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Jihad in a World of Sovereigns: Law, Violence, and Islam in the Bosnia Crisis

31 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2015 Last revised: 6 Jul 2016

Darryl Li

University of Chicago

Date Written: September 23, 2015


This article argues that jihads waged in recent decades by “foreign fighter” volunteers invoking a sense of global Islamic solidarity can be usefully understood as attempts to enact an alternative to the interventions of the “International Community.” Drawing from ethnographic and archival research on Arab volunteers who joined the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, this article highlights the challenges and dilemmas facing such jihad fighters as they maneuvered at the edges of diverse legal orders, including international and Islamic law. Jihad fighters appealed to a divine authority above the global nation-state order while at the same time rooting themselves in that order through affiliation with the sovereign and avowedly secular nation-state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This article demonstrates an innovative approach to law, violence, and Islam that critically situates states and nonstate actors in relation to one another in transnational perspective.

Keywords: international law, Islamic law, intervention, war, jihad, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, international criminal law, shari'a

Suggested Citation

Li, Darryl, Jihad in a World of Sovereigns: Law, Violence, and Islam in the Bosnia Crisis (September 23, 2015). Law and Social Inquiry 41(2), Spring 2016, pp. 371-401.. Available at SSRN:

Darryl Li (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1126 East 59th St
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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