Interdisciplinary Classroom The Politics of Memory: A battle for the territory of collective memory organized by University of Zenica and the TPO Foundation Sarajevo on the 22nd April 2016, gathered undergraduate and master students and peacebuilding activists from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia, Serbia and Poland. The goal of this classroom is to cultivate a dialogue between different disciplines as an educational form, and create environment for interdisciplinary learning and collaboration within the healing history process in the region, which is of particular importance for the new generations who share a common legacy of historical, inter-/transgenerational and collective trauma.
After delivering an inspiring welcome and opening speech by the Chair, Professor Edisa Gazetic, and the Rector of the University of Zenica, Professor Dzevad Zecic, a key note lecture Return to the Future was given by Cristopher Bennett (UK), the author of the book Bosnia’s Paralysed Peace, a former Balkan’s Director of the International Crisis Group Sarajevo and Deputy High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, who has taught a Yugoslav history at the University of London. Mr. Bennett outlined a state of political and social deadlock in BiH, and the shortcomings of the peace process caused by myriad unresolved issues, addressing a controversial electoral system that is continually producing a strife among different ethnic groups.
CHIBOW researcher from the University of Greifswald (Germany), Amra Delic, gave a lecture on War trauma: Sexual Violence and Children Born of War, focusing on the devastating effects of the usage of mass rape as a “weapon of war” in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the cultures of honour and shame related to women’s sexuality and forced motherhood that still prevail in Bosnian conservative society. With an official policy of avoidance and denial with respect to sexual violence in war and especially “children born of war”, the victims have been silenced and their recovery prolonged while a pace of justice and accountability for the gross violations of human rights are being stalled. Since the Bosnian governments failed in addressing the status, needs and vulnerabilities of “children born of war”, Amra’s participation at the interdisciplinary classroom in Zenica worked as an “icebreaker”, aiming at raising awareness about this issue in BiH. She also elaborated the importance of the need for providing a space for listening to painful trauma memories and empathizing with “others” on the road to healing the wounds of history across ethnic divisions, proposing joint activities of different groups in rebuilding lives from the destruction of war, normalizing and humanizing interethnic relationships and conflict transformation.
Other lectures included: From a historical perspective, Academician Dubravko Lovrenovic spoke about “drama” in which nationalism misuse played a major role within the effort to manage national feelings as “the saviours of the nation”, which led to “national autism” and became central in ensuring sustainability of the regimes of governance and national sovereignty through the fictions of suffering and exterminating others “in the name of the nation.” Professor of modern Bosniac literature, Enver Kazaz, explained how the slogan “forgive but not forget” represents a basis for usurpation of the religious values to the account of national ideology, which ultimately try to nationalize even the instance of God, converting its metaphysical value to ideological one. He also spoke about bestiary of memory in which victims appear as an ethical justification for internal homogenization and militarization of ethnos. The interrelation between freedom of gender construction and ethno-religious radicalism, ethnic and masculine identities, as well as the clerical-nationalistic construction of public space influenced by powerful militant and violent impulses have been thematised by jurist and culturologist Srdjan Susnica. Dr. Drago Bojic discussed a thin line between cultural amnesia and cultural obsession of memories, questioning the purpose and the goal of healing from the perspective of Christian eschatology, and whether theological categories such as memory, forgiveness and reconciliation can be accepted as ethical and political values.
The panelists gave some insight on political trends in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which made possible the continuity with the ideology of nationalism and further destabilization of social relations and collective healing. It is concluded that there is still a lot of work to be done on the critical analysis of the past, deconstruction of national historical and ideological myths, and transformation of collective memories.
Through exploring connections among the disciplines, students had the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the roots and consequences of collective trauma, and to engage in constructive academic dialogue that encourages empathy and cooperation in pursuit of and creating a more peaceful future.