Health and Wealth on the Bosnian Market: Intimate Debt

Health and Wealth on the Bosnian Market: Intimate Debt

Health and Wealth on the Bosnian Market: Intimate Debt

Health and Wealth on the Bosnian Market: Intimate Debt

Synopsis

Larisa Jasarevic offers an unforgettable look at the everyday experiences of people living in post-socialist, post-war Bosnia. Not at all existing on the world's margins, Bosnians today are concerned with the good life and are as entangled in consumer debt as everyone else. The insecurities of living in an economy dominated by informal networks of trade, personal credit, and indebtedness are experienced by Bosnians in terms of physical ailments, some not recognized by Western medical science. Jasarevic follows ordinary Bosnians in their search for treatment--from use of pharmaceuticals to alternative medicines and folk healers of various kinds. Financial well-being and health are woven together for Bosnians, and Jasarevic adeptly traces the links between the two realms. In the process, she addresses a number of themes that have been important in studies of life under neoliberalism in other parts of the world.

Excerpt

Waiting rooms of a home medical practice in a village of northeastern Bosnia fill up with patients every day except Tuesdays and Saturdays. Seventy to one hundred people hang about waiting—forgivingly—until they hear their names called out by the assistants. Some are obviously unwell, held up by their companions or propped up by the wall, slumping on the chairs, eyes shut, wearing bandages, gripping crutches, visibly tense, growing silent. There is nothing obviously the matter with others: a motley crowd of young and old, women, men, and children. Dressing styles, dialects, postures, and hairstyles are social clues, avidly read in a casual manner of resident experts who can hear, pick up, and tell apart salient differences in lifestyles and habits: provincial, regional, professional, urban, rural, refugee, or diasporic. Far less obvious are ethnic or national affiliations among patients who seek out this powerful woman’s help from across ethnic and religious distinctions, and entity and state borders. Her patients call her the queen, a vernacular honorific that signals greatness and a streetwise “coolness,” a mastery of some craft. From 2006 to 2007, this anthropologist was among the patients: waiting, observing, asking questions when allowed, taking notes, feeling painfully awkward at first, precariously admitted, challenged, tolerated, and mistrusted. Things changed over the years, as I kept visiting over the summers and felt more welcomed. I first heard of the queen at a flea market in the nearby town of Lukavac, economically depressed since the socialist, heavy-industry complex had shrunk to a few foreign-owned metallurgical coke and by-products factories that employ a fraction of the former labor force, export profits, and massively pollute the air.

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