During the nineteenth century, Serbian and Croatian national movements defined themselves against the Turkish yoke and the specter of “the Turks.” Yet even as they explicitly named “the Turks” as sworn enemies, many Serbian-Croatian nationalists simultaneously described Bosnian “Turks” or Muslims as their “brothers,” pointing to their shared language, customs, and ancestry. As one leading South Slavic nationalist writer summed it up in 1850: Bosnian Muslims are “the greatest enemies of their own people and their own same-blooded brothers.” My argument here is not that the position of Bosnian Muslims was somehow exceptional, but rather that struggles around Muslims’ status as potential co-nationals outline an exemplary figure of nation-making, a figure that is neither enemy nor ally, neither “ours” nor “theirs,” neither “brother” nor “Other”—an undecidable figure that I have called (br)other. The co-national, in this understanding, is the (br)other: signifying at the same time the potential of being both “brother” and “Other,” containing the fantasy of both complete assimilation and ominous, insurmountable difference—and thus making visible a range of passages between seeming opposites.
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