Lessons from Arizona Market: The Impact of Neoliberlism and the Free Market Mindset on Women in the Post Conflict Reconstruction Process
51 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2009 Last revised: 5 Nov 2012
Date Written: April 27, 2009
In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), there is a vast and sprawling marketplace that sprang up just as the peace accords were going into effect, bringing to some conclusion three and a half years of bloody ethnic fighting. The place is called Arizona Market and it was said by some to be a shining example of capitalism, evidence of the positive impact of the particular type of political and economic engineering that takes place in the reconstruction after a war. But the narratives about what Arizona Market truly represents abound to a degree which belies the facts that the market is a mere thirty-five acres in size, a mere thirteen years old and host to thousands of flea market stalls. There are narratives which call Arizona Market a success and others which reveal the market as a clear example of cocksure neo-liberal wrongheadedness. There are myths about the ability of a market to bring about peaceful relations between warring ethnicities through the neutrality of commerce, even where peace was hard to come by in the rest of Bosnia. The narratives surrounding Arizona Market are conflicting, and they all hold some truth. It was a place to buy bread when there was no bread to be found, but it was also a place to buy human beings to satisfy sexual appetites. It remains a dark place, laden with black market activity and organized crime, even while its taxation has funded the shining democratic success story of the town of Brcko, in whose shadow Arizona Market sits.
This article will discuss Arizona Market as an example of what is wrong with the type of politico-economic engineering which takes place in early phases of post conflict reconstruction. In particular, it will, in Part I, examine the creation of Arizona Market, exploring the intents of the various actors (or non-actors) involved. Part II will look at what went on in Arizona Market and how its evolution was affected by the local, regional, national and international politics playing out in the area. Part III will examine the negative impacts of those activities on women in particular, and use Arizona Market to illustrate the disregard for gender and women in the peacemaking, peacebuilding and reconstruction processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It will also look more deeply at the effects of neoliberal policies, of which Arizona Market was one, albeit an informal one, on women. Part IV will conclude with some observations, including the problems inherent in having the wrong people making economic and legal decisions simply because they are in place during the peacebuilding process. It will also question the soundness of the current post conflict reconstruction practices which assume that capitalism is a necessary and inherent component of democratization, human rights and the re-establishment of the rule of law, and will reveal some of the negative effects on women inherent in those policies.
Keywords: post conflict reconstruction, human rights, gender, democratization, neoliberalism, post-colonialism
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