Serbia and Kosovo: Studying the Post-Conflict Politics of History and Memory in the Balkans
The Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution
3 Credits June 16 – 25, 2014
Credit: Destination360 Belgrade City Center
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This course examines various ways and practices through which post-conflict societies deal with a contentious past. We will visit two post-conflict societies in the Balkans – Serbia and Kosovo – and learn on the ground how the politics of collective remembering impacts the dynamics of relationships among different ethnic groups. The conflicts that swept through the republics of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s are often described as Europe’s deadliest conflicts since World War II. They have become infamous for the war crimes committed, including mass murder and genocide. Even eighteen years after the war, the communities of the former Yugoslavia are undergoing a painful process of facing the past, while reconciliation and positive peace remain elusive. The backdrop of this course is the Balkans, but we will explore other case studies and perspectives using a comparative lens to crystallize knowledge applicable in different contexts. History and memory can be tools for connecting communities, but they can also be utilized to generate polarization and differentiation. The course will focus on learning about a systemic approach in dealing with the past that can contribute to building more equitable and just societies. The aim is to understand not only how a contentious past impacts the ways in which post-conflict societies function, but also to look into various social practices and initiatives of counteracting the negative effects of a divisive past through education, art, commemoration, justice and pedagogy. Approaches to dealing with the past have so far mostly focused on top-down approaches, such as the creation of policies and coalitions to combat and prevent the occurrence of mass violence. Examples of such approaches are truth and reconciliation commissions, international courts, DDR, compensation and reparations for the victims, etc. However, this course will also explore ways in which communities at the grassroots level deal with a contentious past. We will examine topics such as the role of non-violent grassroots movements in dealing with the past, memory eradication and denial, historical narratives and counter-narratives, politics of commemoration, manipulation of the sites of memory, history education and forgiveness. The value of this experiential learning course is that it provides an opportunity for its participants to listen and learn from local people about what is happening on the ground, which is a necessary precondition for successful CR analysis and practice. This course will also provide a space in which each participant will be able to reflect on and re-examine his/her own assumptions on conflict resolution theory and practice, and explore innovative ways of dealing with complex issues. This will be an opportunity to apply various conflict resolution theories and concepts, network with representatives of local and international organizations, engage with people on the ground and be immersed in the rich culture of the region. During our stay in the Balkans, we will engage in conversations with the following organizations/ institutions/individuals (among others): • Resistance movement Otpor that led the toppling of President Milosevic in Belgrade • The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe • Youth Initiative for Human Rights • Women in Black • Centre for Research, Documentation and Publication (CRDP), Prishtina • Humanitarian Law Centre Kosovo, Prishtina • Community Building Mitrovica • Key scholars/practitioners working on dealing with the past and reconciliation in the Balkans Our local partner in Serbia is the Center for Comparative Conflict Studies (CFCCS), Faculty of Media and Communications (FMK), Singidunum University (http://www.cfccs.org/). Course structure: The course will take place during the second half of June 2014. Students will spend 9 days in Kosovo and Serbia in addition to preparatory and follow- up meetings in the US. Each day will be structured as 3 hours class time, with the rest of the day and evening spent in field experience and discussions/interviews with scholars/practitioners. We will be studying as well as traveling in various parts of both Serbia and Kosovo.
Eligibility: This course is open to all Mason and non-Mason bachelors, masters, and Ph.D. students as a 3-credit course, and to non-students as a professional development seminar. Mason students can take the course as CONF 695.
Program Fee: The course fee of $3,790 covers 3 credits, hotel rooms for 9 nights, 2 meals per day, in-country ground transportation, cultural excursions, entrance fees, and course trainers’ and speakers’ costs. It does not include airfare.
Instructor The course instructor, Dr. Borislava Manojlovic, is an Adjunct Professor at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University. Her research focuses on history education, dealing with the past, memory, cultural diversity, forgiveness and reconciliation. As a conflict resolution practitioner, she has worked for 7 years with the UN and the OSCE peacekeeping missions in Croatia and Kosovo.