Branislav Jakovljevic

Zvornik 1992: Vernacular Imagination and Theater of Atrocities

This paper looks at the staging of torture that took place in the first months of the Bosnian war (May-July 1992) in the small town of Zvornik, located on the border between Bosnia and Serbia. Over the period of several weeks, para-militaries from Serbia held in detention some 150 men from a nearby Muslim village on premise that they would be swapped for Serbian prisoners held by Muslim forces. The detainees, ranging in age from teenagers to elderly men, were held in Cultural Center in Celopek, a village at the outskirts of Zvornik. During the period of internment, the para-militaries used the stage in the Cultural Center main hall to orchestrate torture sessions in which they forced the inmates to injure and rape one another. After the war, the perpetrators of these crimes were tried in the War Crimes Tribunal in Belgrade, and sentenced to long prison terms. This was just one of many instances during the war in Bosnia in which the cultural infrastructure from socialist Yugoslavia became the sites in which some of the most atrocious crimes were committed. Also, this is one of the rare documented examples of the coercive performance of torture that para-militaries staged during the war.


Branislav Jakovljevic is Associate Professor and Department Chair. Avant-garde and Experimental Theater, Performance Theory, Performance and Politics. Branislav Jakovljevic published scholarly articles on a broad variety of subjects, from history of late nineteenth-century theater, to Russian and Soviet avant-garde, to contemporary American experimental performance. His works have been published in the United States (Theatre Journal, TDR, PAJ, Art Journal, Theater) and in Europe (Serbia, United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, Croatia, Poland, and Belgium). In 2009, he received Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) 2009 Outstanding Article Award for the essay “From Mastermind to Body Artist: Political Performances of Slobodan Milosevic” (published in TDR 52:1, 2008). He was a recipient of the Theodore and Frances Geballe Research Workshops, Stanford Humanities Center, 2011-2012 for the project “Art as Documentation, Memory as Art,” (2011-2012), and in 2009 he received prestigious Hellman Faculty Scholar Award for the project „Province without Borders: Yugoslav Conflict from Local Politics to Global Justice.“ In 2013 he chaired 19th annual Performance Studies international conference „Now Then: Performance and Temporality“ at Stanford University. His first book Daniil Kharms: Writing and the Event was published by Northwestern University Press in 2009, and his second book Alienation Effects: Performance and Self-management in Yugoslavia 1945-1991 is forthcoming from University of Michigan Press.