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Essays

Lessons in Dissent: The Principles of the "Others"…

Marina Vasilj "Nothing is more unworthy of a civilized people than to allow itself to be "governed" by an irresponsible ruling clique motivated by the darkest instincts" (The White Rose leaflet, summer...

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ReCom

Course: Memory and its role in conflict and conflict transformation Lecturer: Orli Friedman ReCom – Memory on the war in ex-Yugoslavia or Memory of fears Course participant: Sakibe Jashari, Kosovo IntroductionInitiative on establishing...

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Courses

Gender, Sexuality and Violent Conflict

Course: Gender, Sexuality and Violent Conflict: Beyond Oppositional Imagination

Instructor: Dubravka Zarkov

Course description:

Classical conflict studies have had a rather simplified set of assumptions when it comes to war and peace. War is seen as a distinct reality, on the opposite end of peace; it is depicted as a fight between the forces of good and evil, with clear winners and losers; the end of mass violence is taken as the end of conflict; and a linear progress is imagined leading from 'war' to 'post-war'.

Those assumptions about war and peace have relied on un-acknowledged gender assumptions: men are seen as heroic and patriotic soldiers, fighting on the front-lines, defending civilians, who are, by default, imagined as ‘innocent-women-and-children’, in need of male protection.

Feminist studies have questioned such perspectives on both war and gender. For, one thing is clear: the classical images of brave soldiers and powerless women have never been about gender only. The ‘enemy men’ are never depicted as heroes, but as primitive and brute rapists. The ‘enemy women’ are never seen as innocent, but as aggressive instigators of violence against other women and men.

Feminist analysis has sought to highlight women's and men’s social engagements and roles in both supporting violence, and in fighting against it. It had also tried to unpack the ways female and male sexuality, and heteronormativity are implicated in different forms of violence inflicted on both the female and the male bodies; and to point to the intersections of heteronormativity and gender with collective identities (such as ethnicity, race, nationhood etc) as crucial for women’s and men’s roles and experience of war and its aftermath.

Feminist also insisted that there are continuities of different forms of gendered violence in ‘peace’ and ‘war’ alike. Consequently, feminists have argued, understanding of all those dynamics is relevant not just for understanding gender and sexuality, but also for understanding war and peace, and the social and geo-political processes by which they are produced.

Classical theorizing of war is also questioned by critical political economists. Who argue that contemporary wars are not about higher moral values, ideology and winning – even when such rhetoric is used to justify them. Rather, today’s wars are about natural resources and geo-political domination; about perpetuating violence and destruction in one part of the world, so that the other part of the world can live in peace.

This rhetoric seems all the more effective when coupled with gendered images of the so-called African ‘war lords’ smuggling diamonds and ruthlessly abducting children into soldiering; or a Muslim fundamentalist suicide bomber; or a crazed Serb rapist. Making those images highly and selectively visible has a double effect – it makes invisible the truly global dynamics of localized violence; and it naturalizes gendered representations of the primitive Other and the civilized, righteous Self.

Thus, understanding the ideas about war and pace, and the processes by which they are produced and maintained, is inseparable from understanding gendered relations of power. Equally, contemporary notions of masculinity and femininity, and their intersection with sexuality, religion, race, or ethnicity are inseparable from contemporary dynamics of war and violence.

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Media and Remembering

Course: Media and Remembering: The Role of Media in the Public Perception of the Past
Lecturer: prof. dr Snježana Milivojević

Course Outline:

In contemporary media and memory studies the past is seen as a multi-valued symbolical construct in in the construct of which media have a significant role. A democratic society expects the media to critically approach the present and therefore also the past. Media is one of the most suitable societal institutions for questioning the past, since ‘past events’ are opened for critical contemplation only when brought into public space. However, this is  a conflict zone, an ideological battle field in which a symbolical battle is being fought for understanding of the past. Such debate blocks the routine manufacturing of mythologized ‘history for populist need,’ abets rational discussion about the past, and cultivates memories about it. But, media contributions to the presentation of historical events are not only specific to informative media. The past and history are also favorite topics of popular culture, and discussions about them are made on television and in tabloids. Comparable to this, only media production as a whole can present an indicator of complexity of the symbolical process of constructing the past in a society.

The course will in particular analyze key media strategies of engaging the past in the societies of the former Yugoslavia; namely, ignorance, denegation, and romanticization.  Ignorance and denegation are strategies for active creation of narratives privileging official, patriotic, and desirable versions of the past. Romanticization is the media’s response to the feeling of uprootedness and the formulation of identity changes in nostalgic or romantic frames. This implies ideological differences in the treatment and commemoration of the past which has resulted in different politics of memory. Another important element of these strategies is the time-distance to the conflict past: commercial logic and an amusing profile of most media have been converting ‘the past’ into a sealed topic which can be easily isolated and forgotten. Politics of not-remembering have been used as a main argument for the reconstruction of ‘healthy’ relationships in post-conflict societies, while its leaders are ‘un-ideological,’ commercial media who nurture forgetting.

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Language and Ideology

Course: Language and Ideology
Instructor: Snježana Kordić

Why does language in opposition to other topics raise people on their feet, disturb them and make them ready for conflicts? Language is a constant source of conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro – today, as well as 10, 20 or 40 years ago. A notion occurred between old and young, educated and uneducated people; through all social classes from politicians to railway workers that their language is endangered by the other nation. And therefore, survival of their own nation and every individual is in question. At the same time, a widespread opinion exists that a nation cannot survive without having its own language which is not shared with any other nation. Although, this notion is false and being denied by various examples of different nations, domestic environments have very few people who would point out to these examples. Politicians, media and most intellectuals have contributed to an atmosphere were reasonable and pacific discussion about language is almost impossible. The intension to objectively approach the topic of language is seen as an attack and received by an eruption of emotions. National elites use the issue of language as a smoldering fire which at any moment can fan into a serious conflagration.

Having this in mind, only by getting an insight into facts and distributing this knowledge further to broader population layers we will be able to remove a serious potential for conflict from the language issue. With this goal, the course will be based on epistemology of the linguistic science, and present an insight into the basic socio-linguistic notions which often are mentioned in the public space without explaining key facts. The course will also illuminate basic events linked to language, about which many heard but only in the version suitable for the national mythos. The course selection takes into account another exceptional feature of our domestic environments: Namely, it is characteristic that, as soon as a discussion about language is started, notions like the nation, identity, culture, and history are brought into the discussion. In so doing, an ignorant, dilettantish, and populist approach towards these notions is being used. Therefore, these notions will also present an important issue during the course. Considering this, the course will present an interdisciplinary approach, since besides linguistic epistemology, it will use cognitions from sociology, anthropology, psychology, and historiography.

 

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