Elissa Helms

Doctoral Program Director
Associate Professor
Special Note: 
on leave winter 2024: Center for Interdisciplinary Research Fellow, Bielefeld University

Contact information

Vienna, Quellenstrasse 51
D 205/a
+43 1 25230 ext. 7111

Research Areas:

Gender and Nationalism, Gender and ethnic violence; NGOs and social/political activism; Ethnography of post-conflict and post-socialist societies; borders, race/racism, and European identity

Central / Eastern Europe, former Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Selected Publications:

Borders of Desire: Gender and Sexuality at the Eastern Borders of Europe, co-edited and Introduction chapter co-written with Tuija Pulkkinen. University of Manchester Press, 2023.

Social Boundaries at the EU Border: Engaged Ethnography and Migrant Solidarity in Bihać, Bosnia–Herzegovina, Journal of Borderlands Studies 2022, DOI: 10.1080/08865655.2022.2108109 (open access, part of a special issue on the Balkans as "Double Transit")

Femininity, Fashion, and Feminism: Women’s Activists in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In David Montgomery (ed.), Everyday Life in the Balkans, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2019: 86-95.

with Andrea Krizsan, Hungarian Government’s Attack on Central European University and its Implications for Gender Studies in Central and Eastern Europe, Femina Politica 2 (2017), 169–173.

Men at the Borders: Gender, Victimhood, and War in Europe’s Refugee Crisis, Focaal Blog, Dec 22, 2015. http://www.focaalblog.com/2015/12/22/elissa-helms-men-at-the-borders-gen...

The challenges of gendering genocide: Reflections on a feminist politics of complexity, Open Forum essay, European Journal of Women's Studies, 22 (November 2015): 463-469.

Transformations of gender, sexuality and citizenship in Southeast Europe: New lenses for new, and not so new, times, Summary Editorial for special section, “Transformations of Gender, Sexuality and Citizenship in South East Europe,” guest edited by Oliwia Berdak, Chiara Bonfiglioli, Katja Kahlina, and Adriana Zaharijevic, Women’s Studies International Forum 49, 2015:101-103.

Rejecting Angelina: Bosnian War Rape Survivors and the Ambiguities of Sex in War, Slavic Review 73(3), Fall 2014: 612-634.

The Movement-ization of NGOs? Women’s Organizing in post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina. In, Theorizing NGOs: States, Feminisms, and Neoliberalism, edited by Victoria Bernal and Inderpal Grewal. Durham, Duke Uviversity Press, 2014: 21-49.

Innocence and Victimhood: Gender, Nation, and Women's Activism in Postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013.

Bosnian Girl: Nationalism and innocence through images of women. In Retracing Images: Visual Culture after Yugoslavia, edited by Daniel Šuber and Slobodan Karamanić. Leiden: Brill, 2012: 195-222.

The Gender of Coffee: Women, Refugee Return, and Reconciliation Initiatives after the Bosnian War, Focaal 57, Summer 2010:17-32.

Gendered Justice: Campaigning by and for Women War Survivors in Muslim Dominated Bosnia-Herzegovina. In Isabelle Delpla and Magali Bessone (eds.), Peines de guerre: La justice internationale et l’ex-Yougoslavie [Trials of War: International Justice and the former Yugoslavia]. Paris: Editions de l’EHESS, 2010 (in French).

The White Plague: National-demographic Rhetoric and its Gendered Resonance after the Post-Yugoslav Wars, co-authored with Stef Jansen. In Gender in Armed Conflicts and in Post-War Reconstruction, edited by Christine Eifler and Ruth Seifert (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2009): 219-243.

East and West Kiss: Gender, Orientalism, and Balkanism in Muslim-Majority Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slavic Review 67(1), Spring 2008: 88-119.

The New Bosnian Mosaic: Social Identities, Collective Memories, and Moral Hierarchies in a Post-War Society. Co-editor and co-author of Introduction chapter (with Xavier Bougarel and Ger Duijzings), (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007).

“‘Politics is a Whore’: Women, Morality and Victimhood in Post-War Bosnia-Herzegovina.” In The New Bosnian Mosaic. Xavier Bougarel, Elissa Helms and Ger Duijzings (eds.), (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007): 235-353.

Gendered Transformations of State Power: Masculinity, International Intervention, and the Bosnian Police, Nationalities Papers 34(3), July 2006: 343-361. (Co-editor of special issue, "Masculinities After Yugoslavia")

Current Research Projects:

My current research, after spending 2019-20 on sabbatical in the Bosnian border town of Bihac, is an ethnographic look at local responses to the large numbers of people from outside Europe moving through - and getting stuck along - the irregular "Balkan Route" to the EU. I am particularly interested in the dynamics of gender, racialization and shifts in people's sense of belonging and peripherality vis-a-vis the rest of Bosnia-Herzegovina, former Yugoslav states, the EU, and "Europe." An older project deals with gender, transitional justice and post-war memory through an examination of the Women's Court, a feminist initiative to approach questions of justice during and after the wars of the 1990s in the post-Yugoslav region.

I welcome inquiries and applications from prospective MA or PhD students interested in the topics and areas mentioned above. Please see program and applications information on the departmental website.


Ph.D., Cultural Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, USA, 2003
MA, Cultural Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, USA, 1998
BA, International Relations, Bucknell University, USA, 1991

Projects with involvement of Elissa Helms