Abandoned War-Torn Homes as Casualties and Witnesses of Violence

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Nevena Mrdjenovic


Most global conflicts are followed by a simultaneous war against domestic architecture. However, this phenomenon remains largely ignored by contemporary spatial discourses. Similarly, previously destroyed homes are marginalised and remain disconnected from the contemporary life of the region. This text-based essay frames the region of the former SFR Yugoslavia as a concrete case study and casts light on the uncertain position domestic interiors hold in times of political fluctuations and ethnic conflicts. It specifically focuses on the time after the acts of violence have taken place, when these sites have lost their prime domestic identity and stand as discarded ruins caught in an ambiguous zone between past and present.

The analysis is presented through findings of a unique physical and psychological exploration of the aftermath of ethnic conflicts — TRAVELS (2011–2014). Findings from TRAVELS are here applied as a universal material and used to analyse the aims, meanings, and consequences of violent attacks in the contexts of widespread ethnic, cultural, and political violence. This essay offers a distinctive perspective by positioning the domestic interior as a direct casualty and witness of violence.

As the key driver of all spatial explorations in this essay, scenography deepens our understanding of the meaning and impact of violence on the current uncertain position of the attacked homes. With scenography taking a forensic standpoint, these sites emerge as abandoned mise-en-scènes inscribed with layers of spatial narratives, traces of time, and tactile remnants of past violence and trauma. This essay proposes that the acts of violence transform the meaning of home. In times of conflict, strategic acts of violence are framed as modes of cultural and ethnic cleansing and domestic space as their true medium. In the aftermath, while officially detached from contemporary life, war-torn homes represent survivors of history and metamorphose into uniquely powerful monuments of the collectively lived trauma.


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How to Cite
Mrdjenovic, Nevena. 2023. “Abandoned War-Torn Homes As Casualties and Witnesses of Violence”. idea journal 20 (01):81–100. https://doi.org/10.37113/ij.v20i01.500.