RPP #7: Qualitative Data Sources

Research Question

For my small N research project, I will seek to answer the following question: what explains the difference in reconciliation status in post-conflict Rwanda & Yugoslavia?

Discuss Data Sources Located

The data sources I am utilizing to operationalize my dependent variable of reconciliation status are primarily from the Peace Corps Community Archives from 1991-1999.[1] I utilize these to operationalize my variable through how the Peace Corps interfered in each of the conflict’s development. For the sake of space, I will be utilizing the example entitled “Never Again: Struggling for Humanness in Post-Conflict Rwanda & Guatemala.”[2] The author, Dr. Drew Asson, a former Peace Corps volunteer in post-genocide Rwanda, studies structure and power through a centralized identity, as opposed to a decentralized identity, defined as individual groups claiming certain historical truths as an aspect of their identity, whereas a centralized identity claims a unified history.[3] Through these structures of identity, as studied in this article and others, I plan to operationalize the variable of reconciliation status.

Operationalizing the DV

The dependent variable reflected in my small-n project is reconciliation status,  which segments into centralized or decentralized, impacted by the independent variable of school curricula and those structures of power, particularly those found in history textbooks.[4] Dr. Asson’s article operationalizes the variable of reconciliation narratives using its dependent variable, which is national identity, that plays directly into reconciliation through education. Having a unified national identity signifies an understanding of reconciliation among history, and at least, not too much contention.[5] Thusly, it helps me define my variable within national identity, as reconciliation narratives do involve national, as well as global identities.

Defined in such a way, reconciliation status operationalizes as a measurement of centralized and decentralized identities through the study of education reform in these post-conflict settings.

Highlighting a Case

Rwanda and Yugoslavia are similar cases due to their space in geo-political time.[6] Both struggled through deep ethnic cleansing and genocide from the early 1990’s onward, with different responses from the international community.[7] In Rwanda for example, infiltration from the Peace Corps have nationalized their identity because of the sources I’ve already investigated beyond the data source cited above, such as My Neighbor My Enemy, which emphasizes Rwanda’s “unified” school system, whereas Bosnia would be considered decentralized, as its system of education is incredibly decentralized and tense despite years having past.[8] The difference is dependent on the variable of their education into their national identity, specifically with how their history is being implemented in the classrooms – if it’s still contested or not, if the classrooms are separated, and who determines the books the school reads and buys. Thusly, my primary documents will be ethnographic and genealogical studies of their separate school systems, as well as translated segments of the curriculum.


[1] “Peace Corps Community Archive | AU Digital Research Archive,” accessed December 20, 2019, https://auislandora.wrlc.org/islandora/object/peacecorps%3A1.

[2] “Never Again: Struggling for Humanness in Postconflict Rwanda and Guatemala | AU Digital Research Archive,” accessed December 20, 2019, https://auislandora.wrlc.org/islandora/object/thesesdissertations%3A5659?solr_nav%5Bid%5D=82093b0bc327df927a41&solr_nav%5Bpage%5D=0&solr_nav%5Boffset%5D=4.

[3] Thomas Butler, ed., Memory: History, Culture, and the Mind (Oxford, UK; New York, NY, USA: B. Blackwell, 1989).
“Never Again: Struggling for Humanness in Postconflict Rwanda and Guatemala | AU Digital Research Archive,” accessed December 20, 2019, https://auislandora.wrlc.org/islandora/object/thesesdissertations%3A5659?solr_nav%5Bid%5D=82093b0bc327df927a41&solr_nav%5Bpage%5D=0&solr_nav%5Boffset%5D=4

[4] “Never Again: Struggling for Humanness in Postconflict Rwanda and Guatemala | AU Digital Research Archive.”

[5] Ibid.

[6] David A. Dyker and Ivan Vejvoda, Yugoslavia and After: A Study in Fragmentation, Despair and Rebirth (Routledge, 2014).

[7] Sarah Freedman, My Neighbor, My Enemy: Justice and Community in the Aftermath of Mass Atrocity, ed. Harvey Weinstein, vol. 1, 1 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

[8] Ibid.


Bibliography

Butler, Thomas, ed. Memory: History, Culture, and the Mind. Oxford, UK; New York, NY, USA: B. Blackwell, 1989.

Dyker, David A., and Ivan Vejvoda. Yugoslavia and After: A Study in Fragmentation, Despair and Rebirth. Routledge, 2014.

Freedman, Sarah. My Neighbor, My Enemy: Justice and Community in the Aftermath of Mass Atrocity. Edited by Harvey Weinstein. Vol. 1. 1. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

“Never Again: Struggling for Humanness in Postconflict Rwanda and Guatemala | AU Digital Research Archive.” Accessed December 20, 2019. https://auislandora.wrlc.org/islandora/object/thesesdissertations%3A5659?solr_nav%5Bid%5D=82093b0bc327df927a41&solr_nav%5Bpage%5D=0&solr_nav%5Boffset%5D=4.

“Peace Corps Community Archive | AU Digital Research Archive.” Accessed December 20, 2019. https://auislandora.wrlc.org/islandora/object/peacecorps%3A1.

Research Portfolio Post #4: Article Comparison

In his article, “The Aftermath of War Experiences on Kosovo’s Generation on the Move — Collective Memory and Ethnic Relations among Young Adults in Kosovo,” professor Bekim Baliqi emphasizes the role of violent experiences on the “born during the war” generation, and thusly, how these past events have shaped political attitudes and ethnic relations towards an increase in ethnonationalism.[1] He begins by examining prominent theories underlined by both sociological and psychological scholars, with emphasis on the concept of “post-memory” – referring to the passage of second-hand memories through the generations, and how their consolidation greatly decreases the likelihood of reconciliation and transitional justice in present-day Kosovo.[2] The author argues that these consolidations of memory, formed from individual narratives, prominent in both private and public life, have a great influence on group resentment and thusly, prompted political decentralization post-war.[3] The text utilizes historical context to these consolidations and grounds them in a content analysis of relevant sociological & psychological studies, policy papers, reports on events, and governmental strategies surveys. His methodology, however, primarily leans towards ethnography and record-based analysis, citing data from former students, residents, and state-run surveys and comparing them cross country.

The second article “Public Education and social reconstruction in Bosnia-Herzegovina & Croatia”, takes an outside perspective by tackling the impact imposed by the Dayton Agreement, as opposed to memory directly. They begin by introducing their survey subjects, questions and variables utilized, with the dependent being cooperation among groups and the independent being the opinion of focus groups, administrators, demographics and textbooks used, among others.[4] Through these, they argue that the decentralization imposed by the Dayton Agreement has left education to the discretion of local governments, and thus perpetuates the ethnic divide in and out of school.[5] The text supports this evidence through an ethnographic based survey method – interviewing and underlining the ideas and answers posed in specified tables throughout the chapter. [6]

Though their scope is quite different, the two articles connect under a topical umbrella: institutional reform, both through internal and external forces in their respective areas. These articles thus form one of the “hammers” used to crack the core element of their narrative: reconciliation.[7] I intend to use both articles as a means of confirming the role of institutional reform in narrative development and as a guideline for examining other cases, as well as helping further flesh out this “core element” within identified social narratives.


[1] B. Baliqi, “The Aftermath of War Experiences on Kosovo’s Generation on the Move – Collective Memory and Ethnic Relations among Young Adults in Kosovo,” Zeitgeschichte 44, no. 1 (2017): 4.

[2] Ibid: 6.

[3] Ibid: 9.

[4] Sarah Freedman, “Public Education and social reconstruction in Bosnia-Herzegovina & Croatia” Chap. 11 My Neighbor, My Enemy: Justice and Community in the Aftermath of Mass Atrocity, ed. Harvey Weinstein, vol. 1, 1 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004): 226.

[5] Ibid: 228.

[6] Ibid: 227.

[7] Shaul R. Shenhav, Analyzing Social Narratives (London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 2015): 60, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/aul/detail.action?docID=2038970.

Research Portfolio Post #1: Research Interests

Avatar When I applied for Olson Scholars this past spring, my intention was to try and understand the rather general puzzle of narratives, and how they are created, perpetuated and altered over time. Specifically, I wondered, “how does somebody disappear?”, [1]as in, how do social as well as governmental narratives form to radically alter the documented ‘truth’ of an event or person? In that time, I discussed these alterations in the context of authoritarian regimes such as that of the Soviet Union and perhaps looking deeper into the past of more modern democracies such as Canada and the United States regarding the documentation of Native Americans, which are still incredibly enthralling projects which I thoroughly intend to explore someday in my future, but now, after meeting with my advisor this past week, have moved on to something different.

Though I do still wish to study the development of narratives and ‘disappearances’ I am now looking into a region I had not considered before: the former Yugoslavia, which came about after re-reading journalist Joe Sacco’s graphic novel, Safe Area Goražde, where he documents his four months spent in Bosnia through 1995–96. The novel primarily uses interviews from people Sacco met to document certain aspects of the war, such as the fall of Srebrenica and Zepa. Overall, the novel is a great retelling of the war, and Sacco’s art truly emphasizes the brutality and shock of the event, but what particularly struck my inspiration regarding my topic area was a page entitled “Can you live with the Serbs again?”,[2] which culminated all of Sacco’s interviewees, who gave a variety of responses based their understandings and experiences, from the possibility of reconciliation, to none at all. From the page, I decided to take a deeper look into how the resolution was coming along since the Dayton agreement.

Looking deeper into the modern-day Yugoslavia, specifically Bosnia, I saw a peculiar, and I guess what I should now call “puzzle” in this reconciliation: the schools are segregated and have been since the agreement, despite a 2012 court ruling,[3] and even student protests in other cantons that it was indeed in violation of Bosnia’s anti-discrimination law. However, according to Bosnian Judicial law, the ruling is only binding on the immediate parties to the suit, and thus, the supreme court’s decision only applied to the schools in Mostar.[4] This means that in order to change the law across the Federation, Vaša Prava, the NGO who passed the law in Mostar, needs to bring strategic litigation in every canton, which it has attempted in another large canton known as Travnik, but failed upon the court’s claim that there had never been a complaint from parents against the policy. The court also cited language barriers between Croatian and Bosnian, despite the fact that two languages that are virtually identical,[5] as justification for the policy.

As a result, I want to understand why this is still present, and why there is a hesitancy towards changing these practices in other cantons. Not only that, I want to pick apart the differentiating narratives and understand how Mostar differs from the other regions, and hopefully uncover how it can be possible in other places, and even if it was a narrative shift at all that caused it. To understand this more deeply, I recognized that I also need to understand the narratives that the generations pass on to their children, specifically through pedagogical practices and even semiotics in schools. I initially wanted to utilize textbooks, but after a meeting with my advisor, Robert Adcock this past week, I will be looking into other sources of empirical evidence aside from historical accounts. These include more quantitative sources such as looking deeper into census data and demographics over the past few years, and potentially even death statistics surrounding those areas during the war through utilizing Geospatial technology, which as I have discovered, AU has a lab for. Alongside these, Dr. Adcock suggested that I additionally examine other forms of narrative evidence, such as speeches and legal documents from the Dayton agreement, as well as first hand ethnographies from journalists like Sacco to ensure that I have a clear narrative understanding across the different ethnic groups. Furthermore, Adcock suggested that I look deeper into the study of social rather than individual narratives, as the puzzle does relate more to the development of a more generalized narrative among large groups of people, rather than individual accounts and narratives, which I will be looking throughout the library for.

Beyond this course, I hope to carry this project into more cantons aside from the one I ultimately focus on and see if I can do a cross-comparison from different cantons on how their narratives compare throughout the country. I’d also like to further my study of narratives in my country of study, Russia, and understand how these findings can influence the overall education of the children of a variety of areas. Overall, I would like to further my overall understanding of narratives and utilize this project as sort of a springboard into more complex forms of identifying and understanding their formation. When I go to Russia, I’d like to see if I can bring better understanding into the persecution of the LGBTQ+ community in Chechnya, as well as Russia, to see how such things changed once Putin got into power, and what past and present narratives are driving those contentions, and seeing how we can help alter them without interfering too much with the present culture of the people living there, which many scholars have made the mistake of assuming throughout my research of this puzzle in the summer.

Apart from my own interests, a greater understanding of social narrative and how it influences our decisions can be utilized in many aspects of our lives, not just related to education, but also in interpreting and identifying the rhetoric of politicians and of our society as a whole. If we understand how narratives form at such a large level, we can better understand how to change and alter them at an individual level. Overall, we can better ensure that we are teaching from a perspective of truth, however that may be defined, which is a whole other issue in it of itself that I hope to understand through my exploration of narratives.

I greatly look forward to this semester and cannot wait to update you on my research journey next week!


[1] Tristen, Koffink. “Koffink_Olson Scholars Application” American University, 2019
[2] Joe, Sacco. Safe Area Gorazde, 12. (Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics Books, 2000),  161-162
[3] Ari Ruffer. ““Two Schools Under One Roof”: School Segregation in Bosnia and Herzegovina,”
Columbia Journal of Transnational Law ,  (2013)
[4] Katie Engelhart. “Bosnia-Herzegovina Court Orders End to Ethnic Segregation of Schoolchildren,”
Vice, 2014.
[5] T.J. “Is Serbo-Croatian a Language?” The Economist, April 10, 2017.