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Caught in the violence of war in the mid 1990s, Bosnian Muslims became the victims of a brutal and bloodthirsty purge at the hands of Serbian forces. Murder, rape, plundering, and forced relocation on a massive scale ravaged the region, and the small town of Srebrenica became the site of the first genocide in Europe since World War II.
Years later, despite a signed peace agreement, the war continues in the minds of the survivors. The aftermath of the conflict shows us how “war” and “peace” are not mutually exclusive phenomena in history, but are intimately related. The Srebrenica women who remain are overwhelmed with grief, mourning more than the dead, as their connections to the wider world and their own communities have been severed.
In her talk, Selma Leydesdorff, professor of oral history and culture at the University of Amsterdam, will give voice to the women of Srebrenica. Why is it important that their stories are told, believed, and recognized? Trauma has broken social bonds and human connections, and shattered a sense of self, and the denial and distortion of the survivors’ voices is partly the result of their stories not being recognized. Leydesdorff will explore how using oral history to tell these stories does more than just trace the historical narrative of one individual or incident; it also shows us how we interpret past experiences and tells us about our expectations for our lives in the future.
Selma Leydesdorff is professor of oral history and culture at the University of Amsterdam. Her research has contributed to the transformation of oral history from mostly a fact-finding method-adding to criticizing traditional historical narratives to research on the ways memory is framed and modified over time. Influenced by an interest in women's history, Leydesdorff moved from gender studies to her present position. She promoted oral history by extensive teaching and with the help of the National Research School of Cultural History she formalized the national network in oral history.
Leydesdorff is author of "Surviving Genocide: The Women of Srebrenica Speak" and has worked as an editor since 2001, making her co-responsible for the publication of many volumes, and more are in preparation. Her research interests include themes totalitarianism, subjectivity, trauma, the transmission of stories.