Tag: ‘mass atrocities’

Official Launch: Special issue of Oral History Forum d’histoire orale on “Confronting Mass Atrocities,” co-edited by Erin Jessee and Annie Pohlman

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

cover_issue_46_en_USThis morning, the Oral History Forum d’histoire orale launched its special issue on “Confronting Mass Atrocities,” co-edited by myself and Annie Pohlman. The special issue is being published online on a rolling basis and access is free. Thus far, it includes Introduction – Confronting Mass Atrocities in Oral Historical Practice by Annie and I, which explains the impetus for the special issue and provides a brief summary of the different contributions. Next, John Roosa‘s article Who Knows? Oral History Methods in the Study of the Massacres of 1965-66 in Indonesia assesses the contributions made by oral historians over the past two decades to our understanding of the massacres of Leftists in Indonesia following a military coup in October 1965. Then, Annie Pohlman considers the risks involved in carrying out oral history research on these events in present-day Indonesia in Telling Stories about Torture in Indonesia: Managing Risk in a Culture of Impunity. We’ve also included two book reviews. Catherine Baker evaluates Jenny Edkin’s Missing: Persons and Politics, which brings together oral historical and archived narratives related to the impact of missing persons’ disappeared in the course of war and mass atrocities, as well as everyday events, on surviving family members and friends. Sarah Watkins then reviews Jennie Burnet’s Genocide lives in us: Women, memory and silence in Rwanda, a rare and timely ethnographic study on post-genocide Rwanda. (more…)

Conference Presentation: Digital Media and Dangerous Narratives

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

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This morning, I presented (via skype, unfortunately) at the conference “Digital Testimonies on War and Trauma” hosted by Erasmus University in Rotterdam. It promises to be a fascinating event where oral historians who work among conflicted or transitional communities can share their experiences applying digital media tools to a range of issues, with a particular focus on the Western Balkan region. My paper was titled “Digital Media and Dangerous Narratives: The Case of Post-Genocide Rwanda.”

Abstract: Digital media, broadly defined, is rapidly gaining currency among oral historians and related practitioners as a convenient and provocative means of analyzing and disseminating the results of our research. It allows oral historians to move beyond written transcripts to interact with audio and video materials, allowing for a deeper understanding of the metadata – changes in tone, rhythm of speech, body language, and so on – that surrounds what is said within the interview space. It also has enormous potential to make oral histories accessible to a wide audience, particularly in developed nations. However, this paper argues that there are limitations to the use of digital media surrounding settings of chronic insecurity. Drawing upon five years of experience in post-genocide Rwanda, I argue that while digital media can be invaluable during analysis, when faced with a highly politicized research setting, oral historians must exercise caution. During fieldwork, oral historians must be cognizant of government surveillance and interference, particularly when noticeable amounts of digital audio and video equipment is involved. In disseminating outcomes, meanwhile, additional protocol may need to be introduced to protect participants’ identities. And finally, once the outcomes of the project have been disseminated, the enhanced accessibility and visibility of digital media can introduce obstacles toward future fieldwork. This paper suggests possible solutions to these ethical and methodological issues, but also asks oral historians to consider circumstances in which the use of digital media is inappropriate or unethical.

New Book Review: Živković’s Serbian Dreambook

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Another year, another book review for the Oral History Review. This time, I was invited to review Marko Živković’s Serbian Dreambook: National Imaginary in the Time of Milošević. The latest contribution to the Indiana University Press series on “New Anthropologies of Europe,” Živković highlights the narratives of Serbian civilians – mostly educated elites – who “were as immersed in everyday life as anyone else in Serbia, but also, in their professional role, capable of detachment and the kind of reflection that is enabled by a more synoptic view of the situation” (p. 12). In doing so, he reveals a complex matrix of ethnonationalist mythologies – which he refers to as the Serbian imaginary – that were revised and reinvented by Serbian civilians in their efforts to come to terms with the lived experiences of political upheaval, war, and mass atrocities surrounding the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia.

For those who are interested, you can download the complete book review here.

New Contribution: “Forensic Investigations” in The Encyclopedia of Transitional Justice

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Lavinia Stan and Nadya Nedelsky’s Encyclopedia of Transitional Justice has just been published through Cambridge University Press. It is a three volume reference collection that provides overviews of transitional justice terminology, methods and practices, and theoretical debates and key questions, as well as brief summaries of how transitional justice theories and methods have been applied in particular conflict settings, from Rwanda to Bosnia-Hercegovina.

It also includes a brief piece on Forensic Investigations – my first real attempt at bringing international and domestic forensic investigations that are applied in the aftermath of mass human rights violations into conversation with transitional justice discourses. For those of you who are interested in it, but who can’t afford the cost of the three volume set, feel free to contact me and I’ll pass along the final pdf version.

New Course Website: The Ethnography of Political Violence

Friday, January 4th, 2013

So I’m trying something new this semester. Rather than working through UBC’s e-learning system, I’ve decided to create my own course website and to encourage students to interact with the required readings via a blog in order to earn their “participation mark”. The resulting website is: The Ethnography of Political Violence. I will be uploading brief introductory blogs twice a week – in time for our classes on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons – and then asking students to add their reading reflections as comments. This online dialogue will then form the foundation for our in-class discussions. Feel free to follow along!


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