On Afghan footbaths and sacred cows in Kosovo: Urban legends of intervention

Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, Florian P. Kühn

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Drawing on ideas of the narrative turn in social and cultural studies, this article explores the oral, informal side of communication in contexts of international peacebuilding interventions. It takes urban legends – entertaining stories about events that supposedly happened to ‘a friend of a friend’ and usually contain a moral – as a methodological access road to the study of meta-narratives that underpin interveners' understandings of themselves and the intervention context. Three categories of urban legends/meta-narratives are discussed: legends about ‘the intervened’ whose common thread is barbarianism; legends about ‘the interveners’ which revolve around a meta-narrative of Western/Northern hubris; and legends about intercultural interactions which reproduce a meta-narrative of cultural misunderstandings and intervention failure. Using Scott's idea of public and hidden transcripts, we discuss possible functions of such narrations in the context of interventions. Document embargo until 22/05/2016.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-35
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Early online date22 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2015


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