are seen by both Christians and
Muslims themselves as the quintessential characteristics of
Muslim identity: the tevhid and above all the month-long
The second factor is the impact of state socialism and
the official discourse of sexual equality, which has put
official Muslim leadership under strong ideological
pressure. Whereas earlier a bula was instructed by a local
hodza in the recital of the Quran, and by a senior bula in
how to perform the ritual washing of a female corpse, since
1980 a bula has had the same education as a male Imain (see

chapter 8), and through these women trained in Islamic
orthodoxy, lay women also have access to orthodox teaching.
Women as a group are thus not associated with unorthodoxy;
however, a relationship between social class and forms of
religious practice is perhaps particularly pronounced in
the case of women. We have seen in the comparison between
a tevhidmev1ud conducted among the urban Muslim elite and
a common village tevhid that the "urban" tevhid put more
emphasis on preaching and didactics.
For the older rural population (particularly
illiterate and semi-literate women), a religious custom
which was currently popular would automatically be
"Quranic"; orthodoxy or lack of it was outside its frame of
reference. Today, the young hodzas and bulas alike are more
literate and more concerned with orthodoxy than the older
generation of rural clergy. Orthodoxy is in other words not
exclusively the concern of men. We have seen that both
orthodox and unorthodox elements are present in rituals
performed by both sexes. These "unorthodox" elements are
mainly the influence from sufisxn and therefore intrinsic to
Islam. In chapter 9 we saw that the male sufi-hodas were
the main mediators between "popular" and official Islam in
more individual religious practices. In this chapter,
however, we have seen how women have this role through
their participation in the larger communal rituals like the
tevhid. Such communal rituals enhance Muslim group identity

and are particularly central to a Bosnian Islam. The

"classical" picture of a mal-dominated official Islam,

with a peripheral female-led healing cult requires

significant modifications in rural Bosnia.

Footnotes chanter 10
1. Sorabji remarks on the problem of the Orthodox/popular
divide specifically in relation to how religious practices are
categorised in terms of the farz-haram continuum. (1989, pp.
2. Bosnian Muslims, unless devout, have a generally lax
attitude towards the consumption of alcohol. This does not
imply, however, that they do not know it is haram (a sin)
according to Islam, although in Dolina I was told that the
injunction in the Quran against drinking alcohol concerned
wine (sic) in particular. A Dolina Muslim would never drink
wine like the Catholics did, but they would drink plum-brandy
(1jivovic Most men in Dolina would, however, abstain from
brandy during the holy month of Ramadan, as to drink alcohol
at this time is considered a particularly grave violation.
3. However, this is improving as a result of the political
changes since I left the field in 1988, and more men in Dolina
did actually fast during my second visit in April 1990.
4. We see here that the girl describes the fast as sevap,
although according to orthodox categorisation it must, as one
of the five pillars of Islam, be classified as farz.
5. When I talk about a Muslim elite, I am referring to those
families who have a long tradition of wealth and involvement
in major religious ritual events. They are almost without
exception based in the towns, and have a tradition of members
joining the clergy. It is not unusual for them to send their
Sons or daughters to Middle Eastern countries, Turkey and
Egypt being the most common, for further religious education.
For a more detailed discussion of this milieu see Cornelia
Sorabji's Ph.D thesis, Muslim identity and Islamic faith in
Socialist Sarajevo, Cambridge, 1989.
6. This is confirmed by Cornelia Sorabji (personal
7. Tevhid led by the dervish outside a tekija is known to have
happened as far back as in 1531 when a tevhid was held in the
main Gazi-Husrevbeg mosque in Sarajevo. Furthermore, according
to a manuscript from 1780, a certain dervish ("who liked to be
in the company of women") is supposed to have "recited" tevhid
with them (cf. Softi, 1984:201).
8. The Tappers report from Turkey that mevluds given for
death are held immediately after the funeral, on the 7th, 40th
and 52nd days after death, and thereafter on the anniversary
of the death (1987:77).
9. Eating from a common pot is considered by Christians to be
one of the main characteristics of Muslim "primitiveness", and
Muslims feel uncomfortable when Chrá.stians witness this. The
truth is, however, that rural and more traditional Christians

also eat from a common pot (see chapter 1).
10. I was usually made to wear mine with a knot under the
chin, as a little girl who does not yet know how to recite
would do. My hostess told me that it was in order to
distinguish myself from the others. This was particularly
important when we went to other hamlets or villages where
people did not know about me. We had already experienced that
those present could be misled into thinking that I was a
Muslim and then get very upset when they realised I did not


At the beginning of this dissertation the household

was identified as the unit of interaction in village life,
socialising new village members and thus recreating the
moral and social values central to self-identity. Loyalty
to the household unit, the importance of which was pointed
out in chapters 2 and 7, in fact becomes a symbol of
loyalty to Muslim values in the face of influences from
non-Muslim institutions. Group values and by implication
group identity are seen as constantly threatened by
different traditions and values: there is a general worry
that exposure to non-Muslim ideas makes a person non-
Muslim, reflecting the commonly-held view that people are
formed by their social environment.
This is most clearly exemplified in the control of
young girls, whose successful transition from maiden to
wife is considered as crucial to the persistence of ethnic
group identity. We have seen that the control of girls is
focused on two main areas of concern: education and cross-
ethnic intermarriage. These two at times overlap. Both
school and leisure pursuits outside the village (such as
going to coffee-bars) are seen as arenas where girls may
meet and eventually marry non-Muslim boys. The
preoccupation with preventing Muslim girls from marrying
Christian boys reflects a concern with keeping Muslim
daughters and, most importantly their daughters' children
within the group. This boundary is seen as non-negotiable

by most girls, and even the more 'modern' ones who have
negotiated more freedom and choice of movement for
themselves. At the same time the household is itself a
recipient of competing institutional influences from
'outside'. These are aptly sununed up in the two kinds of
pictures found in almost every Muslim home, which were
mentioned in the Introduction; one of Tito (symbolising the
socialist Yugoslav federation) and one of an Islamic motif,
often of a girl in headscarf and dimije praying
(symbolising Islamic institutions). The symbol representing
Islamic identity, a young girl, underlines the role of the
female as the guardian of Islamic values and thus of Muslim
(religious) identity. But the two pictures are next to each
other on the wall, perhaps representing coniplementarity
more than opposition. They represent ideologies which women
draw on to legitimate their various roles, which are in
other words synthesized in women.
In part 1 we have seen that the vulnerability of the
household as a unit is symbolically embodied in the women,
who are at once outsiders to and the main reproducers (both
morally and biologically) of the unit. In discussing the
secular life of Dolina women, we have noted the often
individualistic behaviour in this sphere and the
increasingly private character of events which were earlier
the concern of the community. In this account we have
contrasted two aspects of women's role in village society,
those of continuity and change: first the conservative
aspect, represented by married and senior women (i.e.

mothers) as the guardians of Muslim values and group
identity, and secondly the more radical aspect, represented
by the young unmarried girls who attempt to define their
future role by constantly testing the limits of acceptable
behaviour. Every generation of women negotiates new roles
and behaviour patterns. We have met three generations of
women. The earliest of these, the pre-war generation,
typically had no formal education, married before the age
of eighteen, conducted courtships secretly, and attended
social events within the village rather than outside it.
They had a marriage ceremony according to Islamic law,
usually married within their own native village, and had
five children on average. As married women they wore the
full veil whenever venturing outside their neighbourhood
(though they were also the first generation to dispense
with the veil, after the war). The only access they had to
Islamic teaching was through the oral teaching of the male
Imams. The next generation, their daughters, grew up in the
sixties during a period of rapid economic development and
radical change in social values (western consumerism and
socialist policies). Four years of primary education had
become obligatory, and with it literacy, opening up
possibilities for further education and wage labour. They
picked up new styles in dress and behaviour which qualified
them for the positive label "modern/As teenagers, these
women began to attend dances outside the village, and many
eventually married outside it, some going abroad on labour
migration with their husbands. They had access to

information about contraception and to free abortion, and
had three children on average.
Dolina men of this generation often married brides
from other villages. These women are today the mothers of
the third generation, Dolina's teenage girls, and their
different backgrounds make for varying degrees of
"modernity". Some from the more modern villages refuse to
wear a headscarf, as married women normally do in Dolina;
they wear dimije only in the village and a knee-length
skirt when venturing outside. Some take employment in the
nearest market town, and tend to press for an earlier
division of the joint household made possible by
improvement in the economy and western consumer values.
Still, many acknowledge that their formal education has
been limited. The combination of increased social contacts
outside the village, some in urban centres, and the
influence of the media (particularly television) has made
them feel "uncultured". This is why many encourage their
daughters to take secondary education (on top of the
present eight years of obligatory primary education).
However, as wives and mothers these women also aspire to be
good Muslims: they worry about how they dress in the
village; they fast at Ramadan; they go to the mosque and
participate in tevhids; and they want to bring their
daughters up to be the same. The dilemma for these mothers
is that in their wish to give their daughters better
chances in life through education they expose them to non-
Muslim values and ideas. The girls themselves see no

contradiction but complementarity in these opposing
influences: one night they may go to coffee-bars, dress in
short skirts or tight jeans and listen to western pop-
music, while the next night they may dress up in their
finest dimije and headscarf to attend a religious gathering
where they listen to recitals from the Quran.
The official definition of Muslim identity in Bosnia
is as was pointed out in the Introduction, devoid of any
religious content. In the first part of the thesis we
focused on women as the pivots of this ethnic and secularly
defined "Muslim" identity in Bosnia. In part 2 we saw that
women were also active both in those religious rituals
central to Bosnian Islam, and in orthodox Islam (although
the individualistic behaviour which we noted for women in
the secular sphere is replaced in the religious sphere by
a more uniform 'communal' behaviour enhancing group values
and identity). Within the religious sphere as within the
secular sphere there is continuity and change. Not
surprisingly, the young women represent a radical force
here. Many young bulas have refused the marginal role of
their predecessors, and in fact the young Medressa-educated
bula can be seen as the epitome of young Bosnian Muslim
women. Their status as female religious leaders is ratified
by two different institutions (the I.Z. and the socialist
state) and their ideologies, more all-encompassing and
powerful than the traditional village based structures. We
have seen that the official I.Z. is eager to include women
in its sphere of influence and therefore encourages the

education of bulas, and that the secular socialist state
also encourages women (mainly through education) to take a
more prominent role in public life. As a result these women
have a far greater prominence in official religious life
than is usual both among Muslims anywhere else and among
Christian women, who have to rely on access to orthodox
teachings through a male cleric. In this context these
women are in fact not only a radical force which
challenges traditional patterns by demanding for itself
more formal influence in the religious sphere (such as
participation in mosque councils), but also a conservative
force as the embodiment of educators and guardians of
religious values within the household.
The I.Z. and the socialist state have in common that
they are represented by literate specialists who not only
provide women with a legitimating force, but also instruct
people on who they are or ought to be. This is done mainly
through mass education and the media (cf. Anderson, 1983).
Such institutions represent modernity. Giddens argues that
modernity must be understood on an institutional level but
acknowledges that "the transmutations introduced by modern
institutions interlace in a direct way with individual life
and therefore with the self"(199l:l). In this thesis we
have discussed how such processes work through real people
in the creation of an ethno-religious identity.
The written text as a source of authority in Bosnian
culture is a key to the processes which are taking place.
As we have already seen, Bosnian Muslim culture itself has

had to be validated through texts (Cf. the discussion of
the existence of a separate Muslim ethnic group in the
Introduction). The written version is by definition the
official, authoritative version: this is as valid for the
state as for official Islam. These competing ideologies
seek to influence first through face-to-face education, but
also through books, other published material and the media.
The validation of culture through books is, as we have seen
an important characteristic of the Islamic world. Thus,
Lambek writes "In any Islamic society everyone is engaged
to some degree, in the never-ending tasks of learning,
reproducing, using, and passing on the sacred texts. The
management of sacred knowledge plays a significant role in
the development of the social persona and the construction
of a Muslim identity" (1990:25). The Bosnian Muslims are
part of this tradition. However, the presence of another
set of doctrines which builds its legitimacy on the
writings of Marx, Lenin and Tito, has, I suggest,
reinforced the "validation of culture through books". It is
typical that the "ethnogenesis" of the Bosnian Muslims is
in itself a creation of a written discourse, i.e. their
status as a separate ethnic group is validated through
officially approved historical and sociological academic
As a result, ritual practices which cannot be
validated through either state socialist or Islamic
literate authority are losing ground locally. Through the
increasing influence of literate authority on a village

level (i.e. through either Islamic or secular education),
"non-literate" practices are relegated to the realm of the
"primitive", "uncultured" and "ignorant". The outcome is
often the polarisation on a theoretical level between what
are considered Islamic and Bosnian Muslim customs on the
one hand, and non-Islamic and non-Bosnian Muslim on the
other. But this distinction does not fit actual practices,
and a fertile ground for debating Muslim customs and
cultural identity is thus created. Women, as integrators of
the secular and religious spheres, are today rejecting both
the state propagated secular (ethnic) definition of Muslim
identity as well the orthodox Islamic one. In fact, they
formulate a Bosnian Muslim identity which transcends both
officializing bureaucratic definitions. Through this
identity, based on religious discourse, women escape the
peripheral role traditionally assigned to them in orthodox


The dervishes see themselves as better Muslims

and closer to heaven than others, but I say
every dervish is not a Muslim.

This critical remark was made by an old village hodza

familiar with dervish religious practices and their
influence on religious rituals in his region. His opinion
is representative of the popular view of dervishes as well
as that of the Islamska Zajednica (although the latter
would phrase it more subtly).
Dolina is situated in the heart of a region which is
known for its suf i-sanctuaries, 1 known as tekije. In
chapters 9 and 10 the Dolina villagers practices of praying
at saints' graves and for the souls of dead relatives at
the tevhid were mentioned as possibly influenced by suf I
traditions in the region. The most striking legacy of the
dervish presence in this region is, however, the
performance of zikir (sufi rituals of remembrance in which
the Names of God are invoked; fra Arabic dikr) at mevlud
and tevhid in private homes or in the mosque in Dolina and
other nearby villages in this region. When performed by the
dervishes of the Naqshibendi order, it consists of chanting
the names of God accompanied by violent rhythmic movements
and the beating of a drum; it increases in intensity until
climax is reached when somebody falls into a trance.
However, when performed by villagers and their hoda it is

a shorter and less intense ceremony, and is not (unlike the
dervish version) the central element in the sequences of
prayers and recitals at a rnevlud or a tevhid.
Practising Muslims and even clerics from other parts
of Bosnia are often unfamiliar with the body movements
accompanying the chanting performed collectively at rnevlud
and tevhid in Dolina and surrounding villages. 2 One woman

who had moved into the area from east Bosnia had never
experienced these practices before until she attended a

meviud in a nearby village to Dolina. When she asked why

they did it, she received the answer that it was sevap (see
chapter 10).
The zikir is associated with the dervishes and thus
with men in general. Although women may perform zikir at
mevlud and tevhid with both men and women present and led
by a hodza, they tend to react with a mixture of bemusement
and embarrassment and either perform the zikir in a
restrained manner or do not take part at all. On their way
home from such a ritual women will usually comment dri].y
that there was "a lot of hukanje" (i.e. roaring). At tevhid
and meviud led by a bula (and exclusively attended by
women) the zikir is never performed.
Algar (1975) reports that the first Naqshibendi tekija

in Bosnia was built in 1463 by the Ottoman governor of

Bosnia, Iskender Pasa, of which nothing remains today. In

the mid-nineteenth century another Naqshibendi tekija was
founded in Sarajevo; this one is still in use after having
been closed down by the authord.ties in 1980 for allegedly

holding meetings encouraging fundamentalist and separatist
political ideas (cf. Sorabji, 1989).
Algar notes, however, that it is outside Sarajevo that
the traditional life of the Naqshibendi tekija continues to
flourish. There are three in the region surrounding Dolina:
Visoko, Oglavak and Zivcici, but at present only the last-
named, the most active of the three, has a sheikh. The
founder of this tekija was a native of ivii; Sejh Husein
Baba Zuki, who died in 1799 or 1800. Form the Medressa in
Fojnica he continued to Sarajevo and from there to
Istanbul, where he entered on the sufi path and was
initiated into the Naqshibendi order. After travelling to
Konya and to Turkestan to study the tekije there, he
returned to Bosnia and his native village, where he founded
a tekija. His only murid (pupil), who was also a local boy,
founded the tekija in Oglavak, and it was one of his
followers, Muhammed Mejli Baba, who had come to Bosnia from
Western Anatolia In search of the "perfect sheikh", who
succeeded ejh Husein in ivii. ejh Mejli Baba'a
successors have all been his descendants, albeit not always
in a direct line (one was the grand-nephew of his
predecessor). (For further details see Algar, 1975).
While most dervish orders are based within the Shia
tradition, the order which is dominant in Bosnia, and
indeed in the Dolina region, the Naqshibendi, belongs to
the Sunni tradition. Indeed, it is the only known order
which traces its descent (i.e. its genealogy of its lineage
of transmission of knowledge back through the first Muslim

ruler, Abu Bakr. The rest of the known sufi orders trace
their origins back to one of the Shi'ite spiritual leaders,
and therefore through Imam All, and so back to the Prophet
Muhanuned. Algar (1975:87-88) noted that the Naqshibendi
order has developed an attitude of militant hostility to
Shi'ism. He points out that one of the order's main
characteristics, the silent zikir, is opposed to the open
and vocal zikir practised by the Naqshibendi in Bosnia, and
he suggests the latter is an influence from other orders
such as the Qadiri.
In the nineteen-fifties the activities of Bosnian
tekije were banned by the Islamska Zajecinica, with the
approval of the political authorities. The order was not
dissolved; instead a core of its members went underground
and continued to hold zikir secretly in private homes.
Clearly, the order lost much of its popular appeal, as
their activities could no longer be part of the religious
experience of "ordinary Muslims". Male Dolina villagers in

their seventies and eighties would, whenever our discussion

touched on the dervishes, remember attending mevlud at the
tekija in ivii. Their descriptions were vivid with the
intensity of the experience: the number of men crowded
inside and outside the tekija, the mystic authority of the
sheikh and in particular what they remembered as the
"throwing of knives". Today, sabre and skewer piercing do
not play any prominent part in the zikir (except for those
held among dervishes only). There are two reasons for this.
First, the order has few dervishes among its ranks who are

able to perform these feats; usually somebody has to be
invited from an order elsewhere (such accomplishments are
more common among the Kosovo dervishes, particularly those
belonging to the Bektashi order; see &lhajid, 1986).
Secondly, these practices were prohibited by the I.Z. on
the grounds that somebody might get hurt. However sincere
the I.Z. may have been, the ban was also a way of reducing
the attractions of a cult which they perceived as
In recent years the I.Z. have attempted to bring the
Naqshibendi order and its members into their sphere of
influence, for example by sending representatives to every
major dervish ritual. Thus, the popular annual meviuds that
the order hold at their tekije in ivcidi and at Buna in
Herzegovina are now supervised by the I.Z. A high-ranking
member of their clergy will give a sermon to the crowds
gathered in and around the tekija to participate in the
mevlud and listen to the recitals form the Quran and the
singing of ilahije, many of which were written by the first
sheikhs of the Naqshibendi tekije in ivii and Oglavak.
In the last few years the I.Z. has initiated the
"pilgrimage" to the annual meviud at the tekija at Buna
(Herzegovina). Each demat in the Dolina region organises
buses to take interested villagers to the mevlud (cf.
chapter 9). While during the first few years only the most
devout and older Muslims in Dolina would attend, in the
last couple of years it has become a popular outing in
which the young also take part. Last year there were two

buses going from Dolina, and the meviud at Buna has become
one of the major events on the ritual "calendar" in
Dolina. 3 People make a picnic in the beautiful hills around
the tekija, and some try to squeeze through the compact
crowd to get inside the tekija to pray, to have a better
view of the prominent hodzas and sheikhs who sit in the
courtyard reciting mevlud poems, and to say prayers for
health and fortune at a former sheikh's tomb. This is where
people leave money as a tribute. This money used to go
directly to the maintenance of the tekija but is today.
collected by the I.Z.
The Buna mevlud takes place during the day, but the
dervishes hold their zikir the night before the official
ritual among their circle of adherents and guests from
other dervish orders in Kosovo and Macedonia. (These
private zikirs may well include the sabre and skewer
piercing mentioned on p.ç.)
During mevlud at the tekija in iviOi, which is less
accessible and therefore attended mostly by people from
surrounding villages, a zikir for the general public is
held on the night of the mevlud, although again the
dervishes will hold a more exclusive zikir for special
guests the night before. The larger, public zikir starts by
the rhythmic repetitions of lailahe illallah ("there is
no God except the one Allah"), and the invocation of the
names of God, Allah and Hu, each accompanied by specific
physical movements, mainly of the head, which all have a
symbolic meaning. Later, as the collective sayings

intensify, the dervishes who sit in a circle with their
sheikh facing the congregation, his back to the Kibla, rise
to their feet and stand in a circle, accompanied by the
rhythmic repetitions of the congregation and a drum. Their
body movements become more vigorous and as the intensity
escalates, a dervish may fall into a trance, saying the
name of Allah repeatedly. When he recovers, the repetitive
words and tunes will decrease in intensity, and will
eventually be replaced by recitals and illahije.
Women may also attend the zikir, but they do so from
behind a latticed gallery at the back of the room. A young
bula who was close to the dervish milieu told me that there
were also female dervishes, although the sheikh of the
tekija denied this. She claimed that a female dervish has
to recite three particular doctrines (from the Quran)
seventeen times before morning prayers (sabah) throughout
her life; it is therefore a major commitment. Female
dervishes may not participate in zikir, but may watch men's
zikir from the gallery. In other words, the "female
dervish" is not accepted as such by the men, as she cannot
be part of the brotherhood or participate in the zikir,
which is the main defining characteristic of the dervishes
in Bosnia. For a woman, being a "dervish" is thus an
entirely personal experience.
I was told by a hodza familiar with the dervish milieu
that because recruitment of new dervishes is difficult,
requirement for being accepted are far from ideal. He
suggested that novices have tQ read some books, but that

they do not need to be unusually religious. It is difficult
to state how many dervishes (i.e. members) belong to the
three tekije in the Dolina region. When I asked a sheikh
about their numbers, he was reluctant to answer, but
indicated that it was somewhere between three and 200.
Each order has a hierarchical structure with the
sheikh at the top (a position which usually goes from
father to son). The sheikh accepts new members on the basis
of an interview.
The main participants at the sufi-mevlud in Zivcici
are the circle of descendants from the second sheikh of the
tekija, Muhammed Mejli Baba, and their friends. Devout
Muslims and hodas in the region who fall outside this
circle often consider it an exclusive club and see them as
a socio-economic elite. Among some their sincerity is
questioned. Echoing the old hoda whose quote introduced
this section, a young hodza claimed to know one of the
dervishes famed for performing sabre-piercing on himself in
a trance, saying that he was the least devout Muslim there,
often skipping his prayers and so on. Another hoda, who
had just witnessed a zikir where a dervish had fallen into
trance, compared their ritual with a stimulus like alcohol.
He claimed that the more solid a person's faith is, the
less he is a dervish. The view of the dervish as less
rather than more Muslim has some supporters, especially
among the clergy faithful to the I.Z. A senior
representative of the organisation gave a speech at the
opening of a mosque in the so-called dervish region where

he spoke rather unfavourably about a fictive dervish who
spent all his time contemplating, and having somebody else
to bring his daily bread. The moral of the fable was: when
the choice is between prayers and work, work is the more
important, because it is for the benefit of the society
(cf. chapter 8). Furthermore, at the I.Z.-directed
Medressa in sarajevo, students who train to become hodzas
or bulas are taught that sufism and the practices of the
dervish orders (including the writing of zapis (see chapter
9) by some prominent members of the order) are not "pure
Islam", and are "outside the Quran". This is also the
message most of them (who are not familiar with the orders
themselves) will pass on to the members of the dzemat they
are eventually sent to teach and lead. However, the fact is
that most dervishes and sheikhs in Bosnia are also I.Z.-
employed hodias committed to orthodoxy. There is not
necessarily a contradiction between orthodoxy and "popular"
suf i-Islam; rather they may be described as different
styles of participation in religious life. The most
religiously learned among Bosnian Muslims adopt different
styles in different contexts. The I.Z.-employed hodza
teaches children at mekteb, but later in the evening the
same man may receive people in his home who are seeking
help for a problem which "school-medicine" has not cured;
his knowledge of healing is part of the suf i tradition
which he shares with other sheikhs.
The influence of the dervish orders in Bosnia has
elsewhere been seen as very ]4mited. Sorabji argues that

the dervishes do not offer a real alternative to Islam as
presented by the Islamska Zajednica (1989:169-170).
However, it is my contention that the dervish orders in
Bosnia never had the aspirations to lead the Muslims
locally in the region, a role the sufi sheikhs have taken
on in other Muslim countries (such as Morocco and
Bangladesh). The dervish orders in central Bosnia are
dominated by the members of the same family, and the
position of sheikh goes from father to son. This family has
to a large extent become the link to inclusion into the
sufi milieu. Although it could be argued that the dervish
families therefore have a vested interest in maintaining
exclusivity, it is clear that during certain periods (e.g.
the fifties) the orders had to become exclusive to survive,
and their "underground" existence made recruitment very
difficult from outside their own limited social network. I
believe this structure has been perpetuated even during the
recent more liberal era.
However, there are indications that the new more
liberal attitude towards the orders both from the political
authorities and from the I.Z. has generated a new interest
among young, urban Muslims. Furthermore, the difference
between the I.Z.-led Bosnian mainstream Islam and the
Naqshibendi order's sufi path is not striking enough for
the latter to present a real opposition and challenge to
the former. (As already noted, many dervishes, and
certainly those in more senior positions, are also I.Z.-
employed Imam While the I .Z. 's take over of dervish

rituals has provided official Bosnian Islam with some of
the mysticism and popular appeal which it lacks, it has
also watered them down, as we have seen, to the extent that
the mystics have lost much of their former attractions.

Footnotes appendix

1. The words "sufism" or "sufi" are rarely used in popular

speech; villagers and village hodzas will usually talk about the
dervishes and the dervish influence.
2. I shall not here go into details about elements in the zikir
specific to the Naqshibendi order, as I limit my account to
aspects of the dervish presence in the region which have
relevance to the religious life of the population of Dolina. For
an excellent review of the Bosnian Naqshibendi order and their
devotional practices, however, see Hamid Algar, 1975.
3. These trips have also become powerful collective expression
of Muslim ethnic identity. This is no less true after the buses
one year were attacked by young Serb nationalists.
4. This representative has now (1990) been replaced by someone
else, and there are indications that the new leadership will take
a less accommodating attitude towards the political authorities
(which, it should be stressed, are becoming increasingly tolerant
towards the Islamic community).


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