Author:Karin Norman (Stockholm University)
Paper short abstract:
Paper long abstract:
The many years of repression during the 1990s in Kosovo and the subsequent war there are ever-present, not only in terms of images of loss and traumatic experiences of death and destruction, but also in the workings of everyday social and political life. Personal and collective images, narrations, and memories of the war shift and change as they are fused with ongoing life experiences within the folds of Kosovo’s precarious socio-economic situation. How is violence, fear and loss remembered and expressed by people in different social contexts? What meanings are embodied in references to, and depictions of, extreme violence and massacres? How does this relate to more ‘uneventful’ memories of fear and avoidance?
Anthropologists are rarely ‘there’ when major crises, such as war, actually occur (cf Nordstrom). We are left with the political, social and personal aftermaths. In telling and remembering, people’s claims to ‘truth’ may be especially strong and contradictory, which raises methodological issues of a particular poignancy and complexity. How does the anthropologist cope analytically and emotionally with tragic or horrendous ‘information’? As researcher one may feel a particular urge to find out ‘what really happened’, while instead one is constantly left with fragmented impressions and uncertainty. This need not essentially differ from other fieldwork contexts, but dramatic and violent crises underscore not only experiential uncertainty, but the issue of its methodological equivalent.
The ethnographic material is based on recurring shorter periods of fieldwork since 2000, in Kosovo and among Kosovo Albanian refugees in Sweden.
Experiencing calamity - expressing the unthinkable