The starting point of the present paper is the hybrid status of Bosnia-Herzegovina under Habsburg rule (1878-1918). The self-confessed civilizing mission of the Habsburg Monarchy and the political domination of the province represented the two contrasting faces of colonialization. Although civil administration was put in place in 1882 by the Kállay regime, rationalized bureaucracy could not free itself from the remnants of a military occupation that comprised of a paternalistic attitude towards their subjects and the implementation of an intensified political surveillance. The “close to home” Orient—as Bosnia and Herzegovina was represented in contemporary public discourse—embodied the notions of foreignness and subordination, readily applied by imperial bureaucrats themselves imported from the Habsburg territories. The paper focuses on the interaction between bureaucracy and society on the level of both top government agencies and the rank and file of bureaucrats and studies the nature of bureaucratic colonization in the province compared to the Habsburg “mainland”. It includes research questions such as to what extent state bureaucracy remained the executive arm of the colonizing empire? In what sense and in what form it provided a legal and administrative framework of society? How it applied the “little tools of knowledge” and what role did objectivity, neutrality, and expertise play in the behavior and activities of bureaucrats?