The SCOPES Institutional Partnership project “Memory, History and State-Building in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Critically Assessing and Re-Thinking the Teaching of Memory Politics in Bosnian University Curricula” is designed to strengthen educational capacities, to facilitate exchange of ideas and experience, as well as to provide space for critical debates on the core issues at stake.
Memory and history can be highlighted as two amongst the most divisive elements in the landscape of contemporary Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH). Used by many, especially ethno-political elites in power, for the purpose of homogenizing ethnic communities within the context of the recent war and its aftermath, the politics of memory directly contributes to further division of contemporary Bosnian society along ethno-political lines, to the detriment of state-building. To a large extent, Bosnian academic institutions reproduce this tendency, if only by not promoting epistemological reflections on ways of dealing with the past, and by not developing new methodologies for addressing the plethora of issues related to this area. This situation leaves many other ‘communities of memories’ invisible, in addition to leaving unexplored memories of the socialist past. This project however rejects the divisive and ethno-national construction of the past in BiH and supports the need for Bosnian academia to think critically about the different ways in which it can be constructed in order to support greater respect for difference, pluralism and deliberative democracy.
The primary aim of this project is to introduce a more critical outlook on the use of history and memory within Bosnian academia (primarily Sarajevo University) by undertaking the following range of activities: the development and implementation of modular two-day workshops with regional and international experts dealing with issues of history and memory in their research and teaching activities, a three-day international workshop that will take place in 2012 in Sarajevo and a critical assessment of the existing ways of researching and teaching, as well as the development of proposals for new approaches to history and memory in Bosnian higher education. While relying on works and concepts developed by authors such as Ricoeur, Winter&Sivan, Todorov, Nora, Halbwachs or Assmann&Asssmann, the different planned activities shall provide opportunities for more closely working with authors of recent studies developed in political science, history, sociology, ethnography, or gender studies. This should facilitate closer examination of the ways in which contemporary Bosnian politics, but also higher educations systems, deal with the past of the recent war, as well as the Second World War and the subsequent socialist era, thus providing a clear indication of the possible intentions in terms of state-building, as well as with regards to imagining, or not, a shared polity that would include all the different social groups of the country.
The secondary aim of the project is to strengthen and develop cooperation and exchange between Bosnian and Swiss academic institutions, and beyond. Indeed, while the two main stakeholders are the Centre for Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies (CIPS) of the University of Sarajevo and the Chair of Political Philosophy of the University of Zurich, the project in fact directly builds on an existing international network of researchers. They initially came together for the interdisciplinary workshop “Identity Politics and Political Identities in post-Dayton Bosnia-Herzegovina” in June 2009 at the European Institute of the University of Geneva. This was followed, in May 2010, by the international workshop “Bosnia: Looking beyond the Institutions”, in Brussels. A third meeting will take place in November 2011, at the University of Oxford.