Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Trauma Advocacy, Veteran Politics, and the Croatian Therapeutic State

Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Trauma Advocacy, Veteran Politics, and the Croatian Therapeutic State

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article considers international trauma advocacy and Croatian veteran politics. The article begins by discussing international trauma advocacy and therapeutic state legitimation. International trauma advocacy seeks to promote peace, however unwittingly it has legitimized veteran politics antithetical to its ideals. The second half of the article goes on to consider Croatian state legitimation and privileged veteran pensions. The article suggests that Croatia is developing therapeutic forms of state legitimation. The article highlights the problems of Croatia as a therapeutic state and its recognition of extensive veteran privileges. The article concludes that the veteran privileges represent a political, social, and economic burden which is hindering Croatia's postconflict development.

Keywords

trauma, advocacy, therapeutic state, legitimation, Croatia

"We were together in the war, let us be together in peace," the Croatian Ministry of Families, Veterans, and Intergenerational Solidarity declared in newspaper adverts on August 5, 2011. (1) The date of the military Operation Storm and fall of Republika Srpska Krajina is officially celebrated as Croatian Victory Day, Homeland Thanksgiving Day, and Croatian Veterans Day. During the annual celebrations in 2011, the then Prime Minister and former Veterans Minister Jadranka Kosor renewed her promise to veterans that she would protect their interests. For Kosor, the veterans' position in society transcends politics. "Let us not squabble over the veterans' back, we have a commitment to them and they are above politics," Kosor declared in earlier Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day celebrations. (2) The new Croatian government has not yet declared a firm position on Croatian veterans, nor has the European Union following Croatia's EU accession treaty signed in December 2011 and ratified in March 2012. But apprehension has been growing among veterans that their position in society is under threat.

This article considers international trauma advocacy and Croatian veteran politics. Croatia is interesting as a case study of international trauma advocacy as it was the first country where international trauma programs took off in the early 1990s. The origins of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are linked to the US antiwar movement and human rights advocacy. International human rights advocacy in the 1990s sought to assert individuals' rights against national sovereignty, but ironically legitimized state claims and power politics. (3) Similarly international victim trauma advocacy sought to assert individuals' interests against nationalist politics, but ironically in Croatia legitimized sectional nationalist interests. Specifically, international victim trauma advocacy helped legitimize Croatian veteran politics and their privileged position in Croatian society. The article begins by discussing international trauma advocacy in Croatia and its legitimization of privileged veteran pensions. The article then goes on to discuss therapeutic state legitimation and international therapeutic governance. The second half of the article considers Croatian state legitimation in the context of the need for international and national recognition. We suggest that Croatia is developing therapeutic forms of state legitimation. Croatia may be conceptualized as what the sociologist James Nolan has termed a "therapeutic state," where the state relates to key sections of society through therapeutic governance. (4) We conclude that the Croatian therapeutic state is characterized by parasitical therapeutic relations and social stasis.

In our criticisms of expanding therapeutic governance, we are not disputing that people are marked by their experiences or the presence of psychological distress. However, we are contesting how the prevailing paradigms have constructed war trauma and legitimized particular political relations. There has been strikingly little understanding or follow-up in the international trauma advocacy field of how their ideas became absorbed into the recipient societies and adapted to local political interests. …

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